General Planting Instructions

Trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals all have one thing in common: the need to be planted with consideration. Here are the basics you will need to get started:

Assess the growing conditions of your site(s):

1. Make sure you are planting in the right location. What amount of sun does the area receive? Full day, half day or will it be mostly shaded? Select a plant that works in your location.

2. What kind of soil do you have? This is an important consideration; while soil can be remedied, it is generally either wet, well drained, or hard & dry (usually this dryness occurs under trees, where the trees take away the moisture). Do the plants you like want dry feet or wet feet or somewhere in-between? There are plants that will grow happily in all these conditions.

3. Calculate how fast your chosen plants will grow and what their ultimate height and spread will be. Is there sufficient room for the plants to attain its mature size?

4. If you are planting in a new space, take up all the sod. Then till your soil about 1½ to 2 feet deep and add a mixture of compost. McArdle's recommends Coast of Maine Compost Mix, along with greensand, super phosphate, and organic plant food. It is best to do this when the ground is  dry, as the job is much harder if the soil is wet. If you are adding a plant to an established bed, read on for further directions.

Once you have established your location, selected plants, which will work in those conditions and prepared your soil, you are ready to plant.

1. Inspect your plant as it comes out of its pot, checking to see if it is pot bound. If the roots are tightly bound, score the sides four to six times with a knife and make an X in the bottom. Sometimes a plant will be "loosely" pot bound and you can untangle the roots gently with your hand.  It is very important to loosen the root ball of your plant, as this will enable it to take up nutrients and water. A pot bound plant will find it difficult, if not impossible, to establish itself and may not be able to take in sufficient water and food.

2. Dig a hole for your plant that is twice as wide and the same depth as the container the plant came in. Mix the soil from the hole with some compost and any soil amendments you need, and backfill the hole, leaving room for the plant. A plant stimulant containing mycorrhizae may also be added at this time to give the plant's roots a healthy start. Place the plant at exactly the same depth it was growing in the pot, and then gently press the remaining soil around the sides and on top.

3. Water your plant well. This ensures the roots make contact with the soil, where they will be able to extract water and nutrients. Remember that water is the most important ingredient to growing a successful plant.  Plants need one to two inches of water a week. Rainfall might not be enough. Feel several inches into your soil and see if it is moist; if it is dry you will need to water.

4. Allow the plant to acclimate to its new surroundings for 2-3 weeks, then you should begin to fertilize regularly. Determine the fertilization requirements of the plant you are growing, and then make a schedule of fertilizing that is consistent with the plant's needs. Always follow instructions carefully with chemical fertilizers, as they may burn the roots of new plants. When in doubt as to how much to use, remember less is always better. Organic fertilizers are far less likely to burn your plant, so  it's hard to go wrong with them. You may use liquid fertilizers, granular fertilizers or a combination thereof, which is generally a matter of personal preference. Plants will need food throughout the summer, but shrubs and perennials should not be fed after August 1st, when their growth is  beginning to slow. If you want to fertilize, rock phosphate or Roots 2 are both good for root growth.

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