This spring my wife and I started to convert the expanse of lawn around our newly purchased ranch house into gardens. While we focus on renovating the insides of the house, the focus for our garden is its infrastructure and bones. To that end, we’ve been smothering several hundred square feet of lawn under cardboard, newspapers, and compost; planting young shrubs to create screens; carefully carving specimens out of overgrown trees; and generally preparing the soil for future garden spaces. Last week we installed several hundred perennials and grasses on the side of our house. During that planting, I remembered the best planting advice I’ve ever received.
This advice came to me by way of a representative from Monrovia Nursery. Monrovia is one of the sleeker national nurseries with big ad budgets and relentless branding strategies. While I’m typically turned-off by glossy national nurseries and their patented plants, I must admit that Monrovia knows their stuff when it comes to installing plants.
|A root bound container plant. Image from Virginia Cooperative Extension|
|Roots of a Panicum plug.|
Direct them away from the
plant before planting.
How do you deal with this problem? The idea is to soak the plant for several minutes in water prior to planting. When you plant, fill up a large bucket with water--preferably rainwater since it does not have any of the chlorine or other chemicals of municipal water. Take the plant out of its pot and gently pull any encircled roots away from the plants. Then set the root ball in the bucket of water. Let it soak for anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes—or until air bubbles stop coming out of it. This deep hydration actually reverses the plant’s hydrophobia. When you install a sopping wet root ball into the ground, the dry soil around it actually clings to the root ball by osmosis, creating a better soil to root contact. This technique is especially good for container trees. If the plant is that large, consider filling a wheel barrow full of water.
|Here I'm soaking the Panicum|
in compost tea prior to planting.
Next time you plant, have a bucket of rainwater or compost tea by your side. I promise, you’ll notice a difference.