Q. I was poking around a nursery here in town and noticed several sales on shrubs and trees this time of year. I’m curious as to what kind of success I’d have by planting now as opposed to planting in the spring. What do you think? L.L., Westside, Albuq.
A. Success? Well, that will depend on your willing commitment of any plant life, from the time you plant until next fall, to their care and tending.
Certainly, just plunked into the ground and left to their own devices your success rate would be squat. You will need to research the ones you’re thinking about. Taking into consideration the mature size, water requirements and light needs should be paramount in your choosing. Think about it.
There isn’t much worse in the landscaping world than planting a shrub that by nature will become huge and you’re not able to move around it, or a putting a sun lover in a shaded spot and watching it not be able to thrive. Be well informed before you make the investment.
Now, as far as care, you will plant with a certain number of rules. First the planting hole should be twice as wide as the container the plant comes to you in and just a smidgen deeper. The soil that comes out of the hole should be mixed with compost (not manure) to add the initial needed extra nutrients to the area. A mixture of a third compost to two-thirds native soil would be optimum. If your soil is heavy clay, consider working some sand into the mix too. That will help keep the area fluid.
Once the soil from the hole is amended, push some of it back into the receiving hole. Then de-pot the plant and place it in the hole. Your goal is to keep the depth of the plant while it was in the pot to the same depth as it will be in the ground. Do not plant it deep or the poor thing could suffocate. Or if it is planted too shallowly it’ll suffer since the root mass won’t be protected in the soil.
So be ready to adjust the amended soil beneath the plant as needed. Next push and tamp more soil to surround the plant until the hole is filled and the plant sits snuggly. There should be left over soil that is best worked into a moat wall to surround the edge of the hole you originally dug. That wall will hold the water you’ll offer in place keeping the plant well-tended. Then water the planting, slowly filling the moat.
Consider applying a properly diluted dose of root stimulator just after the initial watering and whatever you plant will be off to a great start. Don’t expect much if any growth from the above ground plant now since they will be in a dormant stage until spring. The plants, if watered periodically throughout the winter months, will develop a more encompassing root system so they’ll wake up next year and be far more able to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them.
But for now, I will recommend that you research your choices first. Be smart and sure that you are making good choices and will commit to caring for the newly planted before making the investment in the sale plants. You’ll be happier in the long run. Happy Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.