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Letters/My View

April 11, 2013

Letter: Catching spring fever in the garden

To the editor:

It never fails, each spring I get the “planting fever” and can’t wait to purchase the plant I’ve been thinking about over the winter months.

There seems to be no cure on the horizon for this condition — and, to be honest, I hope there never is.

For nearly 25 years, I’ve planted countless trees and shrubs and learn something new each year that improves my planting practices. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is the proper depth that the hole needs to be dug for installation.

To determine the proper depth, it is imperative to first remove the “packaging material” (plastic pot, burlap, wire, twine, etc.) The next step is to clear away any soil that is covering the root flare. Now you can measure from the root flare to the bottom of the root ball to find out how deep you need to dig the hole. My best advice is to “plant high and stay alive”.

The width of the hole should be three times the width of the root ball. That brings me to another important lesson, back filling. My recommendation is to remove one third to half of the excavated existing soil then mix the remaining soil with loam and amendments to adjust the nutrient levels as well as to feed microbial activity. This lesson involves learning some basic soil science and will greatly determine the future health of the plant.

In terms of what tree or shrub to plant, I highly recommend using native plant material to greatly increase the rate of survivability. My top five examples of these recommended trees and shrubs are:

Shadblow Serviceberry— deciduous white flowering shrub/small tree, purplish fruit in summer.

Paper Birch — deciduous ornamental tree with white exfoliating bark, yellow fall color.

Eastern Red Cedar — upright evergreen shrub, dark green foliage, interesting bark.

Winterberry Holly — deciduous shrub, clean deep green foliage, outstanding red/orange berries.

Highbush Blueberry — deciduous fruiting shrub, under utilized for ornamental value, fun for kids.

MARC BOLCOME

Perkins Street, Gloucester

Certified arborist, Wolf Hill Garden Center

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