47April 7, 2007

As I sit writing this column on Thursday morning, the ground is covered with snow. It is a bit depressing to look at, but snow doesn’t stick around during April. Besides, many of our trees and shrubs arrive on Friday. Now that signals the arrival of spring! Maybe.


A few weeks ago, I had a request to talk to you about planting trees and shrubs. If this is on your to do list, than you might want to pay attention. There may be a test on this later and it will affect your grades.


A question that comes up each spring is when can you plant trees and shrubs. The simple answer is, as soon as you can dig a hole in the ground. The majority of the trees and shrubs sold in this area are hardy for this area. Over the years, I have had people ask, in the early spring, if it was too cold to plant trees and shrubs. Since the shrubs and trees are hardy, they can stand the cold weather. The root system will grow quickly in the soil. As I said, if you can dig a hole in the spring, you should be able to plant trees and shrubs.


One of the biggest considerations you should have when planting trees and shrubs is the location of the planting. If you are planting a tree, you need to know how big will the tree ultimately grow. Luckily, the ultimate height and width should be on the plant tag. If you are looking at a tree for the front yard, how big an area will the tree ultimately cover? If the tree will grow to 50 feet high and 50 feet wide, then you need to plan on planting the tree at least 25 feet away from the house. Even figuring 25 feet as half the width of the tree,  that still has tree branches growing up against the house. This may be Ok if you want to shade the house. However, it will also shade any plants you have growing along the foundation of the house.

The same holds true for any shrubs that you may be planting near the foundation of the house. If a plant will grow 6 feet tall, it may not be appropriate to plant it under the windows. If you are planting shrubs near the steps near the front door, you won’t want to plant shrubs that grow so tall and wide that it makes it, ultimately, to hard to get into the front door. When choosing trees and shrubs, they need to have room to grow without creating problems when the plant reaches its ultimate height and width.


When choosing plants for your yard, you also have to keep in mind the amount and intensity of light that the plant will receive in a given area. You should be familiar with the term “full sun” when picking out plants. But what does that mean? Depending on the plant, it may mean that the plant needs to get sun for most of the day. This would mean a south or west exposure. In most cases, if a plant will get sun from 10 until 4, then a plant labeled full sun should do fine in that location. Likewise, a plant labeled shade does not necessarily have to be in shade all day. If the plant received sun up to 10 AM and then it was shaded the rest of the day, then it should do fine in that location. Partial sun or partial shade can be confusing terms. Think of these terms as being the half way point on exposure to sun. If a plant gets sun for 2 to 4 hours a day, then I feel that it could be considered partial sun. Similarly, if the plant were in the shade for 2 to 4 hours a day, then it would be partial shade. Unfortunately, these terms aren’t exact in their meaning. Remember, if you do put a plant in the “wrong” area, you can usually move it within the first few years. It may be extra work, but ultimately it is the best move for the plant.


Soil type is also important when choosing plants for your yard. If a plant tag says to put the plant in well-drained soil, you had better think twice about putting the plant into clay soil. Plants that prefer well-drained soil can easily have their roots damaged by sitting in wet soil for long periods of time. The same hold true for plants requiring moist soil. If the soil dries out, then plant roots can die. In many cases, you can amend the soil with soil conditioners to “ make” the soil that the plant needs. Organic matter can be added to sandy soil to allow the soil to hold more moisture. If you have clay soil, you can dig a deeper and wider hole and fill back in with good organic matter. The deeper hole allows water to drain away from the roots.

Choosing the right plants for your yard can be a simple matter if you know the proper growing conditions of the plant. Independently owned garden centers and nurseries have people on staff that have the knowledge to help you pick the proper plants. This is one time when ‘shopping locally” can save you a lot of headaches.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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