Planting Trees & Shrubs
You can get your trees and shrubs in three different forms, and there are different planting methods for each. Here's a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the three forms. These are all at the same stage of growth.
The balled and burlapped plant does look the best, the container version's in fair shape, and of course the bare root shrub is still dormant so it doesn't look good. But it costs a third less than the other two types. And if we planted these all right now, they'd all look pretty much the same by next year.
WARNING: You never know where you might hit electrical, water or sewer lines. So always check with your utility companies before digging in your yard.
Planting Bare Root Trees & Shrubs
Bare root plants are taken out of the ground dormant, the soil's washed off, and they're stored till the next growing season.
This is the easiest way to ship them and the cheapest for the customer. However, they won't have any leaves till a few weeks after planting.
Planting bare root shrubs is different from how you plant the other forms.
First, just take one plant off the bundle at a time. And keep the others covered so they don't dry out.
Then you clip a quarter inch off the bottom of each root. That's to promote new growth.
The planting hole should be six inches wider and six inches deeper than the roots themselves, which aren't really too massive.
Once you get the right depth, you want to build up a mound of soil at the bottom of the hole to rest the root mass on.
It should be high enough that the crown is just above ground level plus 2 to 4 extra inches if you're adding mulch. A stick laying across the hole will help you determine how high it should be.
Then once the mound is at the right height, set the plant over that and spread the roots over the mound.
Then you fill up the hole halfway with soil and pour water over that to help it settle. These are going to need a lot of water the first week.
You can fine-tune the plant's position at this point and then fill in the rest of the soil, packing it all in firmly and watering again.
As a final step, you should prune each plant heavily to reduce the shock of re-planting. They recommend taking off from a third to a half of the branches.
Since this will be a hedge, you want them wider at the bottom than at the top, slanted on both sides. So you cut at an angle. That promotes leaf growth all over the plant for a nice full hedge.
Planting Balled & Burlapped Trees & Shrubs
Ideally, you'd have the nursery deliver your balled and burlapped plants right where you want to plant them (especially trees) because they are awkward to move.
Don't pick trees up by their trunk. That could mess up their rootball. You can roll them a few feet, but be careful because this can crush the roots. We like to put them on a tarp, and drag that.
Dig the hole 6 inches wider than the tree or shrub rootball. And for depth, you want the top to be a little higher than ground level or above the mulch line if you are mulching.
Lay a stick across the hole and measure down from that to make sure you are getting the right depth.
The burlap's bio-degradable so you can actually leave it on after planting. Just pull it back and down the sides so it doesn't wick moisture away from the ball.
Now we want to shovel dirt back in around the ball till it's about half-way filled.
Fertilizer is not recommended for trees because it promotes leaf growth, and what you want the first year is for the roots to get established.
However, there are slow release fertilizers that work over a 3-year period that you can use.
If you've got a heavy clay soil, you can mix some peat moss in around the plant to create kind of an intermediate zone for the roots to grow through.
Once the hole's half-filled, you want to soak it with water. That's to pack the soil down a bit and make sure the roots get adequate moisture.
And to remove any air pockets, just jab the hose in and out of the soil around the rootball.
Fill the hole up and form a basin around the rootball with the extra soil. This will pool water right over the rootball which needs a lot of moisture the first week.
Then water the whole thing thoroughly to help settle the backfill and soak the rootball. Don't worry about over-watering the first week after planting. Lack of water is much more of a problem at this point.
Planting Container Trees & Shrubs
The main difference with the container grown plants is getting the container off the rootball.
It's a good idea to give the plants a good watering the night before you plant. If it's too dry, the rootball could fall apart on you when planting.
With small one to two gallon containers, you just get a grip around the crown of the plant at the top of the rootball and then turn it upside down.
Once it's flipped over, just tap the sides to loosen the container, grab the container and let the rootball slide out.
For larger containers, just lay them on their side, rap on the sides and pull the container off. You can also cut the container off.
These container grown roots tend to grow in circles. So before planting take a knife and make 4 or 5 vertical cuts down the roots to get them growing out again. Then it's ready to go in the hole.
Now the rest is the same as for balled and burlapped shrubs: backfilling, watering and building a basin for water above the rootball.
Water is absolutely essential for new plants. You want to soak them for the first week to help them get established and then back off so they don't get too much water which can really be a problem after that first week.