|Fall is the best time for planting woody ornamentals and trees.|
2. Evaluate the Site - Before you plant, consider the following:
- Soil Fertility - Collect a soil sample and correct nutrient deficiencies before planting.
- Soil Structure and Texture - The red clay soils of Durham County are well suited to growing healthy plants. However, they are very susceptible to compaction. Deep tillage will alleviate this compaction. If you have the gray mucky clay of the Triassic Basin, you may need to construct raised beds using high quality topsoil (as opposed to "fill dirt").
- Exposure - How much sun does the site receive?
- Drainage - Does the soil stay wet for prolonged periods?
- Available Space - What size plant would be appropriate for the space? How close are nearby buildings, trees, flowerbeds, etc.? Are there constraints on how far the roots can grow (e.g. a curb, driveway, sidewalk, etc.)? The roots of a large tree may extend fifty feet or more from the trunk. Are there overhead power lines or building overhangs?
3. Determine the Function the Plant Will Serve - What role will the plant play in your landscape? Are you looking for a specimen plant to be a focal point? Are you trying to develop a privacy hedge of a certain height? Are you trying to soften the edges of a building, e.g. with a tall, columnar evergreen? Do you need to add more winter interest to your landscape with berries, interesting shapes or attractive bark?
- Form - Does the plant have an attractive shape? Know the preferred structure for the species you have chosen (e.g. central leader, multi-stem, etc.) and select a plant that conforms.
- Health - Does the plant appear to be growing vigorously? Are there any signs of insects or disease?
- Trunk/Branches - Is there any damage to the trunk or branches? Is the bark intact? If it was pruned in the nursery, were the pruning cuts made correctly?
- Roots - Does the plant have a full, vigorous root system?
6. Handle the Plant Carefully - Lift the plant by the container or root ball, NEVER by the trunk. Protect the canopy from getting wind blown during transport.
- Container plants - Carefully remove the plant from the container. If you notice circling roots, tease them out so that they will grow straight (or cut them if necessary). If you can do so without severely damaging the root system, shake off some of the potting medium. Install the plant so that the crown or trunk flare (point where the root system meets the trunk) is even with grade and not covered by soil.
- Balled and burlapped plants - Place the balled and burlapped plant into the planting hole. Being careful not to damage the root system, remove as much burlap, string, and wire as possible. At a minimum, fold back the burlap to expose at least the top third of the root ball. It may also be beneficial to carefully loosen
9. Mulch the Planting Area -Cover the planting area with NO MORE THAN 3 inches of mulch. Be sure the mulch is pulled away from the trunk.
Urban Horticulture Note No. 7