A Five Point Bullet Proof Plan for Success
Step 1: Container and Hole Size
Regardless of which container you have purchased, all you need to know is the container height (match it) and the width (2-3x) to start the process out correctly (see Table 1 below). By doubling the size of the width, you are helping the roots as they venture into the vastly different medium of the soil. All the WWN containers should be removed prior to planting. These materials will not break down in the ground and will hinder the root’s ability to escape. WWN will gladly receive empty containers that we will clean and reuse!
Step 2: Dig the Hole
Digging a hole eh, how hard could that be? Most people will grab the old-fashioned shovel which works great when you are digging just a few holes. For numerous holes, a soil auger can be your best friend if you possess the machinery. Make sure you do not plant deeper than the container depth. Burying the trunk of the plant is a quick (or sometimes not so quick) way to hasten its demise. Use your new plant as a reference guide. Make sure the top of the root ball is in line with or slightly above ground level. If you are too tall, simply remove more soil. Likewise, if you are too far down, backfill with existing soil. The root flare should be visible at the surface level (see picture below). If you do not see the root flare remove excess mix until it is visible.
Step 3: Assess the Soil
This is a great time to assess the soil you are getting ready to plant in. Does it crumble or have sand? Is it mostly blocky clay that does not break down? If the sides of the hole are shiny and sheer, not only will the roots have difficulty branching out, but this might suggest a drainage issue. Can your plant handle that, if not then find a new spot! Use your shovel to break up sheer sides so that they are no longer like a slide but have cuts and holes. This will help the roots once you backfill.
Step 4: Backfill with Existing Soil
Now that the hole is dug correctly to match the root ball, it’s time to plant and backfill with existing soil. Tamp down firmly to remove air pockets but not too aggressive as to significantly compact the soil. You do not need to add fertilizer as excess will promote vigorous growth leading to water stress during the summer. Native plants do not need pampering like common ornamental nonnatives. Have faith in most circumstances your soil will contain adequate nutrients.
Step 5: Adjustments and Watering
Now that your native plant is installed, ensure the orientation is straight. If not, correct and tamp down the soil to hold the position in place. Staking is not necessary unless the plant is leaning heavily to one side, or you are in a very windy area. Ensure newly potted plants are watered regardless of season. Plants will require supplemental irrigation several times a week for at least the first month or so. Now sit back and enjoy your newly planted native!
Pro Tip #1
Plant root flare slightly above ground level
Okay you don’t want the plant sticking out like a mole hill but letting the flare reside an inch or so above ground level will help with settling so that that the plant doesn’t get buried over time!
Pro Tip #2
Leave the Soil Amendments at the Store
Salespeople want you to amend the soil with expensive ingredients, add root stimulants, and generally part ways with large sums of your money. These are native plants and DON’T NEED THAT. You will do more harm than good by offering the “platinum package”.
Pro Tip #3
Don’t Forget to Mulch!!!
Post-installation watering and most importantly water retention will greatly aid in plant success. Construct a “donut” mulch ring that is 2-3” deep and 3-5’ wide. Your plants will thank you in the summertime (and you won’t have to scream at your water bill).