By Rebecca Boylan, Consumer Horticulturist
Montgomery County (PA) Cooperative Extension

COLLEGEVILLE PA – Spring has come upon us quickly this year and, after a record snowfall, we are ready to get out planting. For many gardeners, that means adding new trees, shrubs and perennials to the landscape.

Planting a tree often looks easy, but most people forget the follow-up care.

These are great investments to your homes, but you can’t just dig a hole, plop the plants in, and forget about them. Proper preparation and aftercare are critical to give you years of pleasure afterward.

  • Correct plant selection for the site will start you on the road to success. Don’t plant a tree that prefers dry conditions in an area that remains wet for long periods of time. Shrubs that get 20 feet tall should not be used as foundation plants. Trees that grow to 50 feet should not be planted under power lines. Survey your site and match the correct plants to the existing conditions. There are many good university-based websites with lists of plants. The Montgomery County (PA) Cooperative Extension Office in Collegeville, at 610-489-4315, also can assist with plant selection.
  • Next, you need to dig the proper hole. Dig the hole twice as wide as the rootball of the tree or shrub, but not deeper than the root flare. The root flare is where the uppermost root meets the trunk of the tree or shrub. Many times, this is buried when the plant is potted up or placed in burlap and you have to dig the soil off to find it. If the plant is planted too deeply, it could suffocate; symptoms would be noticeable in a few years.
  • Then, place the plant in the hole. Be sure to remove any wires or string from the rootball.  Backfill with the existing soil and water well, tamping the soil down as you backfill. Make sure that the root flare you so carefully excavated is at the soil line. Mulch the area with three to four inches of organic mulch, keeping the mulch from touching the trunk of the plant. The mulch will help conserve water and keep down weeds.
  • These new plantings are going to have to be watered unless there are consistent rains every week, so your job still isn’t done. New plantings require at least one inch of water a week in order to be successful. Fertilizer isn’t necessary for the first year. Trees may be staked if you live in a high wind area, but remove the stakes after a year.

With proper selection and care, your green investment should last for many years, add value to your home, and improve the quality of your life.

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