How to Plant a Tree
- Choose your site. Your tree will have the best chance of survival if you pick the right plant for the right place. Be sure to account for levels of sunlight and water the tree will receive, as well as checking for overhead or underground power and gas lines, and private irrigation lines.
- Dig a hole. It should be no deeper than the tree sits in its nursery pot, and about twice as wide as the pot. Work the edges of the hole so the soil is loose.
- Remove your tree from its container. Gently pull the roots free if they're circling, or slice them with a sharp, clean knife in a few places if they are pot bound. It's important that the roots are trained to spread outward rather than circling.
- Place your tree in the prepared hole. Take a minute to make sure it's sitting straight, with the root flare just above the soil surface.
- Backfill your hole. We recommend mixing the existing soil from the hole with 50% compost to provide a space for the roots to spread outward and get used to our tough clay soils. Mound the soil up over the root ball (not over the root flare) so when it settles after watering it sinks down level with the ground.
- Water and fertilize. Mix a plant starter with water, and thoroughly soak the root ball. Check to make sure the soil hasn't settled too much. Add soil if necessary.
- Mulch. To help conserve moisture, you can lay mulch up to two inches deep around the base of your tree. Keep it away from the root flare to help prevent fungal issues. This mulch will break down over time and help nourish the soil. It will need to be replenished every year or two.
- Stake. Whether you use a staking kit or a DIY post and roping, make sure the material used to tie the tree to the stake is loose enough that it won't girdle the tree as the trunk increases in diameter. When staked, the tree should be able to move with the wind, so make sure the roping gives a little. The staking can be removed from small trees the next spring. Larger trees may benefit from an extra year of staking support, but make sure the roping is not rubbing the trunk.
The best way to determine if your tree needs water is to pull the mulch back from around the center of the plant and pick up a handful of soil. Squeeze it in your hand to form a ball. If the soil is sticky and muddy, there is too much water and it needs to dry out for several days. With the proper amount of moisture, the soil will form a ball but won't feel muddy or sticky. If this is the case, check back in a few days before watering. If the soil doesn't form a ball at all, it's dry and needs to be watered. When the tree is ready to be watered, lay a garden hose at the center of the plant and allow water to trickle out for half an hour. Make sure to lay the hose in different places around the base of the tree so the tree is watered evenly. There are also self-watering tree bags available to make this process a little easier!
New trees should be checked for water every seven to ten days during their first year. Extended periods of heat and high winds will dry trees out quickly, but be sure to consider how much rain we get and irrigation from your sprinklers. We have more problems with people over watering than under-watering their plants. Keep in mind that turf grass requires more water than most other plants, so the regular setting on your sprinklers may be too much for new trees. In late fall, deep water new trees to give them enough moisture to get them through the winter.
An application of plant starter is all your tree needs this year. The tree will need a balanced fertilizer (like 10-10-10) to start off the next growing season. You can apply it in the fall once the tree has gone dormant, or early in the spring before the leaves emerge. You can continue to use the fertilizer throughout the growing season as often as directed on the label but avoid using a high nitrogen (the first of the three numbers on the formula) fertilizer later than July. This encourages new growth that will not be hardened off before the first fall frost.
Before planting, soak the plants in their containers to make sure the potting media is wet, and soak again after planting. Most new plants need about an inch of water each week (including rainfall) but could need more in hot and windy weather. Be sure to water the original root ball and the surrounding soil while the plant is becoming established. It can take up to eight weeks for roots to extend beyond the container media and out into the soil. Container media tends to dry out more quickly than soil, so account for that in your watering. Usually about five to seven weeks after being planted new foliage begins to develop, signaling the plant is becoming established. Start to back off on watering but keep an eye on the plant during dry spells. Watering deeply but infrequently will encourage plants to develop strong root systems that can withstand drought. Water requirements vary depending on the type of plant, soil quality, and the amount of sun or shade. Check with our staff for questions on your specific landscape.
Check new trees weekly, they will need more than an inch to establish. Fill a 20-gallon watering bag or run a hose at a trickle on the root ball of the tree for about 30 minutes, or longer if the soil is very dry or the tree is large. Be sure to move the hose to make sure the whole root ball is getting water.
Trees that are established (planted three to five years ago) in lawn areas may be getting enough water from irrigation. It's best to check the soil every couple of weeks during the summer to make sure the water is moving past the root zone of the lawn and into the tree's root zone. If the soil is dry, use the watering methods described above.
Shrubs & Perennials
For new plants, water every four to seven days, soaking the root ball and the surrounding soil deeply. Allow to dry out in between waterings, but watch for wilting on hot days.
If your plants are in their second or third season, they may not need this much water. Most well-adapted shrubs and perennials can survive on our average rainfall. Five inches of rain during June, July, and August is enough for many shrubs and perennials.
In containers: water daily during warm weather to establish. Keep in mind 4.5 inch or small 6-pack plants don't have deep root systems at the beginning of the season and it is not beneficial to oversaturate your container. Shallow root systems will not be able to take in a large volume of water and can begin to rot. As the plants grow and the roots begin to fill the container, increase volume and frequency as needed. Most hanging baskets will need to be well soaked at least once a day in the heat of the summer.
In the ground: water daily in warm weather to establish. Once new growth begins to emerge, water less frequently but with more volume.
Apply about an inch of water per week in intervals. Try running sprinklers three times a week, watering a third of an inch each time. Mow higher for more drought-resistant grass. Remember to water early in the morning to prevent fungus problems.
How to Prune
Remove dead, broken, and diseased branches. If branches are crossing and rubbing up against each other, remove one of the branches. Broken or damaged limbs should be pruned as soon as possible after the damage occurs, it’s not necessary to wait until the proper pruning time for the plant.
To improve shape or control height, heading cuts can be made ¼ of an inch above a bud, sloping down and away from the bud at a 45 degree angle. The direction of the new growth will follow the direction the bud is pointing, so be sure it is pointed away from other branches. Vary the height of your cuts for a more natural form. Avoid pruning more than a third of the plant.
If the tree or shrub needs to be thinned to improve air circulation, remove branches just above the parent branch. Be careful not to thin too much, this type of pruning doesn’t stimulate new growth as much as heading cuts do.
Shrubs that grow from canes emerging from the base of the plant rather than a central trunk can be thinned by pruning at the base. Remove up to a third of the canes per year.
Shrubs that are old and need to be rejuvenated can be pruned back hard 10-12 inches from the ground. Dogwood, honeysuckle, hydrangeas, lilacs, altheas, spirea, and St. John’s wort can all be pruned back hard. This should be done in late winter/early spring, but the flowers on the spring-blooming shrubs will be sacrificed for the following season.
Do not prune trees when they are planted. Delay pruning until the first late winter/early spring period after the initial planting season.
Avoid heavy pruning of evergreens, other than varieties intended for hedges. Never prune behind the needles closest to the trunk, evergreens have a hard time producing new growth from old wood so new branches may not emerge past that point.
Clean tools with rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of disease.
Seeding New Lawns
Aerating can be done in the fall to loosen soil compaction, and improve water, air, and nutrient movement through the soil. Power raking can be hard on the turf and soil, so only use this method with heavy thatch that has built up to more than half an inch.
Start by spreading a seed starting fertilizer. Doing this first will prevent the wheels of the spreader to pick up freshly laid seed, which results in spotty seed coverage. While soil is loose, fill your spreader with half the amount of seed needed for your area. Walk in parallel lines across your lawn to spread the seed. Then turn 90º and repeat for the most even coverage. Cover the seed with straw or accelerator pellets to help hold both the seed in place and conserve moisture. The pellets contain a seed starting fertilizer, so you don’t need to spread the initial application of fertilizer separately.
Seed needs to be kept moist during germination, which can take between 5 and 21 days depending on the type of seed used and the temperature. Plan on watering lightly two to four times each day for the first couple of weeks to keep the top layer of soil moist.
As the grass begins to come up, slowly start backing off on the frequency of waterings, but water a little deeper to encourage root growth.
Start to mow the grass when it reaches three or four inches. Mowing a couple of times before winter will help harden off the grass. Give it an extra boost for spring by fertilizing in late October or early November.
If possible, site the vegetable garden north to south, with taller plants on the north end. This will prevent plants from shading each other as the sun moves across the sky each day. Cool-weather lovers like leafy greens and brassicas can be planted in shady spaces between sun-loving plants.
Raised beds have become a popular choice for gardens. They're simple to build, provide good drainage, and their long, narrow shape allows gardeners to work their plots without causing soil compaction. Keep them about four feet wide so you can work from both sides without walking in the garden.
To save space and add visual interest, consider trellises for plants like cucumbers and melons to climb. Tuteurs and tipis work well for beans. Planting small, shade-tolerant plants like salad greens in the shade of tall trellised plants can save space without competition between plants.
Plants in vegetable gardens form communities, working with (and sometimes against) each other to grow and produce. For example, marigolds can repel squash bugs and tomato hornworms. Use a companion planting chart to create productive plant communities.
Corn, peas, beans, squash, melon, pumpkins, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi
These plants grow best when planted as seedlings, whether started indoors or purchased from a nursery. Press soil around the base gently and water in to get rid of air pockets around the roots:
Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, onions
Keep beds free of weeds while young seedlings are growing. A biodegradable, recycled paper weed barrier covered with mulch will help keep moisture in and weeds from germinating. At the end of the season, the paper can be tilled into the garden to decompose.
Early March: Brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and salad greens
Mid March: Peppers and eggplants
Late March: Tomatoes
Early April: Melons, squash, and cucumbers, though these can also be sown directly into the ground later in the spring.
Fill your containers with a seed starting potting mix, leaving half an inch of space at the top of the container. Tamp down the soil, water until it's uniformly moist, then let it drain. Press the seeds into the containers. Fine seeds generally sit on top of the soil, larger seeds can be covered with soil. Seed depth should be one to two times the width of the seed. Gently water again. The best way to water is to soak the containers, allowing the soil to wick up the water from below. When the soil is moist, remove the containers from water and allow them to drain. Don't forget to label your plants!
The seed packet will tell you the average time it takes for the seeds to germinate. During this time, the seeds need to be warm and uniformly moist, but not wet. Cover the containers with plastic wrap or a plastic tray cover to create a humid environment, and set them on a heating mat or the top of your refrigerator. Check them every few days for signs of life.
When the seedlings start to emerge, move them to a location with lots of light and slightly cooler temperatures. This will encourage sturdy growth. Seeds will need about 12 hours of good light each day to prevent them from getting leggy. It's easiest to plug a grow light into a timer and set it appropriately. Grow lights need to start out within a few inches of the seedling, and should be adjusted as the plants grow.
Continue keeping the seedlings evenly moist, and fertilize weekly. When using an all-purpose fertilizer, mix it at one quarter strength so seedlings don't burn from the nitrogen. Organic fertilizers are usually low strength and work well for young seedlings. If seeds were planted close together, thin them out as they grow until only a few strong seedlings remain.
Use a shallow patio bowl for lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and other leafy greens, green onions, herbs, and strawberries.
For larger plants like broccoli, celery, eggplants, peppers, squash, and bush-type citrus, use a 5 gallon pot. Beans and cucumbers can also fit into a 5 gallon pot, choose bush varieties or use plant supports to hold up the vines. Potatoes and tomatoes should be in at least 5 gallon pots, but would benefit from more space. Look for determinate tomato plants labelled "patio" for smaller mature sizes, and use a tomato cage to keep the plant upright.
Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radish need pots deep enough to comfortably grow to their full size under the soil, but should be planted in wide containers with enough space for multiple plants.
Small perennial fruits can also be grown in containers. There are newer varieties that are grown to have smaller mature sizes for patio containers. Plant them in large 10 gallon pots and protect from the winter freeze and thaw cycles.
For heavily infested plants, bagworms are easiest to control when they are out of their sacks and actively feeding. A yearly tree & shrub drench (Bonide or Bioadvanced) can be applied in March just before the tree begins to bud, or just after flowering for trees that are pollinated by insects. Otherwise spray regularly every 3-4 weeks starting around mid-June with a product labelled for bagworms.
Spring-flowering bulbs need a cold dormant period in order to flower. Plant in mid to late October when the weather cools but before the ground freezes. Dig a trench or hole at a depth three times the height of the bulb. Sprinkle bone meal in the bottom of the hold, place the bulb on top pointed-side up, cover with soil, and water in. Bulbs can be placed a couple of inches apart in clusters for better impact. Some bulbs, like narcissus, crocus, scilla, snowdrops, and grape hyacinths will naturalize, spreading by producing more bulbs. Mulch to insulate from winter temperature fluctuations and to conserve soil moisture. If squirrels are a problem, lay chicken wire or fine netting on top of the soil for the winter.
Asparagus prefer light soils with good drainage that warm up early in the spring, making raised beds a good choice.
Dig trenches 12" wide and 8-10" deep. Spread compost or manure over the bottom of the trench and cover with soil. Set the crowns 18" apart and spread the roots out flat. Cover with 2" of soil. As new shoots appear, gradually fill the trench. By midsummer the trench should be filled to the soil level. Mulch to control weeds and conserve moisture. Water and weed regularly for the first year or two. Old brown top growth can be cut to the ground in early spring.
Watch for asparagus beetles, spray with insecticidal soap if needed.
Blueberries can start to loose their productivity without regular pruning. Canes more than seven years old should be pruned out each year during the winter while the plant is still dormant. Diseased, broken, or crossing branches should also be pruned. Opening up the center of the plant to allow sunlight and air in will help prevent disease.
Plants should be kept at 60-70 degrees in the winter and 65-80 degrees in the summer. Dramatic temperature changes can result in leaf drop, but the plant should recover once it becomes acclimated.
Fertilizer every 3-4 weeks in the summer and every 2-3 months in the winter.
Plant in a well-drained potting mix with perlite to prevent over watering. Keep soil consistently moist but not too wet. Allow top inch of soil to dry out during the winter to prevent fungal growth. Mist weekly to provide humidity in dry homes during the winter.
Water regularly in the spring, trimming back any flower stalks that appear to preserve the flavor of the bulb. These "scapes" are edible!
Plant the root at a 45 degree angle with the tip about a half inch below the surface of the soil.
Keep the soil moist until sprouts appear. Once the plant develops several sets of leaves, our regular rainfall should be enough for it. In drought periods, water occasionally.
Use only a low nitrogen fertilizer when necessary, compost is preferable.
To process, grate roots and freeze or soak in cold water to prevent discoloration. Drain and mix with vinegar. Be sure to process in a well ventilated area, the fumes are potent and will burn your eyes and nose! This prepared horseradish can be stored for 6 weeks.
Plant into loose soil as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. If you're planting sets, bury the bulb halfway into the soil. Water and fertilize regularly with a low nitrogen fertilizer until the bulb has enlarged at the soil surface. If flower stalks emerge, cut them before they open. Once an onion flowers, it has "bolted" and will not be good for eating.
Plant the pieces with the eye facing up four inches deep, 12 inches apart. Rows should be 24 inches apart. Fertilize or compost in bands beside the rows.
When plants are five to six inches high, mound soil from between rows into hills that cover the stems up to the lower leaves.
Water regularly. Under watering will cause hollow tubers.
Clean up any debris in the fall, this provides shelter for overwintering diseases and pests.
Fertilize established plants in early spring before new growth, do not fertilize in late spring or summer.
Plant in early spring 18-30 inches apart, with the crown an inch below the surface of the soil. Keep the plant well-watered.
Divide plants every three to four years when they're dormant in late fall or early spring. Add compost in the fall to provide the plant with food for the spring.
Plant seeds half an inch deep. Space leaf lettuces 4 inches apart, loose headed lettuces 8 inches apart, and firm headed lettuces 16 inches apart. Planting a small section of your row each week in the spring will result in a continuous harvest.
Water lightly and regularly to keep seedling moist and produce the best crop. Chive and garlic can be planted with salad greens to repel common pests.
Leafy lettuces and spinach can be harvested as baby greens or allowed to grow to maturity. Plants will continue to grow after they are trimmed until they start to bolt. As the days grow warmer and with each trimming the plants will become more bitter and woody. Head lettuces can be harvested when the center is firm.
Rinse greens twice and dry thoroughly to increase storage time.
Avoid planting strawberries in areas previously occupied by tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants. Strawberry plants decrease in vigor after a few years, so start with fresh, healthy plants after four or five years. Mulch to keep fruits off the soil and conserve moisture. Early blossoms can be covered with mulch or row cover to protect against spring frosts.
Don't over-feed sweet potatoes. Mix compost into the rows before planting, but don't fertilize during the growing season. Keep the rows weed-free early in the season. Water well during dry spells.
Cure the tubers in a warm (around 80 degrees), shady spot for a week or two. Don't let the potatoes touch each other during this time. After curing, wrap in newspaper and pack them in a box and store in a cool place for up to six months.
Start seeds inside or transplant a seedling grown at a nursery. Let the plant acclimate to being outside by slowly increasing its exposure to direct sun. Plant outside after last frost. Pull off lower leaves and plant deeper in the soil. If evening temperatures drop, a plastic bottle can serve as a make-shift greenhouse.
Basil helps enhance the flavor of tomatoes, and can also repel insects. They share soil nutrients without reducing yields. Other beneficial companions are marigolds, cosmos, nasturtium, chives, garlic, lemon balm, onion, parsley, sage, and mint.
Tomatoes need an inch of water each week during the spring and up to 2 inches per week during peak production. Water deeply during the establishment period to encourage strong root development. Water at the base of the plant, overhead watering increases the risk of fungal diseases. A light shredded mulch or grass clippings help retain moisture and keep soil temperature consistent.
A high-nitrogen fertilizer will help stem and leaf development early in the season. Begin to apply phosphorous and potassium heavy fertilizers in mid-season to encourage blossoming and fruit production. High nitrogen at that time will result in less production. Fertilizers labelled for tomatoes usually have calcium and other micronutrients tomatoes need. A foliar spray of 2 tablespoons magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) diluted in a gallon of water once a month can also help increase fruit yields.
Bright indirect light: a window with good bright light in the room, but the plant isn't sitting directly in the window
Bright light: at least 4-6 hours of direct, bright light without shade from trees or curtains
Use an all-purpose indoor potting mix made up of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. Garden or top soil is too heavy for potted plants and can lead to disease and pest problems. To avoid mineral buildup and pest infestation, refresh soil every couple of years.
Before watering, test the soil by sticking a finger two inches into the soil. If the soil feels moist, wait a few days and test it again. If the soil is dry, add water.
Add enough water so it percolates through the entire root zone of the plant. If the pot has drainage holes, water slowly until you see water coming out of the bottom of the pot. Pots without drainage holes may take some trial and error to find the right amount to thoroughly water roots without drowning the plant. Start slow and add water as needed, plants rebound from underwatering better than overwatering. Watch for yellowing leaves as a sign of overwatering, and brown, crunchy leaves when a plant is too dry.
Amaryllis can also be forced in water. Layer stones or marbles in a vase and rest the bulb. Fill the vase so that the bottom of the bulb is just barely touching water. This will wake up the roots and encourage them to work down into the water. If the bulb is submerged too deeply it will rot.
Repot in the spring when the plant is developing new growth. To control the size of larger ferns, prune off a quarter of the roots and repot with fresh soil.
Fern fronds are sensitive, so don't use leafshine or other oils to clean them. Remove pests by washing the leaves with water, picking insects off by hand, or using a systemic pesticide rather than a spray.