Properly planting trees is one of the best investments you can make for your landscape. When done properly, your plants will flourish. Your hard work labor will be forgotten and replaced with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. The suggestions below are collected from our professional staff, whom combined abound many years of experience. These suggestions are echoed by current research in the fields of horticulture and arboriculture.
Plant selection is critical; they have different growing requirements and dig times. Likewise, different growing sites offers different growing conditions such as light exposure, soil types, surrounding toxicities, and pests and other wildlife. We highly recommend calling us for site advice or scheduling a consultation. The placement of plants in your landscape is equally crucial. The matured size of the plant will often dictate the proper location in the landscape relative to other plants, buildings, utilities, etc.
If you chose to pick up your plants at the nursery, please come prepared. Larger items such as trees, evergreens and larger shrubs require the use of a pickup truck (usually without a cap) or a trailer. Small cars are not advised. When a truck or trailer is used, please bring the following items with you:
"A plant can pull itself into the Earth to get what it needs, but it cannot push itself out when it's suffocating."
Do not dig deeper than the plant's root ball. In most cases, we want you to plant your material slightly above (1-3") your existing grade. This rule does not apply to perennials or groundcovers which should be planted at existing grade. Dig a wide hole, twice as wide as the root ball. The wider the better. Use the diagram pictured and linked in the downloadable content section at the end of the article.
Root systems of most plants are relatively shallow with the majority of a plant's roots located within the first foot of the soil. The majority of soils in the metro Milwaukee area are poorly drained, compact clay soils, especially on newly constructed homes or commercial properties. Roots have a difficult time penetrating them. Soil that is loosened by digging and backfilling makes for a healthier environment for root growth and establishment. Also, plant roots need oxygen as well as moisture; planting slightly above grade will ensure good drainage and oxygen for the root system. Planting too deeply will inhibit these will have a very difficult time acquiring these necessities. Planting too deeply could damage the trunk.
Check the depth of the hole one last time before setting the plant. Remember the top of the ball should be 1-3" above the grade of the surrounding soil. Now carefully lift the plant by the root ball or roll it gently into the hole.
Do not remove any burlap from balled and burlapped plants. Our burlap is biodegradable and the roots easily grow through. Leaving the burlap intact helps keep the plant stable in the ball and in the planting hole. For similar reasons, do not remove hemp twine (tan in color) from around the stems or trunk of your plants. If three to six months after planting you can see excess twine or burlap around the base of the plant, carefully remove it.
Should your plant material have synthetic twine (usually white), remove it after the tree is in the hole and almost completely planted. Wire baskets should be left intact.
With the plant safely in the hole, it is time to backfill. The majority of your backfill should be the actual soil that came out of the hole you dug. Organic matter such as compost, plant starter or peat moss may be added to the backfill; however, it should not exceed 20% of the backfill and should be mixed thoroughly with the existing backfill soil.
Break up large clods of soil and backfill it into the hole in layers, while gently compressing between each layer. Do not heavily compacting the backfill. Water can also be used to settle the soil (2-4") at the edge of the planting hole to facilitate settling.
Do not place any soil over the top of the burlap (root ball) or likewise over the top of the soil level of a container plant.
We grow plants in containers using 2 methods:
Plants in containers should also be planted slightly above existing grade 1-2". Keep in mind you must gauge the hole size by the depth of the soil mass not by the depth of the container. Perennials and ground covers grown in small pots should be planted level with grade. Landscape Container Recycling can be done at Johnson's Nursery for free.
Do not fertilize at planting time; instead allow the plant to reestablish itself before trying to stimulate growth. We typically recommend NutriPak® Controlled Release Fertilizer Packets as fertilizer at time of planting. This product is a pre-measured, slow-release fertilizer which provides fertilizer over a three year period.
Typically, if properly planted, trees do not need to be staked. Avoid staking if possible. 2" wide polypropylene strapping (or similar material) is the preferred material to use to stake trees. A wide soft material helps minimize any abrasion of trunk tissue. Plan on removing staking material in about 1 year if tree is firm in its planting state.