Best Tips for Planting Shrubs and Trees – Planting and Aftercare
When trees and shrubs arrive from the nursery they have their roots well wrapped in sacking or polythene sheeting. They may also have their top growth wrapped in straw. This is to keep the plants in good condition until they are planted. If, for any reason, you cannot plant the specimens immediately on arrival, then they may be placed in a cool shed or garage for up to one week.
Remove the straw packing from around the stems to allow free circulation of air but leave the packing around the roots. Give the roots some water if they are dry. If you have to delay planting for more than a week, then the plants will be far happier if they are heeled-in temporarily in the open ground in a sheltered position.
Spacing and Arrangement of Plants
Many gardeners make the mistake of planting trees and shrubs too close together with the result that within a few years they grow into one another. Consequently, each specimen will be fighting for light and air, and this will affect its flowering potential. It will also mean hard cutting back in many instances but this is something I don’t really like to see. I would recommend spacing shrubs out well that are grown in, so that the distance between them is equal to two-thirds of their height when fully grown.
The ultimate height of shrubs is given in most good catalogues and the spacing mentioned is a minimum one; it may certainly be increased with advantage of light and space. I usually plant two or three shrubs of the same kind in a bold group to obtain the best effect.
The spaces between the permanent shrubs can always be filled temporarily with quick-growing expendable shrubs or other plants. Standard ornamental trees should be planted 25 to 30 feet apart and, of course, very large trees must be given proportionately more space.
Small shrubs can be planted between these trees.
Planting Shrubs and Trees
It is necessary to make the planting hole of sufficient size to allow the roots to be spread out to their full extent, and it should be of such a depth that when the specimen has been planted, it is at the same depth as it was in the nursery. With most trees and shrubs you will be able to see the originalmark on the stems.
Before planting, examine the roots of the tree or shrub you are putting in; any that are torn and broken should be cut back to the undamaged part, otherwise they may die back and will more easily be infected by disease.
If you are planting trees, then they will almost certainly need supporting with strong wooden stakes. The stake must be inserted before the tree is planted and the top should be just below the lowest branches of the planted tree. The distance between the stake and the trunk of the tree should be about 2 inches. Place the tree or shrub in the centre of the hole and spread the roots well out. Place some fine soil over the roots and gently shake the plant up and down to allow the soil to filter among the roots. Then firm the soil by treading. Add more soil gradually, at the same time treading it in well until you reach the natural soil level. The soil must be in close contact with the roots and be made really firm.
Planting Container-Grown Specimens
Before removing plants from their containers they must be given a good watering. Make a hole just large enough to take the root ball and insert the plant carefully, firming it in thoroughly.
Planting Shrubs and Trees Aftercare
When trees are planted, they should be staked at the same time. The space between the trunk and the stake allows the insertion of a soft buffer to prevent the trunk from rubbing against the stake. I like the proprietary plastic tree ties as they are extremely easy to use. They also hold the tree a safe distance from the stake.
Young trees and shrubs, and particularly some of the evergreens, including conifers, may be slightly on the tender side during their first winter after planting. Therefore, I would suggest that you erect a wattle hurdle or hessian screen on the windier side of the plants, to break the force of the wind. The screen should be partially open in structure as its purpose is to filter the wind to break its force.
A solid structure will cause eddying which can severely damage the plants. Make the screen slightly higher than the plants and secure it firmly to a stake. It must be removed in the spring at the onset of milder weather.
During the first winter, frosts or strong winds may loosen the plants as they will not have rooted into the soil. Throughout the winter, at regular intervals, I check my newly planted trees and shrubs and re-firm them if necessary.
The critical period for all newly planted trees and shrubs is April, May and June, when there are likely to be dry spells. This is the time when plenty of water should be given, and it will make all the difference between success and failure. Once the plants become dry at the roots for any length of time, their growth will be seriously retarded and, in bad cases of moisture depletion they may die.
To keep evergreens fresh for the first few weeks after planting, it is a good idea to spray them overhead with plain water during the evenings. This is even more beneficial if they have been planted in the spring. Alternatively, they can be covered with a polythene ‘tent’ for the first few weeks to keep them fresh.
Mulching Trees and Shrubs
I find that newly planted trees and shrubs benefit greatly from mulching as this helps to keep moisture in the soil during dry periods. Use either well-rotted farmyard manure,, peat or spent hops and spread the material about 3 to 4 inches thick around the plants.
In the case of rhododendrons and azaleas, I like to mulch them every year with peat as they are far happier in a good moist soil which is at the same time well drained. I always try to put the mulch on sometime during January, February or March, when the soil is not frozen.