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Width matters as much as depth



Published: Sun, September 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The soil surrounding the hole should be loosened, a shrub expert said.

What's the biggest mistake people make when they plant a shrub?

"People tend to dig the hole deep enough, but not wide enough," said Philip Steiner, president of Mellinger's Nursery in North Lima.

Steiner recommends digging the hole two to three times wider than the size of the root ball.

Judy Bott, office manager at Elliott's Western Reserve Nursery in Boardman, said the soil around the hole, and not just in the hole, should be loosened.

"If the soil next to the hole is rock hard, the roots of the shrub will have a hard time penetrating that soil, and they will wind back around in a circle and eventually choke themselves," she said.

Once you have the hole dug and have loosened the soil surrounding the hole, Bott recommends adding some organic material to the hole, such as manure or leaf compost.

"Just make sure that the soil you put back into the hole includes some of the soil that was originally dug out of the hole. You don't want a hole that is full of really rich soil but surrounded by really poor soil. The roots of the shrub will be get a shock when they reach out into that poor soil," Bott said.

You should also wet the soil before you plant the shrub, but don't make it too wet.

Overwatering, Steiner said, is number two on the list of big mistakes.

"Water the shrub when you plant it, but don't drown it. If you put mulch around the shrub, you will only need to water it about every three weeks because the mulch acts as insulation to keep the soil wet," he said.

Other advice

Although mulch will keep the soil moist, Bott discourages people from using a layer of plastic under the mulch.

"Plastic makes soil slimey and doesn't allow nutrients or moisture to get in," she said. "If you want to use something like plastic, try a landscaping fabric. It will let the soil breathe."

Bott also discourages people from planting shrubs too close to houses or directly under trees.

"If you plant a shrub too close to a building, it isn't good for the building or the shrub. The soil right next to most buildings is very dry because of overhangs, and the roots of the shrub aren't good for foundations or drains.

"If you plant shrubs under trees, they have to compete with the tree for water and nutrients. In the end, both the tree and the shrubs suffer, & quot; she said.

Bott said people also tend to overlook that little trees will one day grow into tall, mighty trees.

"Another mistake I see all the time is when people plant sun-loving shrubs around newly-planted, small trees. This happens a lot in the newer subdivisions. The trees grow up and the shrubs have to be moved and shade-loving plants have to be brought in," Bott said.

Best times

Although the best time of year to plant shrubs is in the fall or winter, Steiner said that if a plant is in a container, it can go into the ground at just about any time of year as long as the ground is not frozen.

However, a shrub that has been freshly dug up and is not planted in a pot should be put into the ground only in spring or fall.

"The conditions are milder then," Steiner explained.

It's also a good idea to prune a shrub after it has been planted because it takes the stress off the plant, he added.

Although each variety of shrub requires a different pruning method, Steiner gave these general rules of thumb:

Always cut the dead blossoms off flowering shrubs so they can bloom again.

When you do make a cut, trim the branch directly above a spot where a new branch has sprouted.

With proper planting and care, shrubs are long-lived.

"Most types should last 15 to 30 years," Steiner said.

The cost of a shrub varies greatly depending on the size and the type."You can spend as little as $5 per shrub or as much as $150 per shrub," Steiner said.

"If you dig your own, they will, of course, be cheaper because there is labor involved, and if you buy a really small shrub, it will of course cost less because you'll have to wait longer for it to reach a mature size."




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