Maine Gardener: When you plant a tree or shrub, get to the root of the issue


It’s time to get to the root of what to look for when purchasing trees and shrubs.

Purchasers spend a good deal of time searching for the appropriate plant. They want to be positive the shrub or tree is the appropriate assortment for their yards or, if they are a bit additional adventurous, if it will do the process they’ve set for it, no make any difference what the variety: Do they want it to block the check out of the neighbor’s lose, for instance, present foods and habitat for bugs and birds, or just appear very? They’ll almost certainly study the label to see how massive it will get and regardless of whether it desires solar or shade.

Then they will search at the plant carefully, to see if the leaves are balanced and the branches unbroken and rising in a satisfactory course. Most customers end there.

What they must do is test out the roots, Jeff O’Donal informed an on the internet gathering of horticulture-sector gurus co-sponsored by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association. Potential buyers ought to know how substantially of the plant’s original root procedure they are obtaining and how wholesome people roots are.

If you’re obtaining from nearby nurseries, the choices for shrubs and trees are either potted plants or balled-and-burlapped crops.

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When you plant a tree or shrub from a pot into your very own backyard, be certain to unfold out the roots so much more of them arrive into make contact with with the soil. Shutterstock/PA

Pots have occur a lengthy way given that O’Donal worked as a youth at what was then his father’s Gorham nursery O’Donal now runs the nursery, as nicely as McSherry’s Nursery in Conway, New Hampshire.

“We utilised to acquire a King Cole potato chip can when we needed to place vegetation in a container,” O’Donal mentioned. “There had been no plastic containers out there. And we planted in loam.”

Specialized container mixes that are considerably far better for potted crops ended up way in the long run, he reported.

Container crops utilised to necessarily mean compact crops, and for numerous home gardeners, that is nonetheless the way to go.

“If you take pleasure in seeing items expand, you must acquire a one-gallon plant,” O’Donal stated. It’s a large amount less costly, the transplant shock will be a lot less, and seeing the plant’s advancement will be academic. I like to consider readers of this column would stick to that route, but in some cases a much more speedy impression is demanded, and that implies shelling out far more revenue for a greater plant.

Container-developed no more time signifies modest, nonetheless. O’Donal claimed there are 25- and 45-gallon plastic pots out there, and they can contain some huge crops.

Container vegetation offer you some benefits, the most vital of which is that you are receiving all the roots the plant utilized to grow to the dimensions it is.

Usually, the roots will be pot-bound, meaning that when you take away the plant from the container, the roots will keep on being in the shape of the container. That is not essentially terrible, as extended as the roots are white and healthful, and maybe have indications of mycorrhizae, living fungi observed in a natural way in the soil that assist roots acquire up nutrition.

When planting the tree, spread the roots out, which could demand a trowel or in some cases a knife, so the roots occur in speak to with additional soil.

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Due to the fact balled-and-burlapped saplings eliminate a whole lot of their roots when they are dug up to market, they need awareness and treatment when you plant them. Shutterstock/Greenseas

With balled-and-burlapped crops, it is astonishing how small of the root system is preserved. Those trees have been planted in a field to improve, and the roots are in the leading 18 inches of the soil and unfold numerous yards absent from the tree’s principal stem. The machines utilised to dig those industry-developed trees can’t build a root ball that features most of the authentic roots.

“With a 32-inch root ball, you are leaving 70 p.c of the roots in the ground,” O’Donal said. “At 20 inches, you depart 80 per cent in the floor.”

O’Donal confirmed individuals a chart of how substantial the root ball ought to be depending on the caliper (diameter at breast top, about 45 inches) of the tree. A 1.5-inch caliper need to have a 24-inch root ball, and a 3-inch caliper should have a 36-inch root ball.

In addition to examining that the root ball is the appropriate sizing, buyers should glimpse within the burlap to look at that the roots are white and healthful. It is Okay if the tree stem wiggles a minimal in the root ball – that is pressure from being hauled in a truck – but all the roots really should be there.

To make up for the truth that the tree staying planted is now seeking to grow with a great deal significantly less than fifty percent of its unique roots, the planting website should be as conducive to development as doable. O’Donal quoted suggestions from retired Southern Maine Local community School horticulture teacher Rick Churchill: “You never dig a gap you put together a planting web site.”

That web page really should be 2.5 to 3 moments wider than the root ball, and just deep more than enough to preserve the top of the root ball stage with the ground. The soil that fills the planting website should be amended with compost and mycorrhizae. At one particular time, O’Donal did not insert mycorrhizae, but new investigate has revealed it truly will help the tree grow better. You can find luggage of the fungi wherever you buy your crops.

Really do not insert fertilizer, for the reason that you want the tree to settle in and not use its strength to ship out new development, he mentioned. And drinking water. Fill the planting web-site with h2o and permit it sink in ahead of planting the tree, then water intensely just after planting and day-to-day for a number of months after that. From that place on, h2o it often.

You, and whoever is living in your household a 50 percent a century from now, will value your treatment.

Tom Atwell is a freelance author gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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