Nowadays both trees and shrubs are usually bought growing in pots. Try to choose a
plant that is growing strongly, not necessarily one which has plenty of flowers, and
avoid those that are obviously starved or have been a long time in a small pot. Before
planting out in the garden it is essential to soak all plants in water. If it is
winter and the plant is dormant, tease most of the soil from the roots before planting,
plants with a compact rooting system like Rhododendron and Camellia only need the
outer inch or so of soil shaking off. Add plenty of compost and some fertilizer
to the planting hole and then fill it with water and allow the water to soak away
before planting. If it is summer and the plant is in full growth, it may be planted into
the garden without disturbing the roots, but then it is absolutely vital to exhume the
plant again in winter or early spring, while it is dormant, and tease out the roots;
in the case of non-peat lovers remove all the peat compost from among the roots and
spread the roots out properly before replanting. Shrubs received from the nurseryman
bare-rooted, i.e. dug from the open ground, are moved only when dormant and planted
in the usual way, spreading out the roots around the planting hole and shortening
any which are damaged or over-long. In dry areas or very well-drained soils,
plant the new shrub in a shallow saucer-shaped depression to make watering easier
and more effective.
All trees and shrubs, and especially those newly planted, benefit from a surface mulch
which retains moisture, provides extra humus for the surface roots, and keeps down
competition from weeds. Leaf-mould and leaves, bracken, coarse peat or bark chippings
are all suitable. Old newspapers may be used too, and can be hidden with a layer of soil.
Planting in grass
When planting trees or shrubs in grass, or in an already established border, clear an
area at least two three feet wide for a tree or large shrub, digging the ground and
removing weeds and roots and, of course, the turf. This area should be kept clear
and mulched for the first couple of years or until the plant is well established.
Established trees or shrubs do not need extra fertilizer unless the soil is very
poor and light. The mulch will provide a source of nutrients to the surface-feeding
roots, and if growth is still poor some slow-acting fertilizers can be applied.
As far as gardeners are concerned, soils vary in three main ways: they are either
heavy with too much clay, or light with too much sand or fine gravel in their
composition; they are either humus-rich, as in peat or most dark soils, or humus-poor,
as are most pale sandy, chalky or clay soils that have been derived from sub-soil.
They also differ chemically, being either acid, neutral or alkaline. Most shrubs
grow best in a soil which is neutral or slightly acid; others such as most Ericaceae,
e.g. Rhododendrons, need a definitely acid soil; others tolerate chalky or alkaline soils.
From the gardener's point of view, an average or rather light soil is best as its
acidity is more easily varied by the application of different chemicals. Most
soils also benefit by having extra humus added. Neutral or slightly alkaline soils
may be made acid by the addition of sulphur. On strongly chalky soils, it is better
not to attempt to grow plants which prefer acid soil, as chemicals never seem to
get the soil acid enough for lime-haters to thrive.
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