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Despite this year’s wet spring and summer’s recent sporadic heavy storms, many local landscapes are starting to show signs of dry soil and drought. Tony Fulmer, retail manager for Chalet Landscape, Nursery & Garden Center in Wilmette, offers tips on how to water newly planted trees and shrubs efficiently and effectively.
“We like the analogy of newly planted trees and shrubs being like intensive care patients,” Fulmer says. “For example, for trees and shrubs that are sold in ball and burlap form as much as 50 to 80 percent of the root system may be left behind when they’re dug from the growing field.” ()
Fulmer recommends simple steps to ensure the growth and health of new trees and shrubs, especially those that were planted with ball and burlap:
- When planting trees, use two to three inches of organic material, such as shredded hardwood or chunk bark, to mulch over the roots, but not touching the trunks of trees or stems of shrubs. “Remember, you’re mulching the roots not the trunks,” says Fulmer, who cautions against using stone or gravel for mulch. They merely absorb heat and don’t add anything to the soil.
- Monitor the soil of new trees and shrubs for moisture levels on a regular – even daily – basis. Don’t wait for wilting as an indicator that it’s time to water. “Every time that happens it is a setback for the plant and growth potential is lost, even though the leaves recover,” Fulmer says.
- Water newly planted trees and shrubs by hand. Although lawn sprinkler systems work well for lawns and garden beds, taking the time to water trees and shrubs by hand is well worth it, because of the relatively deep root system that needs to be thoroughly soaked. “You would need your sprinkler system on for hours to get the same results in just a few short minutes of watering by hand,” Fulmer says. “Hand watering is actually much more cost effective and efficient than a sprinkler.”
- For new trees and shrubs, allow a year of recovery for each inch of trunk diameter. A three-inch diameter maple, for example, should be fairly capable of coping after three years, assuming there are no monumental droughts. “Each year after the first year, the tree becomes more and more independent and the need for human watering lessens,” says Fulmer.
For more advice on watering trees and shrubs, as well as lawns, gardens and containers, visit Chalet, 3132 Lake Ave. in Wilmette, for a free “Watering Simplified” lecture on Thursday, July 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and repeated on Friday, July 22 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A Chalet expert will discuss why correct watering is the most critical factor in the survival of plants in the garden and attendees will learn why, when and how much water to give to plants when Mother Nature falls short.