Take the time to plant it right

You have invested time and money in purchasing a tree or shrub.  Now, take the time to plant it properly to reap its benefits in years to come.

First, dig a large hole at least twice the width of the root ball. And yes, no matter what your wife says, ‘bigger is better’ so get shoveling. Don’t over dig under the root ball to prevent settling.

Add one third organic matter, such as peat, compost or well rotted manure to two thirds of the soil you removed from the hole and mix them together.

Add one half to one cup of bone meal to the bottom of hole and mix in. Bone meal supplies the plant with phosphorus which is very important for root development.

If the plant is in a plastic pot, remove the pot. This may seem obvious to most of you, but believe me, not to all.

If the plant is in a fibre paper pot do not remove the pot but puncture it with holes to help speed up the decay of the pot.  Trees growing in fibre pots may have been recently planted bare root and are busily developing root systems. You may disturb or break these new roots by pulling the pot off.

Most evergreens such as cedars are wrapped in burlap. Other large conifers are grown in wire baskets lined with burlap. Leave the burlap or wire basket on and cut the twine to pull the burlap back away from around the trunk of the tree.

Place the tree in the hole 5cm below the regular soil level and backfill half of soil into the hole.

Fill the hole with water and a transplanter fertilizer. We recommend Nursery land   Transplanter 5-15-5. It is easily mixed with water and provides the plant with nutrients, especially phosphorus, to build strong roots plus it reduces transplant shock.

Add the remaining soil leaving a 5cm depression over root ball so water soaks into the root ball and not all over the lawn.

As a rule, water with two or three times as much water as the pot size. For example; water a tree grown in a five-gallon container with 10 – 15 gallons of water. Water every 7 – 10 days with the same amount of water until the plant is well established.

It is important to water deeply into the ground to encourage the roots to grow deep.

If the plant develops a deep root system it will be able to reach moisture in times of drought.

If you water with frequent small amounts of water, the result is a shallow-rooted plant. If your soil is heavy clay you can cut back on the frequency.

Jean Atkinson is a horticulturist with Richbar Golf and Garden and a regular Observer columnist.