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We understand how frustrated you feel if your plant purchases fail to thrive. NHG has a vested interest in the success of your garden and landscape. We’re here to guide local gardeners on what to do, and when. As such, we frequently remind you when it’s time to plant something, when it’s time to mulch and fertilize, and what diseases to be vigilant about.
Here’s a different view: 5 key things you should NOT be doing, now or ever. We thought about a title like ‘5 key steps to gardening failure.’ Our goal here is to share additional perspective on common errors we encounter that cause gardening heartache so that you can avoid them:
1. Rely on automated irrigation systems to establish new plantings
This is a horticulturist’s cardinal rule. Sure, a well-installed and well-maintained irrigation system can be wonderfully efficient. Technology has come a long way in reducing water waste, and if you engage a qualified, knowledgeable and licensed irrigation professional, you probably feel great about your investment. They key, however, is to remember that automated systems are designed to support established turf and plantings, not new plantings.
Trees and shrubs typically require six to eighteen months of establishment and root growth before they can go it alone. This means that water, alternating with a root stimulator solution, must be applied directly at the root zone and allowed to penetrate the soil deeply. Failure to do this adequately leads to plantings that struggle, often becoming weak or dying altogether. Read further on proper watering here.
2. Create ‘mulch volcanoes’ around trees and shrubs
We know–some landscape ‘professionals’ are guilty of this, too. Some folks think it’s aesthetically pleasing, but this poor practice leads to the decline of trees and shrubs by suffocating the root flare, leading to weak, failing plants and untimely death.
Remember, the rule of thumb is “donut good, volcano bad.” Never plant trees and shrubs more deeply than they arrive in their pot, and don’t smother the root flare with soil or mulch after planting.
3. Fail to fertilize
Okay, all of us have been guilty of this at some point (“I meant to get that Holly Tone spread under my hydrangeas, but time got away from me”). It happens. In the short term, it’s not likely to be an issue. Long-term, however, it can lead to weak plants that are slow to bloom and produce fruit, if they do at all.
Organic fertilizer is a long-term investment, as it promotes healthy soil microbiology, and that in turn contributes to overall plant health and vigor. We love Espoma organic fertilizers, and we offer our own NHG organic fertilizer blends, too. If it’s been a while since you fertilized, come see us and let us help you find the best product for your needs.
4. Plant in monoculture
‘Monoculture,’ put simply, is planting only one kind of plant in a given area. Usually applied to agriculture when a field is planted with only one crop, it’s applicable on a smaller scale to the residential landscape. Yard after yard of St. Augustine grass can be considered a monoculture, as can broad hedges of Knock Out roses in every municipal landscape. Monoculture creates a less diverse environment, meaning that natural insect and animal populations are less diverse, as well, and there are fewer organisms to naturally keep the population of other organisms in balance.
It also creates an easy smorgasbord for any disease, as leaping from one plant to the next is made very easy when they’re all the same. You’ve likely heard of the epidemic of Rose Rosette Disease in our area; many horticulturists attribute its rampant spread at least partly to the growing monoculture of Knock Out roses.
5. Ignore proper timing
Timing your plantings is critical to the health and performance of your plants–mostly having to do with root establishment, proper temperatures, and day length. You may have heard two of our favorite timing rules: ‘Fruit trees should be planted during fall dormancy’ and ‘spring tomato transplants should be planted before mid-March.’
We strive to time our selection of plants to best match their successful planting window, and we have lots of information to help you stay on time. Confused? Come see us with your questions–we’re here to help.