Spring is the perfect time in the North Country to plant trees and shrubs - even if it is still cool outside. Planting when it is cool and moist out is less stressful on the plant. The cool weather gives the plant more time to recover from the shock of being planted.
One common way to purchase a tree or shrub at your local garden center is container-grown. Here are 10 easy steps to follow to help ensure a successful planting:
• Dig a hole that's at least 6 inches wider than the container on all sides and about the same depth. Then, roughen up the sides of the hole with your shovel.
• Mix the soil you dug out of the hole with an equal amount of compost.
• Remove the plant from its container by tilting the pot onto its side, tapping lightly, and gently sliding the rootball out of the container.
• Gently tease out any roots that are encircling the rootball with your fingers so the roots are spread out. Roots encircling the rootball can constrict growth and eventually kill the tree or shrub. At this time also clip off any browned and damaged roots.
• Set the plant into the hole you keep the tree or shrub nice and straight during this process.
• Stop filling the hole after adding about 4 inches of soil to gently firm up the soil with your foot or hoe to remove any air pockets. Repeat the process until the hole is filled.
• Water slowly to saturate the soil and remove any remaining air pockets.
• Use any extra soil to build a temporary berm at the drip line (the place on the ground below the outer edges of the leaves) and water again.
• Mulch to retain moisture, but keep the mulch at least 6 inches away from the trunk of the tree. Mulching right up to the trunk can cause rot.
• Make sure your tree or shrub receives at least an inch of water a week during the first year.
And, last but not least, enjoy your new addition to your landscape! If you want to plant a tree or shrub later during the summer, it is still possible. Planting during the heat will be more stressful. Keeping the plant well watered can help alleviate this stress.
Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.