Gardening Resources

Getting Started

Planting & Care of New Trees
Watering 101
Pruning Basics
Lawn Care Basics
Starting a Vegetable Garden



How to Plant a Tree

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

Site Prep:
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.

Reference Guides

Landscape Maintenance
Edible Gardening
Houseplant Care