This past week, the rest of my shrubs finally left their pots and were installed around my lot. It was the easiest planting ever! I have had a few garden workers this year and digging the holes was one of the jobs.
Trees or shrubs that have been in pots for an extended time may have their roots encircled in the container or perhaps a very solid and dense mass. They need your help! Here are the steps from start to finish:
Digging the hole is my least favorite part. When digging, make the hole twice the width of the container and about 50% deeper to loosen the soil. Then fill in the bottom of the hole back into the depth you need. You can use an empty container to measure the size as you go, or use the potted plant still in the container to measure for size.
If your soil is high in clay, it will be harder to dig, but even more important that you make the hole large enough. It will be hard for the roots to grow into it as well. You can also mix some of your clay soil in a wheelbarrow with bagged garden soil to use as your fill. This gives the plant a much better chance.
Water the potted plant the day before so it’s turgid but not soaking wet on planting day. Then place the container on its side and give it a push, turning and repeating about 4 times. This helps to loosen the plant from the sides of the container.
Then, tip and slide or pull the plant out. Use a sharp knife to score the roots in about 6-10 places. You can also use a hand cultivar to scratch at the root ball a bit. The point is to loosen up the roots from the solid mass which will allow the roots to grow out more easily once in the planting hole.
Root hairs start to dry out in about 20 seconds so you want to work quickly to score the roots and get the plant into the hole and start to back fill. Since potted plants are usually flat on the bottom, be sure your planting hole is as well. You don’t want to have air pockets.
Fill soil in around the plant, tamping it down as you go. The top of your root ball should be slightly below the grade. Shimmy a layer of fill soil over the top. If the root ball is above the ground level it will dry out. Just mounding soil up doesn’t help long term because after you water and rains occur — what is rain? — the mounded soil will erode away. Pull the plant up and dig a deeper hole.
Do you have potted plants that you won’t be able to plant in their permanent spot yet? Sometimes the place is not ready or we simply run out of time. You can winter them over if they are at least in an 8-inch pot or larger. Check the root ball, is there still soil in the pot or is it just roots? It’s not too late to re-pot to a larger size. The additional soil will help protect the plant as well as give it more space to grow into. Otherwise, all that is between your plant roots and the brutal winter is a thin layer of plastic.
After it’s staying frozen outside, huddle the pots together and cover with 6-10 inches of mulch material. If you are in a windy area, place a piece of chicken wire or fencing to hold the mulch down. As snow accumulates, you can throw a few shovelfuls on top to keep them well insulated. The best solution is to plant them, somewhere – anywhere and move them at a future time.
Do not bring your perennial plants into the basement or the garage, they need to be outside. Remember to dig and store your dahlias, cannas, gladiolas and other tender bulb plants. If I ever planted those, they would be annuals at my house. I know how that story would end…so I just don’t grow them.
Farmers Market info
The Mankato Farmers Market is open for the 2022 season located at Best Buy on Adams Street. The Saturday markets are from 8 am until noon through October. Weekday markets are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-6 pm, also located at Best Buy.
The Winter Markets for the Mankato Farmers Market will be held at Bomgaars starting in November this year. The markets will be indoors at the west end of the store. The markets will be the first and third Saturdays, November through March.