The Landscape Company, Inc. | Robert Nivala | Hampton, MN | Phone: 612-282-7199 | Email Robert

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Care After Planting

Irrigation and Watering

It’s very important for your new plantings to be watered regularly. However, the type of soil and the weather conditions should determine how frequently and how much you water.

Never water automatically without first checking the soil to determine if watering is needed. To do this, test the moisture of your soil about 4-8 inches deep. If you find it is dry or only slightly damp, the plant should be watered. Sandy soils generally will need to be watered more frequently than clay soils, but always check before automatically watering the plant.

Since roots grow where oxygen and water are most available, short and frequent waterings will result in the development of a shallow root system. Watering deeply, thoroughly and only as needed will encourage a deep and healthy root system that will be able to withstand environmental stresses.

Mulching

The use of mulch around your new plant will benefit it in many ways. A layer of several inches of a deep mulching material such as wood chips will help retain soil moisture and help to prevent wide fluctuations in soil temperatures throughout the year. It will also inhibit the growth of weeds in the area and by eliminating the grass close to the plant. It also reduces the risk of mechanical injury to the plant by weed whips and mowers.

If you wish to use a weed barrier beneath the mulch, use the porous landscape fabric that allow for the passage of gases and liquids. Plastic does not allow for this movement and can result in the suffocation of the plant’s root system.

Taper mulch away from the stem. Do not pile mulch against the stem.

Fertilizing

Once your plant becomes established, it may benefit from being fertilized every few years. Spring is generally the time of year when plants have their greatest flush of growth and therefore their greatest need for nutrients. To ensure that nutrients are available when thisgrowth begins, fertilizer can be applied in fall after the plant has dropped its leaves or in spring before the plant begins to break from dormancy.

Unless the plant is suffering from a diagnosed nutrient deficiency, never apply nitrogen in late summer. This will promote new growth that will be particularly susceptible to winter damage and will cause the plant to not harden for winter as it normally would.  The application of phosphorus and potassium, on the other hand, will help prepare for winter and can be applied in the fall to help the plant acclimate.

Fertilizer comes in many forms and can be applied through root feedings or surface applications. Because fertilizer can draw moisture away from the plant, it is a good idea to water thoroughly both before and after the application when conditions are dry.

In problem situations, a soil test to determine your soil type, pH and nutrient levels is tremendously helpful. This can enable you to identify and treat a specific problem affecting the health of your plant rather than guessing at what it may be. your county extension office can provide information and instruction regarding a reliable soil testing laboratory in your area.

Pruning

Proper pruning at the time of planting and as maintenance throughout the years is very important. It should be done to enhance the health and natural form of the plant rather than to try and alter it. At planting time, work to help your plant develop strong branching by pruning away any limbs that appear to be damaged or are crossing or rubbing the others.

Never make a cut that is flush with the surface or leave a stub when pruning your plant. Cuts should be made so the branch collar is left intact but no stub is left behind. If improperly pruned, the cut will invite disease and insects to the plant and prevent its natural defense system from functioning properly.

Maintenance pruning is needed to help maintain the health of aging plants. Generally it should be done in late winter or very early spring when the plant is dormant. However, there are exceptions. Plants, like lilacs that flower early in the year on old growth, for example, should be pruned immediately after flowering. Pruning later in the season will remove what would have produced flowers the following year.

Other plants may benefit from specific types of pruning such as heading back or thinning out to aid renewal. While some types of evergreens may be pruned during their flush of growth in spring.

If it requires continuous pruning to maintain the size or form that you desire, it is probably not the right plant for your purposes.

Some plants are very susceptible to insects and disease if pruning is done at certain times of the year. Oak trees should never be pruned from April through July because of the high risk of the spread of Oak Wilt disease at this time. If you absolutely must prune oaks during this period, use a non-toxic pruning paint to seal the wound immediately.

For general pruning of other plants (or for oaks at other times of the year), pruning sealers are not recommended. Wounds will heal most effectively if allowed to heal naturally.

Staking

Under normal circumstances, newly planted trees will grow better if they are not staked. In fact, allowing the trunk to move freely is essential to the development of a strong tree.

Staking of trees is normally required only for unusual instability such as cases where a tree has been pushed over by high winds.

If staking is needed for some reason, it should be done so as to allow movement by the tree and the wires should be covered in some manner to prevent damage to the trunk. If the wire is unprotected or too tight, it will girdle the tree, effectively severing it’s circulatory system and resulting in death.

In any case, the stakes and ties should always be removed as soon as the tree becomes established, normally one season of growth.

Winter Care

Give your plants proper care throughout the growing season. A strong, healthy plant should have little difficulty withstanding the rigors of winter.

Do not water heavily or fertilize with nitrogen in early fall or the plant’s dormancy will be delayed. Instead, decrease watering in early fall to help signal plants to begin their winter acclimation. Then, increase it in late fall to provide plants with the water they need to withstand winter winds. Always water plants thoroughly just prior to the soil freezing late fall.

To help protect against sunscald on young trees or thin-barked species, use a commercial tree wrap in fall to wrap from the base of the tree up to the first major branch. Using a porous wrap will protect the tree while still allowing the passage of gases and liquid through the material. Always remove the wrap in spring. Never leave it on through the growing season or you will put the tree at risk of disease. Thin-barked trees such as maples, fruit trees and honeylocusts may require wrapping for several winters to prevent the occurrence of sunscald.

Browning or winter burn of evergreens is another common winter problem. Water evergreens very thoroughly throughout the growing season, lightly in early fall and then thoroughly before the soil freezes. Anti-desiccant sprays may help somewhat in preventing water loss from evergreens, but it is more effective to use burlap or a similar material to screen the plant from the wind and sun.

Animals can also do a great deal of damage to plants as winter snows force them to turn to the landscape for new food sources. There are a number of commercial repellents that may help to control damage by pests, but the severity of winter and the availability of another source of food will often determine their effectiveness. Installing hardware cloth or other fencing around the plant, anchored firmly in the soil and extending well above snow level, may be the most successful.