Tree & Shrub Care

Watering Newly Planted Trees and Shrubs (or: My New Arbs Have Mites!)

If new plants die or have dieback in the first 2 years, it is most often due to improper watering. Although pests can also contribute to plant decline, they are rarely the actual cause. Nurseries are inspected on a regular basis, and any significant pest issues are usually addressed. Therefore, major infestations
that could cause the death of new landscape ornamentals are rare.

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do for your newly planted tree or shrub bed is proper watering. The amount and frequency can vary based on 3 main variables.

  1. Plant species
  2. Soil and site conditions
  3. Type of container treatment

1. Plant Species
Some plants just need more water than others. An extreme example would be a water lily compared to a cactus. Most landscape plants are not so extreme but the differences are there. Know your plants before they are in the ground. Surface rooted plants such as Eastern Dogwood and Rhododendrons dry out much easier. Also, plants that typically grow in wetlands need more water. The best example of this is the arbrovitae. Keep in mind, as a rule, evergreens will need more water. Especially in the fall.

2. Soil and site conditions
There is no question that a roadside sunny bank with sandy soil is a lot drier than a ditch with afternoon shade. Avoid planting a tree or shrub that needs a lot of water in the former situation. Also, avoid plants that need well-drained soil in the latter.

3. Container treatment
This is usually one of three types: container grown, bare root, and balled and burlapped. The first 2 will give you the best roots if properly maintained. Balled and burlapped means that at least 90% of the plants roots were cut off and left behind. These plants will need extra watering for the first 3 years.

General watering rules for new plants (under 3 years old.)

  1. Do not plant more trees and shrubs than you cam properly maintain.
  2. Invest in enough length of dribble hose to give all of your plants coverage. Wrap it atound the area above the plant’s root ball. Dribble hose is a porous, black hose that can be purchased in a garden store. The water slowly leaks out into the ground, concentrating in the root area instead of the foliage.
  3. Turn the dribble hose on before you go to bed at night. Turn it off when you wake up the next morning. Do this twice a week when the weather is cool. Water three times a week in the summer heat. The only exception would be in clay soils with poor drainage. If water begins to pool up in these conditions, try omitting a day from your watering schedule.
  4. Water throughout the fall, until the leaves of the plant turn color, or for evergreens, water until the ground freezes.
  5. The only time when rain should replace watering is if it rains for the entire day. Brief showers and storms will not provide sufficient water.
  6. Always water at night. This prevents evaporation and ensures that the plant absorbs as much water as possible. Do not water the foliage! This will encourage disease.

Follow these recommendations and you will greatly increase the survival rate of your valuable ornamentals. Please, do not hesitate to call us if you would like us to check on any problems that come up.

Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Landscapes:

When planting flowers in the late spring, consider including flowers which attract butterflies or hummingbirds. Butterfly annuals include cosmos, zinnia, and french marigold. Butterfly perrenials include coreopsis, coneflower, and black-eyed susans.

Hummingbirds prefer tubular flowers that are red or orange. Annuals include salvia, lobelia, and zinnias. Perrenials include bleeding heart, bee balm, and columbine.

Attracting Birds to Landscapes:

In order to attract birds or other wildlife to your landscape, three essential needs should be provided – water, shelter, and food.

1. Water can be provided in any number of ways from a pond or pool to a pie pan on a stump. There are 3 important facts to keep in mind:

A. First, running water is more attractive than still water. You can do this by hanging a pail with a slow drip over the water. If you want a better appearance, and are willing to spend more, you can purchase a pump and set up a small waterfall.

B. Second, most commercial bird baths are too deep for most birds to bathe in. You should not fill the bath with more than 2 inches of water. A gradual slope to the deepest part of the bath also helps.

C. Third, it is very important to keep the water clean. If you notice a lot of algae growth, drain the container and wash with a solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one half-gallon of water. Keeping the water in a shady spot will also help retard algae growth.

2. Shelter can be provided by putting up nest boxes. These need to have the proper size entrance holes and dimensions for the bird desired. Remember, not all birds nest in nest boxes.

To provide for birds which nest on branches, plant evergreens or thorny plants. Evergreens will also give birds cover from the weather during the winter months. Thorny plants such as Multiflora Rose and Barberry will protect nests from predators. If you have a large property, you can plant a thicket of Wild Grape Vines or Virginia Creeper among some Multiflora Roses. This will grow into an impenetrable tange which will keep any bird safe.

3. Food is the final requirement. You should provide a variety of foods for the greatest variety of birds. This is because not all birds eat the same foods. Putting out feeders is great for luring some birds but there are many birds that won’t touch seed. The variety of birds that use your landscape as food can be increased by planting trees and shrubs that produce fruits and berries. When deciding which plants to install, try to pick types that fruit at different times so that food is available over the longest time. Plants, like Winter Berry, whose fruits stay on during the winter are especially valuable.

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