Plant Care and Maintenance

Plant Care In Kearney, MO

Marshall Trees and Nursery knows that it’s hard to select the right plants and care for them after they’ve been planted. Because you don’t have extra time to learn about plants and caring for them, our plant nursery has designed this page specifically for you. Browse the other links to learn about tree selection, mulching, watering, and more, or contact us if you have any questions!

The first step in tree selection is to determine the type of tree appropriate for your property and your needs. Climate and soil play big roles. A date palm might have a tough time surviving a Minneapolis winter, for example. And a water-hungry willow would starve in the desert sands. Make sure that the tree species you are considering can flourish in your local climate and soil conditions (designated hardiness zone). And don’t forget some of these other important factors:

Matching tree to site is a key part of the tree selection process. What is the size of the site on which your new tree or trees will be situated? How big will that spindly three-foot sapling be in 30 or 40 years? Will it be very large when fully grown, the best tree for a small front lawn in a city? On a large suburban lot, on the other hand, will a single small tree or bush be lost in a vast expanse of lawn?

A crucial factor to consider is proximity to buildings, sidewalks, driveways, streets, utility lines, overhead and buried, and septic systems. Trees spread out both above and below ground and branch overhang and root growth can cause considerable damage and incur considerable expense if a tree is poorly situated. Consider the planting location with respect to foundation, concrete and asphalt structures, and drainage structures.

Trees can play an important role in climate control. Deciduous trees planted on the south, west, and east perimeters of a lot will provide shade during the summer while allowing scarce sunlight through in the winter when leaves have fallen. Evergreens, on the other hand, planted on the north and west sides of a property, can reduce winter heating costs by serving as windbreaks.

Drainage is yet another issue to consider. Young trees for sale do best when planted in good-quality, well-drained loamy soil. Heavy clays in poorly-drained sites present particular problems as many species of trees including white firs, yellowwoods, beeches, red oaks, and yews will not tolerate “wet feet”. In all cases, stagnant water pooling around roots can lead to “root rot” caused by lack of available oxygen.

You can do a general test for soil drainage by digging a hole in the planting area and filling it with water. If the water hasn’t drained away in a couple of hours, drainage may be an issue. In areas where drainage is a particular problem, planting in raised beds of 12 to 18 inches of well-drained quality topsoil may be a solution.

Soil quality in new subdivisions often presents tree-planting problems. Construction materials, in addition to creating unsightly and difficult-to-work rubble, can alter the soil’s fertility by raising or lowering pH. Chemical and petroleum spills, which often occur during building construction, pose additional concerns. In cases where soil contamination is severe, the only solution may be to scrape away the contaminated soil and replace it with good quality topsoil at a depth associated with your planting objectives.

Personal taste is another key consideration. Think of how different kinds of new trees can enhance the attractiveness of your property. Make a list of the kinds of trees you admire and think about how they would look. Consider how your selection will fill in the planting area over time. Make a few sketches or, if you don’t trust your own artistic talent, consult available landscape design software, or a landscape designer. Dig the planting hole for trees and shrubs at least a foot wider than the diameter of the rootball. Dig it only as deep as the height of the root ball, or even a few inches shallower to keep the plant from sinking deeper into the hole than intended. The planting depth should be the same as in the field where the plant was grown. Use the burlap to lift the plant into the hole. Once it is in place cut the twine and burlap from around the trunk. The remaining burlap and wire basket should be left in place. When filling the hole, be careful not to disturb the rootball. Firm the soil and settle it with water.

For container-grown plants, follow the same steps as above. When lifting plants from the pots, be careful not to break them. Before planting, check for pot bound growth (roots that have started to grow in a circle). If left, they will choke other roots, killing the plant. To prevent this, make some cuts with a sharp spade or knife into the matted soil mass.

While planting each of these different types of trees differs in the details, all trees eventually end up in a hole. But not any old hole will do.

The most common mistake when planting a tree or evergreen shrub is a digging hole, which is both too deep and too narrow. Too deep and the roots don’t have access to sufficient oxygen to ensure proper growth. Too narrow and the root structure can’t expand sufficiently to nourish and properly anchor the tree.

As a general rule, trees should be transplanted no deeper than the soil in which they were originally grown. The width of the hole should be at least 3 times the diameter of the root ball or container or the spread of the roots in the case of bare-root trees. This will provide the tree with enough worked earth for its root structure to establish itself.

When digging in poorly drained clay soil, it is important to avoid ‘glazing’. Glazing occurs when the sides and bottom of a hole become smoothed forming a barrier, through which water has difficulty passing. To break up the glaze, use a fork to work the bottom and drag the points along the sides of the completed hole. Also, raising the centre bottom of the hole slightly higher than the surrounding area. This allows water to disperse, reducing the possibility of water pooling in the planting zone.

Planting Balled And Burlapped Trees
Balled and burlapped (B & B) trees, although best planted as soon as possible, can be stored for some time after purchase as long as the ball is kept moist and the tree stored in a shady area. B & B trees should always be lifted by the ball, never by the trunk. The burlap surrounding the ball of earth and roots should either be cut away completely (mandatory, in the case of synthetic or plastic burlap) or at least pulled back from the top third of the ball (in the case of natural burlap). Any string or twine should also be removed. Backfill soil (combinations of peat moss, composted manure, topsoil, etc.) is then placed in the hole surrounding the tree just to the height of the ball or slightly lower to allow for some settling. Be careful not to compress the backfill soil as this may prevent water from reaching the roots and the roots from expanding beyond the ball.

Planting Container Trees
Container trees (though subject to greater heat and drying conditions than B and B) can also be stored for a brief period of time after purchase as long as the soil in the container is kept moist and the tree stored in a shady spot. The procedure for planting container trees is similar to that for B & B trees. In the case of metal or plastic containers, remove the container completely. In the case of fibre containers, tear the sides away.

Once carefully removed from the container, check the roots. If they are tightly compressed or ‘potbound’, use your fingers or a blunt instrument (to minimize root tearing) to carefully tease the fine roots away from the tight mass and then spread the roots prior to planting. In the case of extremely woody compacted roots, it may be necessary to use a spade to open up the bottom half of the root system. The root system is then pulled apart or ‘butterflied’ prior to planting. Loosening the root structure in this way is extremely important in the case of container plants. Failure to do so may result in the roots ‘girdling’ and killing the tree. At the very least, the roots will have difficulty expanding beyond the dimensions of the original container. To further assist this, lightly break up even the soil outside the planting zone. This allows roots that quickly move out of the planting zone to be more resilient as they anchor into existing surrounding soil conditions.

Once the tree is seated in the hole, the original soil is then back-filled into the hole to the soil level of the container. Again, remember not to overly compress the back-filled soil especially by tramping it with your feet. Compress gently using your hands instead.

Planting Bare-Rooted Trees
Planting bare-rooted trees is a little different as there is no soil surrounding the roots. Most importantly, the time between purchase and planting is a more critical issue. Plant as soon as possible. When purchasing bare-rooted trees, inspect the roots to ensure that they are moist and have numerous lengths of fine root hairs (healthy). Care should be taken to ensure that the roots are kept moist in the period between purchase and planting. Prune broken or damaged roots but save as much of the root structure as you can.

To plant, first build a cone of earth in the centre of the hole around which to splay the roots. Make sure that when properly seated on this cone the tree is planted so that the ‘trunk flare’ is clearly visible and the ‘crown’, where the roots and top meet, is about two inches above the soil level. This is to allow for natural settling.

Newly planted trees do benefit from mulching, especially during the first years of establishment. Besides preserving moisture and stabilizing soil temperature, mulching controls competing weed growth. Above all, mulching acts as a barrier to keep lawn mowers away from the tree trunk, a leading cause of damage to landscape trees. Mulch could be made of shredded bark, wood chips or other organic matter. It should be 2 to 4 inches deep in a 2 foot radius around the tree, but do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk as it can cause rotting of the bark tissue.

To conserve moisture and promote water and air penetration, the back filled soil surrounding newly-planted trees can be covered with mulch consisting of material such as bark, wood chips or pine needles (although the acidity associated with pine needles is not suited for many plants). Mulch depth should be between 3 to 4 inches. Do not, under any circumstances, cover the area surrounding the tree with plastic sheeting since air and water movement are prevented. Porous landscape fabric can be used since it freely allows water and air penetration.

To protect slender trees from wind damage, guy-wires should be installed for support. When staking, keep in mind that the main stem will grow stronger quicker if the top of the tree is free to move with the wind. Set staking posts in line with the tree trunk, away far enough so the trunk cannot rub against the post and damage the bark. Use a broad bandage or run wire through a rubber hose to strap the tree. Tie the tree at a point just high enough to hold it upright in calm weather. Under windy conditions, the tree should return to its vertical position when the wind stops.

While working around the tree be careful not to damage the tree trunk, which could kill the tree or permit insect infestation.

Young trees should be able to support their own weight, but when they are transplanted, they often need time to reestablish themselves. Guy-wiring a young tree can help it establish itself. Also, many nurseries plant their trees very close together to maximize use of space and stake them to promote height growth at the expense of trunk strength. When shopping for trees, look for trees with branches all along the trunk, not just at the top.

Once a tree is planted, it will concentrate its energy on standing upright. If it is unable to do so, try thinning out the upper branches to reduce wind resistance. If that is not enough and you find you have to stake a tree, remember the following:

  • Only stake the tree long enough for it to be able to stand on its own.
  • Stakes should not be too tight- there should be room for the tree to sway in the wind.
  • Stakes should not be too loose- the tree should not rub against the stakes.
  • Stakes should be buried at least 1.5 feet underground to provide ample support.

Proper watering throughout the first year often means the difference between success and failure for new trees and ground cover plants. After planting, build up a slight berm, about 3-4 inches high, around the planting hole to aid watering and prevent runoff. On a sloping site, leave the upper side of the saucer open to catch surface water as it moves downhill.

In an average loam soil, spring-planted trees and shrubs should be soaked once a week if there is less than 1 inch of rainfall. Water more often in sandy soil. In heavy loam or clay soil, a good soaking every 10 to 14 days should be sufficient. Continue watering to supplement rainfall during the fall and winter until the soil freezes. Many fall-planted trees and shrubs are lost because of inadequate moisture, especially evergreens that are exposed to drying winds. Regular watering should be continued in the tree’s second growing season.

How much water a plant will need varies greatly as to type of plant, whether it is established or newly planted, the weather conditions, the wind, the soil type, the soil drainage and more.

For almost all plants, a deep soaking followed by enough time for the soil to dry out slightly is ideal.

Frequent light watering is not good for plants. It encourages shallow root growth. That’s why irrigation systems designed for the lawn are seldom adequate for landscape plants and if they aren’t set up and operated properly, they can actually be harmful to a lawn too.

Feel the soil before watering and don’t be deceived if the surface is dry.

The outward signs of too much water are wilting and yellowing of leaves, especially those in the inner areas of the plant.

Whenever possible, plants should be watered early in the day.

The amount of irrigation water that falls on a given area can be measured by setting out several shallow, straight-sided containers such as tuna or cat food cans.

Mulching with an organic material such as shredded bark minimizes evaporation and weed competition, thereby minimizing the amount of water you will need to provide your plants.

Avoid sprinklers that put out a fine mist. Too much is lost to evaporation.

Avoid watering directly from a hose. Average soil can only absorb about a half inch an hour.

Native plants usually require less water than non-natives and exotics.

Healthy plants need less water than stressed plants.

Bluegrass needs to stay evenly moist to do well. But if you have a lower-maintenance lawn with fine fescue and perennial rye, an inch a week will be much more than the lawn needs for health.

Frequent, shallow watering encourages poor turf root development and often leads to bare spots and disease prone grass.

In average soil, established trees and shrubs need an inch of slow rain every two to three weeks.

Newly planted trees and shrubs need an inch of water every week, ideally split between two waterings.

The majority of the roots that absorb water for an established tree or shrub are outside the dripline where nature would provide rain. That is where you should water, not under the canopy.

Plants need more water during the first half of the growing season than they do later in the season.

Plants that fruit, such as apple trees, need more water while fruit is developing.

Vegetables need about an inch of water each week.

A newly planted tree should seldom be fertilized the first year. Once a tree is established, fertilizer can help maintain health and vigor as well as encourage rapid growth and development of the new tree. If a homeowner has a fertilization program for the turf, additional fertilizer is often not needed unless soil tests show the need.

Since all soils have a history, it can be beneficial to get soil analyzed properly for macronutrients such as Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), micronutrients, pH, soil type, and drainage. Although many trees survive without fertilizer at time of planting, the majority of plants suffer root loss and stress associated with movement between ideal nursery grown conditions and the final planting.


(0 Reviews)