It’s a fact: We can love our plants to death. I’m not talking about the common practice of overwatering house plants. I’m talking about practices involving outdoor plants – trees in particular.
Most trees, even when newly planted, don’t need to be staked, unless they’re in the path of strong winds. Even then, the stakes should be removed after the first year. Stakes are like unnecessary crutches. As they’re getting established, trees should be developing tissue that will protect them from the buffeting of wind. Instead, staked trees direct that energy elsewhere, resulting in weak trees.
Another questionable practice is wrapping all trees and shrubs on your property in burlap for the winter. The only reason wrapping is recommended is to protect them from the spray of road salt or if they are near the limit of their hardiness zone. Tender plants you planted last fall may also benefit from wrapping but most evergreens will do fine with just anti desiccant protection, and deciduous plants protect themselves by shedding their leaves.
With the pending arrival of spring, it would be a good idea to schedule an unveiling of any wrapped plants. Give them a chance to grow and thrive on their own.
You can help your landscape plants grow on their own by providing them with an optimal growing environment. They need good soil loaded with the essential elements and teeming with the beneficial microbes to help plants thrive. To do this, add organic matter like compost. Fertilize if your soil needs mineral replenishment.
After adding compost and fertilizer, top it off with organic mulch. Mulch will moderate soil temperature and moisture. It serves as a gate keeper for plant roots, keeping the soil at an even temperature so the roots don’t get too hot or cold. When it rains, mulch holds water, releasing it over time. If mulch isn’t there to run interference, rainwater can just run off without soaking into the ground where the plants can use it. In other situations the ground can absorb water so fast that it drowns the plants. Mulch can keep this from happening.
The best way to minimize the need for such extreme measures is to plant the right plant in the right place. Do your research before you buy plants or work with one of our professional landscape designers for real peace of mind.
Much of the infrastructure that goes into planting trees is merely justification for more expense. For example, as a horticulturist and arborist, I know that most types of trees get established more efficiently and grow faster if planted while small rather than large. Small trees grow beyond larger trees. Yet, large boxed trees are commonly planted because they are more expensive, and therefore more lucrative to those selling them.