Make watering easier and more efficient with the proper practices and tools:
Soaker Hoses. If you don't have them installed already, think about them for next year. They save you a lot of time and effort, and your plants will thrive with proper hydration. Adding a timer to your outdoor spicket will also allow you to schedule when the water flows if you're not home or awake at your optimum watering time.
Mulch! Add adequate amounts of mulch around plants, 2 to 3 inches.
Keeping a watering can available for the plants that are out of reach of the hose or your watering setup. Container plants dry out quickly.
Check your hoses! Repair or preplace damaged hoses.
Water wand attachments will allow you to keep plants up high and properly hydrated.
The best time to water is in the early morning hours.
Landscape plants require at least an inch of rain per week. A rain gauge will help you keep track of the rain so that you're not over watering.
Dripping irrigation bags on trees and shrubs that were newly planted will help with their success.
If you're going on vacation and you don't have a timer set up on your sprinkler ask a neighbor to stop by and give your yard a drink. You may even be able to receive this service from a pet sitter.
Soil is key to a healthy garden. Is there a difference between dirt and soil? A very resounding yes! Dirt is usually dry, gray, and not filled with sufficient nutrients to keep your garden thriving. Soil, on the other hand, is half made of weathered rock and minerals that have broken down into particles over time and the other half is organic matter, made from decomposed leaves, plants, moss, etc. Mixed into this is a layer of live bacteria, fungi, insects, and earthworms. They break down the plant debris, fix nitrogen into the soil, aerate the soil and more.
Garden Soil Preparation Tips
Add Organic Matter: your plants use up the organic matter so it’s important to replenish nutrients to the soil and insects by adding compost. 1-3 inches once every year, preferably in the fall or spring before planting.
Mulch the Soil: mulching over soil is a great way to hold in moisture, protect the microorganisms from the sun, feed the soil with nutrients, and help prevent weeds. Vegetables prefer a leafy mulch such as grass clippings, straw, or leaves. Perennials, shrubs, or flowers enjoy bark mulch or wood chips.
Reduce Soil Compaction: the tiny critters in your soil keep it porous, which helps both water and air reach the plant roots. Stepping on it, especially when it’s wet, compresses those pores in your soil. For best results, don’t step on the soil and if you can’t avoid it, use your garden tools to loosen it back up.
Start a Compost: Keep your own compost pile. It is the best ready supply of nutrients for your plants, and why waist all that beautiful in the garbage. Preparing good soil is often as simple as adding organic matter, mulching it, and letting it live free of compaction and unnecessary disturbance. Keep a compost under the sink or hang a grocery bag for your kitchen scraps on a cabinet knob, something that’s easy for you to empty on your pile.
Successful Planting Guide
Planting Annuals & Perennials
Most perennials and annuals like well-drained soil rich with organic matter. Soil for most perennials and annuals should be amended with an equal amount of quality, organic compost and native soil.
Once the soil has been prepared, place your plants around the planting area while still in their pots. Make sure you have taken into consideration the mature size of the plant, as well as proper sun or shade requirements. Determine an approximate location for the planting then dig the hole in the amended soil, wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the plant. Water the plants thoroughly, and remove them from their pots by inverting them and supporting the root ball. After loosening the root ball, place your plant into the hole, then backfill to ground level.
Water the plant thoroughly to ensure the soil fills in completely around the roots, eliminating large air pockets. Monitor your perennials and annuals daily, and water as needed. Water slowly to attain deep-water penetration, which encourages widespread root development and further prevents drying-out.
Add a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch around the plant to help retain moisture. Avoid mulching too close to the base of the plant as this can promote disease or pest injury. When planting annuals in a pot, ensure your pot has drainage holes. Fertilize annuals weekly.
Planting Trees & Shrubs
Before You Plant
It is important to select the proper plant for your site. Take into consideration
the amount of space available for the plant, amount of light the plant will get,
and type of soil at the site. All these factors should weigh into the plant
Remember to always call 811 at least 2 days before planting.
When to Plant
If the soil is moist and kept sufficiently watered, planting can be done anytime the soil is not frozen. If possible, plant your tree or shrub as soon as you get it home. Otherwise, it may dry out and become injured. If you can’t plant it immediately, place it in a shady and/or sheltered location. Keep the soil moist until planted.
The Planting Hole
Trees: dig a hole at least 2-3 times the width of the root ball. Do not dig the hole too deep! The hole should be the same depth as the pot or slightly higher - never deeper. The top of the root ball should be slightly above level with the surface of the ground.
Shrubs: dig a hole 2-3 times as wide as the root ball and the same depth as the root ball. The top of the root ball should be level with the surface of the ground or slightly raised.
Placing Your Plant in the Hole
Ease the pot off without disturbing the root ball. Cut any circling roots and place the root ball in the hole. If the roots are extremely compacted, you may need to make a few shallow cuts through the roots on the sides and bottom of the root ball.
Enriching Your Soil & Backfilling
Add organic matter such as Peat, Soil Conditioner, or Organic Compost. Mix 50% native soil with 50% soil amendment. Mix well for proper drainage and water absorption. Backfill the hole with amended soil mix until about half full, straighten and level the plant and tamp the soil down carefully. Water, and then fill the rest of the hole with amended soil. Use excess soil to build a ring 6-10” from the outside of the hole to create a holding well. Water will have the ability to collect in this well and move slowly down in the root zone of the plant as well as minimize runoff. Fill several times until the ground is saturated.
The phrase for watering newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials is “infrequently, but deeply”. Your plant’s watering needs will vary greatly depending on the size and location of the plant, the temperature, and wind. Use the chart to help determine watering needs.
Staking & Tree Protection
All newly planted trees should be supported by at least two stakes and two straps. This will prevent trees from being dislodged by high winds. Stakes should be driven firmly into the ground outside of freshly dug holes. Attach the tree to stakes with straps approximately in the middle or slightly below the middle of the trunk. Straps should be attached to stakes with wire or non-stretch string. Make sure straps are snug, but not too tight. Allow tree room to grow. Remove stakes after one year.
Tree guards placed on the trunk are important to protect against animals, lawn mower or weed trimmer damage, and sun scald. The tree guard should fit loosely on the trunk; over time, a larger tree guard may need to be installed.
Evergreen plants such as arborvitae should be watered deeply before frost and wrapped in burlap to prevent sun scald in winter months.
Add a 2-3” layer of shredded mulch or bark chips around the plant. This will prevent water loss and keep mowers and trimmers from getting too close to the plant. Avoid overly deep mulch up against the trunk or stems of the plant as this can promote disease or pest injury.
There is no need to fertilize your plants in the first year. After the first year you can fertilize your plants using either a slow-release fertilizer (Osmocote) or water-soluble fertilizers. Follow directions on the package for application rates. It is recommended to fertilize woody plants after leaves have budded out (usually in May) through August 15th. Do not fertilize woody plants later than this to allow for them to harden before winter. Perennial and annual plants can be fertilized into the fall.
Watering Reference Chart
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