Field of Science

Have a ball planting new trees and shrubs

Every now and then, just for a change of pace, the Phactor tries to dispense with some practical gardening advice. Since this is an excellent season to plant new trees and shrubs, here is some important advice for novice gardeners out there. Whenever you buy nursery stock that has been potted, placed into one of those big plastic pots, you must take the time and effort to tease out the root ball, even if it means breaking some of the roots in the process. The longer the plant has been in the pot the worse the problem. My tool of choice is an old, dull three pronged soil scratcher; it works fairly well pulling the roots out of that compressed cylinder so that you may spread the roots out as you plant it. If you don't do this, there is a good chance that in 2 to 3 years, you will wonder why your plant is not growing very well, or why it died, or why it looks so weak and puny, and when you pull on the base of the tree or shrub, up comes the cylindrical root ball the same shape and size as when you put it in the ground. You might as well have planted it pot and all. The Phactor learned this the hard way many years ago after exhuming several failures. So get out there, take advantage of the end of the season sales at nurseries, and tease out those roots before you plant. Balled and burlaped trees generally do not suffer from this problem. Oh, one more bit of advice, find someone to dig the holes while you tease the roots and lecture them on this advice.

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