Celebrating the Seasons

From April 2008 E-newsletter

Gabby Gardeners

Question: We are new to gardening and are looking forward to planting trees and shrubs around our home this spring. My mother said she heard you talk of a new method of planting trees. Would you please explain?

Answer: The old adage "plant a tree as deep as it is in the container" has been revised. Here's a new method to try.

  1. Dig a shallow, saucer-shaped hole that is three times as wide as the root ball.
  2. Remove the tree from the container and scratch away the soil from the top of the root ball. Continue removing soil until you hit the "root-flare" which signals the top of the first horizontal (lateral) root.
  3. If the roots grew around the perimeter of the container and are wrapped in circles around the root ball, it's best to detangle them before planting. If you don't, they may continue to grow around each other, rather than into the soil.
  4. Place the shrub in the hole. The root flare you revealed should sit just slightly below the soil surface. Adjust the depth of the hole if necessary.
  5. Backfill around the root ball with the soil you excavated and tamp down gently. Provide a good drink of water, and add more soil if necessary. Gently toggle the tree back and forth so the soil settles.
  6. If prevailing winds are an issue, you may need to stake the tree until the roots begin to grow into the surrounding soil, which may take a few months. Contrary to what you might think, however, trees will actually grow stronger trunks if they are allowed to bend with the wind.
  7. Cover the area around the planting hole with a 3-inch lawer of bark mulch. Don't mound the mulch up and around the trunk ("volcano mulching) because this smothers roots and can rot the trunk of the tree. Create a 3- to 4-foot "mowing circle" of mulch around the tree. 8. Water the tree regularly during its first growing season.

Question: At a recent presentation you mentioned a recipe for sugar water to use when planting trees and shrubs. Can you tell me more?

Answer: According to the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories in England, scientists found that newly planted trees responded favorably when water with a sugar water solution for the first four weeks. The trees experienced less transplant shock and the solution seemed to stimulate root development. Here's the recipe: Mix 1 1/2 cups of white sugar into one gallon of warm water. Blend until dissolved. Water new trees and shrubs with 1/2 gallon per week for four weeks.

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