Detailed Planting Guide
A very important and frequently asked question in this edition of the gardening tips is 'How do I correctly plant trees and shrubs?' This information is crucial, especially here in Arkansas where most of our soil can be rocky and full of clay. For new gardeners in particular this is the most important and most overlooked step in creating a healthy landscape. River Valley's certified and knowledgable staff can help you choose the correct plant for your area which will ensure a successful experience. Once the correct plants have been chosen and any drainage issues have been resolved then we can begin preparing for the planting process. Don't forget, you can always contact the Cooperative Extension Service for a soil test. See this link for step by step instructions on Collecting a Soil Sample.
-If you think you may have drainage issues now is the time to check! Dig a hole that is at least 18" deep and 6" wide, fill hole with water and let stand overnight. If water has not drained by the morning then there is likely a drainage issue (don't try this after a heavy rain as the ground will already be saturated). At this point you will either want to choose a tree or shrub that will tolerate the moist conditions or consult a professional to provide the options for resolving the drainage issue.
-Choose the correct plant for the location. I can't stress the importance of this step enough. At River Valley we have 8 Certified Landscape Professionals to give advice and help you select the right plant for the location. Some factors to consider when choosing a plant include; Soil type, drainage, available water, sunlight, and exposure to drying winds. This is also the time to consider whether the plant you are going to purchase is balled and burlapped (B&B) or containerized. This will come into play when you begin actually planting. It may also be something to consider when thinking about how you plan to transport your purchase. River Valley delivers and this is a great option when purchasing larger material and bulk product.
-Assess your area. See how much native soil you have to work with, this help's you determine how much additional soil and soil ammendment you will need when planting. River Valley has everything you will need available in bulk or bags. Consider location of planting and quantity when choosing how to buy your dirt. Remember dirt bought in bulk tends to be less expensive, but if the savings out weighs the hassle, then bags might still be your best option.
-Determine what type of soil amendment you will need. When planting new trees and shrubs, we recommend using 'super soil', compost, or 'rich mix' to add nutrients to the soil. If you have poor rocky, compacted soil, adding compost will assist with drainage. If using super soil, peat moss will "lighten" the mixture because super soil tends to be dense. River Valley will help you determine what you will need and has all these soil amendments including; peat moss, super soil, compost, rich mix, cotton seed meal, and manure.
-Dig the hole twice as wide as the size of the root ball or container. Most trees and shrubs benefit from being planted "high". So the top of the root ball should be a little higher (when planting items such as azaleas, Japanese maples, and dogwoods always leave 1/3 of the root mass exposed and draw the dirt up to the base of the plant or tree). If the soil is poor and rocky you may have to dig deeper and add new enriched dirt to the bottom of the hole before planting. Loosening the dirt along the sides of the hole will make it easier for roots to spread as the plant grows.
-Examine the root system of your new tree or shrub. If you have purchased a balled and burlapped (B&B) tree or shrub now is the time to cut the string or twine from around the trunk at the top of the root ball. Pull back the burlap to the edge of the root ball but do not completely remove. Removing the burlap can be more disruptive than actually allowing it to biodegrade. If you have purchased containerized plant material carefully pull plant from pot and examine roots. Make sure there is no root circling. If there is root circling the roots need to be separated. This can be accomplished by making vertical cuts on the sides of the ball just deep enough to cut the net of roots. Also, make a criss-cross cut across the bottom of the ball.
-Think about how you plan to water. If you have a sprinkler system most shrubs should get enough water with the proper nozzle adjustment. If you do not have an irrigation system consider using a super-absorbing polymer (brand names such as Soil Moist are great). If you are planting a tree, especially one that is B&B, you will have to do some supplemental watering in order to achieve a deep watering. By watering your tree slowly over an extended period of time, the water is able to saturate deep into the ground helping the roots to grow deep and become established, and making the tree more drought tolerant. There are a couple of methods for watering deeply; using a garden hose run a slow trickle of water at the base of the tree for approximately 1-3 hours. You may also purchase a Tree Gator Watering Bag. This is a bladder that slowly releases water over an 8-12 hour period. This is a great product and may be reused year after year. Be sure to consider drainage, rainfall, and soil type when watering. Consult your nursery for professional for advice on how often to water.
-Plant! Once you have everything you need to admend the soil and achieve proper watering the planting process can begin. Dig hole as indicated in step 5, amend soil as indicated in step 4, and plant. Backfill around the new plant with fresh ammended dirt and bring soil up to the base of the plant.
-Mulch! You musn't forget this step in planting new trees and shrubs! Mulch allows good water infiltration, helps retain moisture, deters weeds, and protects roots. Hardwood mulch is also good because it eventually breaks down and helps to enrich the soil. We have many different choices for wood mulch, in bulk as well as bags. See our full product listing for variety and pricing.
-Enjoy! After all the time and effort you've invested to properly plant your trees and shrubs don't forget to take the time to enjoy them. That is what they are there for in the first place!
Please call our office with any question regarding your next planting project.