Thuja Green Giant for Screening

Screening is often high on the list of garden projects for many people, especially if you live in a built-up area. Evergreen screening is an effective and low-cost way to screen out unwanted noise, an ugly view, or neighbors, especially if you need screening above 6 feet. Tall fences are expensive, difficult to erect, and are often prohibited by city by-laws, but planting is not. You can put in screening plants that will grow pretty much as tall as you want, and a popular choice for that is Thuja Green Giant. There are lots of good reasons for this – perhaps the most obvious is the rate of growth – so let’s consider this choice in more detail, to see if it’s the right one for you.

Do You Have Enough Room?

Thuja Green Giant will grow, if unclipped, to a height of about 30 feet, and while that might take 30 years, it will be half that height in as little as 10 or 12 years. The bigger trees get, especially in a long screen, the more difficult and expensive it is to trim them, so the first thing to think about is the effect of planting a green wall, 20 feet or more in height? What about light into your home and garden? That will depend a lot on how close to your home the screen is going to be, and of course whether it is to the north or south, or some other compass position. Tall plantings to the north side will not cast a shadow, while in other positions it will. Consider too that the shadow will be longest in winter, because the sun is lower in the sky, and that may be just when you want that extra light.

Remember too that Thuja Green Giant will be up to 12 feet wide in time, again if left untrimmed, so consider how much ground space that is going to take up. Depending on your particular situation you could trim up the lower several feet, as they grow, creating trunks on your screen, which will free up ground-level space, but even then you should plant 6 feet or more from your property line, so that the trees are actually ‘yours’ completely.

For many medium to large-sized gardens, that kind of space is not an issue, but in a smaller garden you might want to consider something smaller, such as Emerald Green Arborvitae, which only grows to about 12 feet tall. It is hardy all the way from zone 2 to zone 7, making it the perfect choice for a smaller screen in colder areas.

How Fast Will They Grow?

Here we get into the reason for the enormous popularity of Thuja Green Giant – its growth rate. Young plants can add 3 feet a year – and even more sometimes. As they mature the growth does slow down, but still exceeds a foot a year. This can be seen with the original planting, where a plant at the National Arboretum in Washington reached 30 feet in 25 years. Tiny plants have been proven in trials to reach 10 feet in 7 years, faster than any other evergreen around.

Good soil preparation and a regular fertilizer program will give your plants the best start and the quickest growth rate, so go that extra distance and reap the rewards.

How Far Apart should I Plant?

Given how big Thuja Green Giant gets, you don’t need a lot of plants to make a screen. Depending on how quickly you want that screen to develop fully, you should plant 5 feet apart for a quick screen, and as much as 10 feet apart for something less solid, that will give the effect of screening without making a solid wall of green. If you do want solid, and you have enough room, then plant a double row. Allow 5 feet between the rows, and plant 8 feet apart in each row for a quicker screen, or up to 12 feet apart for something looser. Stagger the planting in each row, so that one plant stands in the middle of the gap in the other row, creating a tight zig-zag.

What About After-care?

Since Thuja Green Giant is not eaten by deer – at least not usually – and has no significant pests or diseases, there is nothing to do in that direction. The most important care is watering during the first growing season, which should be once a week. Don’t rely on showers or thunderstorms, as most of that water only wets the top inch or two in summer. Instead go for a deep soak from a gently-running hose on each plant, or by installing trickle pipe along the line. It’s important to keep the soil further away from each tree moist too, because you want to encourage the roots to grow outwards into a large volume of soil. That will happen much more if the ground around is temptingly moist, rather than dry.

After that vital first year you don’t need to give so much attention to your trees. Watch for dry periods in the second and third years and give those deep soaks again if the soil is dry below the top few inches. A quick dig around with a spade will show you that – just turn up a few inches of soil and feel for moisture. Increased watering during the early years will also accelerate growth, especially if combined with a fertilizer program.

In the early years liquid fertilizer is best – it gets straight to the roots and is taken up quickly. Feed each month for the best results, and that can be a little time-consuming, so after two or three years switch to slow-release granular fertilizers that only need one application a year, in spring. Choose a blend suitable for evergreens and look for Iron and Magnesium in the added micronutrients listed on the label. They will keep your screen a rich green color all year round.

Should I Trim?

Thuja Green Giant produces a dense plant without trimming, but as the early growth is fast and so more open, a light trim each year while the plants are small enough to reach will make it thicker much more quickly. You only need to take off an inch or two, so it has no real effect on the size or rate of growth, but it certainly makes for a dense screen early on.

 

Thuja Green Giant is the number one choice across much of the country, and it is probably the best choice for you too, but it pays to think it through first. Hopefully these notes will help you reach the right decision.

10 Top Tips on Trimming Evergreen Hedges

Hedge trimming season is well underway across the country, and after the rush of spring growth, if you haven’t trimmed your hedges yet, or if you did it a while back, now is the perfect time to do it. There is no doubt that the best way to have good hedges is to trim regularly, and the more you cut, the denser your hedges become. Everyone loves the look of freshly-trimmed hedges, so here are some tips on how to achieve that perfect look and keep your hedges healthy too.

  • Keep your trimmers sharp – sharp tools give a clean trim
  • Choose the right tools for the job – your trimmers should match the scale of the job
  • Trim regularly – little and often to develop a strong branching structure
  • Cut in all directions – branches should be horizontal, not run upwards for several feet
  • Slope the sides inwards – the bottom needs light to stay green and thick
  • Start trimming early – trimming a new hedge right from the start is the way to go
  • Never cut below the foliage – many evergreens can’t sprout from bare wood
  • Have a fertilizer program – hedges need regular feeding to keep growing strongly
  • Water before trimming – don’t trim a hedge during a drought without watering first
  • Stay safe – your personal safety with tools and ladders is always your top priority

Keep your trimmers sharp

That look of a smooth, green hedge is the result of clean cuts to the foliage. Ragged cuts turn brown, so your whole hedge looks brown and dull. Blunt trimmers – hand or power – are the most common cause of poor results, and they also slow you down, meaning multiple passes are needed, where a sharp trimmer would cut in one go. Although it’s possible to sharpen them yourself, most of us choose to have a professional do it. Have your trimmers sharpened before the first cut of the season, and if you have a lot of trimming, or do it frequently, you might need a second sharpen in the middle of the season.

Choose the right tools for the job

Trimmers come in many sizes, and the most common error is using a short bar for a large hedge. A long bar not only speeds up trimming, it makes it so much easier to achieve a flat surface. As well, decide what power-source to us. There is a big move today towards cordless electric, and with the new, lighter, quick-charging batteries, it makes a lot of sense. Freed from the hanging cord, and not surrounded by gasoline fumes, trimming becomes a much more pleasant experience. The result? You are more likely to trim more frequently, with improved results.

Trim regularly

The more often you trim, the denser and more durable your hedge will be. This is especially important with a young hedge – more on this later – but even for a mature hedge trimming twice a year, rather than the more common annual trim, makes an enormous difference. Three trims per year will really give you that top-quality look, if you can find the time.

Cut in all directions

The biggest mistake of a beginner when trimming their hedges is to run the trimmer in just one direction – usually upwards. This seems to be ‘natural’, but it causes long-term problems. You end up with a hedge that consists of long, upright branches, with foliage on the outside only. These easily break under snow or in strong winds, leaving big gaps that are hard to fill. A much better technique is to trim in all directions from day one. Upwards, downwards, and sideways too. By doing this you build a hedge with many more-or-less horizontal branches, with dense, twiggy ends that make the face of the hedge. They can’t be dislodged from the hedge, so it is so much stronger, and if one dies, it only leaves a small hole, that rapidly fills in from the surrounding branches.

Slope the sides inwards

To keep the lower part of your hedge healthy and green, it needs light, and it needs reduced competition from higher up. So your hedge should always be wider at the bottom than the top. Light reaches right down, and the bottom gets its share of food and nutrients. If you let the top grow fat the bottom will soon die, leaving you with a hedge that is full of gaps just where you see it most.

Start trimming early

A lot of people wait until their new hedge plants reach the final size they have in mind – 8 feet tall for example, and only then begin to trim.  If you do this you will always have a thin hedge, because there will be too few branches available to make that solid face. So begin early – as soon as you start to see new growth after planting – and trim an inch or two from the top and upper sides regularly. Don’t be afraid this will slow down growth significantly. It won’t, and your hedge will be so much better for it.

Never cut below the foliage

Another good reason to trim regularly is because hard cutting of most conifer evergreens doesn’t work. If you trim a branch below the point where it has green foliage, it won’t re-sprout at all and that branch will never grow again. Some plants are an exception to this, particularly yew trees, which will come back happily even from thick branches. But for cedar and cypress you can only remove a certain amount of growth – that why it can be better to replace a badly overgrown hedge, rather than attempt to salvage it.

Have a fertilizer program

Regular trimming removes green foliage, so to produce more your hedge plants have to grow more leaves. To do this quickly, and remain vigorous year after year, it pays to have a regular fertilizer program that you follow pretty closely. Use a method that suits your hedge – liquid feed when young, granular when older. Slow-release forms cost more but they save a lot of time, since most only need to be applied once a year. Choose a quality blend that is designed specifically for evergreen hedges, as it has the right balance of nutrients.

Water before trimming

Trimming during drought periods can be risky, as the sudden exposure of all those cut edges can cause desiccation and die-back. But sometimes we just have to do a job when we have the time to do it, and a long delay may leave hedges ragged and untidy. So if you have to trim when the ground is very dry, soak your hedge a couple of days before hand, so that the foliage is full of water. It will trim better too.

Stay safe

After all that, you want to come down from that ladder in one piece. So wear gloves to protect your hands, a hard-hat if you are up a ladder to any significant height. Make sure you have trimmers that have up-to-date safety features that protect you from injury, and if the weather is hot, make sure you stay hydrated.

What’s in the Bag? Understanding Evergreen Fertilizers

Spring and early summer are peak times for plants to grow. Some plants only grow at that time and spend the rest of their time maturing buds for the following year. Others grow continuously, but more slowly and less vigorously, outside of that early peak period. When we grow plants in our gardens we often want to have maximum growth, so our screens and hedges mature rapidly, and so our gardens look full and lush. This means that even if we take good care of our soil, so that most of our plants need nothing more, in a few parts of the garden we want to boost growth with something extra.

Supplementary fertilizer is especially useful with plants where we take something away from the plant regularly. This could be fruit or flowers, but it also applies to lawns and hedges. Whenever we clip plants they need extra food to make up for that, and to replace it with new growth. This is where fertilizers come it – to give that extra fillip to those plants we stress by harvesting – even if that ‘harvest’ is just a bag of hedge clippings.

Evergreen bushes in particular – both broad-leaf and conifers – need a particular balance of fertilizer elements, so when you go to the store for hedge food, you see that the makers have created something the call ‘evergreen food’, or something similar. So what is special about the needs of evergreens, and what is in that bag? Why should you buy this one, and not something else? These are all good questions, and ones that lots of gardeners ask, so let’s try and answer them.

Young growth needs Nitrogen

By law, fertilizer bags are labelled with the amount of the three essential plant nutrients in them. This ‘fertilizer ratio’ is the three numbers you will find somewhere on the labelling, that looks like ’18-5-11’, or some other set of three numbers. First of all, you will see that it doesn’t add up to 100%. That doesn’t mean the rest of the bag is ‘filler’, as some people believe. Those numbers are the pure elements, and the rest of the bag is the other elements that are bound up with them to create the specific compounds used. Take a look at the ratio on a bag of evergreen fertilizer, and you will always see that the first number is the biggest. This is nitrogen, the element that plants need to make proteins and DNA, and especially the pigment called chlorophyll, which is the magic chemical plants use to trap energy from sunlight, and then turn it into sugars for growth. Right at the heart of every chlorophyll molecule are nitrogen atoms, and since green plants have lots of chlorophyll, they need lots of nitrogen to make it all.

All those clippings from your evergreens that you rake up or blow under the hedge are green, so you are taking chlorophyll away from the plant, and with it the nitrogen needed to make more. It’s that simple. Of course the plant also needs nitrogen for the structural proteins in its growth too, but chlorophyll is the big user, and so plants lacking in nitrogen will have pale green or yellowish leaves, instead of the rich, deep-green foliage we admire – and want.

In artificial fertilizers that first number is often big – between 7 and 20, depending on the formulation. If you look at organic fertilizers, it is rarely more than 4. That doesn’t mean these fertilizers are weaker, it is instead a result of the measuring system. That number is the amount of nitrogen in a form that the plant can use immediately. Much of the nitrogen in organic fertilizers is locked up in the material, and it takes the activity of bacteria and soil organisms to release it. This is why the top manufacturers of organic fertilizers are adding those special organisms to their fertilizer, to guarantee that all the goodness will be released. It’s a useful extra, especially in poor soils.

Potash is good too. . .

The third number in the formula is potash, and especially if you live in an area with colder winters, higher levels of that nutrient are very useful, as they make your evergreens more resistant to low temperatures. This is because potash (or potassium as it should be called) raises the pressure of the sap inside the cells, making the walls grow thicker and tougher, and so better able to resist low those icy days. It also makes them more resistant to pests, so its always good to see a higher level. If you are trying to choose one food over another, it makes sense to go for higher potash, if everything else is similar.

What else to look for?

You might wonder why some bags of fertilizer are more expensive than others. There are a couple of possible answers – for example it could be that one is slow-release, saving you going out and applying it several times – but another common reason is that some contain micro-nutrients as well as the ‘big three’. These are especially important to get top rates of growth, especially in evergreens that you are clipping regularly.

The most important ones to look for are iron and magnesium. These will be listed lower down and they must be shown on the bag if they are there. Both of them are involved in that chlorophyll molecule again – so vital for good growth. Iron is part of the enzyme system that makes chlorophyll – so low levels mean the factory slows down, and production falls below the necessary levels for top growth. Magnesium is right inside the chlorophyll molecule itself – surrounded by that nitrogen already mentioned – so it’s a raw material, and without enough, again, production will have to fall if the supply chain is disrupted.

Finally. . .

That’s it really. When checking the bag, look for a high first number – nitrogen – or if the material is organic, look for microbes to help release it. Also check if it contains iron and magnesium, and a higher potash number (the third one) helps too. All the rest is window dressing, but now you can make the best choices, and give your evergreens the best possible care.

Good Summer Care of Thuja Green Giant

So you just planted that row of Thuja Green Giant? Congratulations, it’s the perfect choice for a a screen or hedge – but now you are wondering what to do next. So here is a check-list of things to do and watch for with your new planting, so that it grows as fast as possible – and that is fast – and soon looks like the image you had when you bought them.

Summer Care of Thuja Green Giant

  • Water regularly – soak deeply for several hours once or twice a week
  • Mulch – it controls weeds and conserves moisture
  • Feed it – liquid fertilizer is best for new plants
  • Trim lightly – don’t wait for it to reach full size before starting to trim
  • Relax – there isn’t much else to do with this easy-to-grow plant

Watering

The single biggest killer or growth-slower of new plants is lack of water. For the first season you need to keep watering close in to the stem of the plant, which is where the roots are. The biggest mistake with watering is to take the hose, with or without a spraying nozzle, and spend a few minutes spraying the ground. This water doesn’t penetrate very far at all, and the roots usually stay dry. Water needs to be applied slowly, so that it trickles down into the ground, and there are two ways to do that easily.

One easy way is to use an open hose, with the faucet turned down so it just trickles. Lay the hose a few inches from the stem and leave it for about half an hour. Check back and if the ground around the plant now looks thoroughly wet, move on to the next plant. If you do this once a week your plants should be really happy. At the height of summer, if there has been no rain and it is hot and windy, you may need to water twice a week – -check by scrapping back a bit of the soil to see if it is still damp or not.

The second method is a less work, so it’s a great choice if you have a longer hedge. Get a length of porous pipe and thread it back and forth around your plants, covering the ground with a sinuous line of pipe. You can use loops of coat-hanger wire bend over to anchor it in place and hold it down. It is best to do this before putting down mulch. This kind of pipe leaks all along its length, letting drops of water flow out onto the ground. How long it takes to soak the area depends on your soil, so you need to experiment, starting with an hour, and adjusting that time as needed. Adding a simple timer to the faucet makes it easy to do this automatically, even while on vacation, and once you set it up there is nothing more you need to do.

Mulching

If you didn’t do it when planting, put down a 2 to 3-inch layer of coarse organic material over the root zone as mulch. This could be bark chips, shredded wood, shredded leaves, garden compost, or even straw. Not only does it reduce or prevent the growth of weeds, mulch keeps the soil cool, stimulating root growth, and it slows down the loss of water directly from the soil. Keep it clear of the stems and foliage and cover an area a couple of feet wide at least. You will probably need to renew it after a couple of years – it depends on the type of material you used. Once the plants grow and spread outwards the leaves that fall inside the plant will act as natural mulch, and you won’t need to do it anymore. Remember not to dig old mulch into the ground, as more woody kinds of materials rob the soil of nutrients as they rot down.

Feeding

Your new Thuja Green Giant plants don’t yet have extensive root systems, so they can’t reach the nutrients in the surrounding soil. To keep them growing at their peak speed it is best to feed them for the first couple of years with liquid fertilizers, as these soak right down into the root ball, so the nutrients are available. The foliage can also absorb them directly, so some types can be sprayed directly onto the foliage. If you are unsure, use a half-strength mixture for the foliage, and full-strength on the roots. Once a month is usual, although you might get slightly better growth with half-strength every two weeks. Make the last feeding in mid-September, so the plants harden-off a little before winter comes. Choose a formulation that is blended for evergreen trees and that contains iron and other micro-nutrients. You will really see the difference with liquid feeding, no matter how well you have prepared the soil. That good soil preparation will pay off in future years, but it doesn’t have a big impact in the first season.

Trimming

Although you want maximum growth, you also want to develop good structure in a hedge, so that it is durable and lasts for many years. So if you are planning a hedge you will clip regularly, start doing it the first season. Just take an inch off the top a couple of times through the season, and a little off the sides too, especially in the upper part, so that your plants slope inwards a little. Don’t be tempted to trim 90-degree sides. It doesn’t work well, as the lower branches will become thin over time, and you will lose that great lush greenness right to the ground that is the mark of a top-quality hedge. These light trimmings as the plants grow produce a dense structure that is resistant to storm damage, and won’t break under the weight of snow. Stop trimming in mid-fall, so that the growth slows naturally before the winter comes, to eliminate the risk of the tips burning if the weather turns cold suddenly.

Relax

These are all easy jobs, that don’t take long, but they pay off in spades, with top-speed growth, rich, healthy green foliage, and the best-looking plants around. Good care in the early years of Thuja Green Giant helps it become the great plant you want – it’s easy, so enjoy the summer.

Caring for Your New Thuja Green Giant

You took the big step and planted a new screen or a hedge of Thuja Green Giant, right? Or maybe you have used some as future large specimens in the corners of your garden. Whichever it is, you have made the right choice if you are looking for fast-growing, disease and pest free plants, that even deer leave alone. These first years are the most important ones, because after that your plants will be almost completely self-maintaining, unless you are planning to trim them regularly for a formal look. It’s during these years, especially the first season or two, that the foundations of an easy and successful future for your plants are laid down.

For the Best Growth of Your New Trees:

  • Water regularly – it’s vital
  • Fertilize properly – use liquid formulations
  • Trim right away – establish dense growth early

We will assume you did all the early steps properly – ground preparation, correct spacing, and good planting – but if not, you will find blogs on this site covering all these things in detail – assuming you haven’t actually put them in the ground yet. Here we are going to consider the important steps in caring for your new Thuja Green Giant plants for the first season or two, so they really get going with a bang.

Keep Watering

The biggest mistake made is to think that because these are tough, reliable plants, you can just plant them and forget them. Maybe you will get lucky, with good falls of rain spaced out nicely through the season, and everything will be fine if you ‘plant and walk away’. But it’s much better to give some simple basic care until your trees become established, and watering should be at the top of the list. Remember that your plants went into the ground with just the soil from their pots around their roots, and for the first little while that is the only soil available to them. So when the weather turns warm and dry, and the summer sun begins to shine, they will start to lose water from their foliage immediately. The only source for that water is the soil around the roots, although if you have planted well, and firmed the soil around the root-ball, that ball will suck some water out of the surrounding soil too. None the less, even if the soil looks damp, it pays to look after that root ball with a little extra care, until enough time has passed for the roots to grow out.

So once a week, or even twice a week if the weather is hot and dry, go along the row with a hose and let plenty of water trickle down close to the stem, soaking that hidden root-ball. Any excess will drain out into the surrounding soil, and this simple exercise, which doesn’t take long, is the best single thing you can do to guarantee the survival and good growth of your new trees.

Pay attention to the surrounding soil too, as the roots won’t grow out into dry earth. The best way, and the most water-wise, is to run a porous hose along the row of your new hedge, weaving it in and out of the stems as you go. This can stay in place for years, and it will quickly be hidden by new growth. By running the water directly on the ground, you get it exactly where needed, and you don’t lose it to evaporation, which happens with a sprinkler. Connect this trickle hose to a regular line, and turn it on for a few hours, until the water has soaked in and spread sideways. How often you need to do it will depend on the type of soil you have, how hot it is, whether you have used mulch (which is recommended), and how much rain has fallen. Don’t be fooled by light showers – scrape back a little soil to see if it is dry underneath, as it often is after light rain. Keep the soil damp, but don’t water until the soil is looking a little dry, as the roots won’t grow into a swamp!

Use Fertilizer

You probably enriched the soil when you planted – it’s highly recommended – but until the roots grow out that food is not available. Plants grown in containers are fed regularly with liquid fertilizers, and you will get the best growth from your new plants by doing the same. Choose a water-soluble formulation designed for hedges and evergreens, and use it as directed. If the directions are to apply monthly, you will get even better results by halving the concentration and applying every two weeks instead, as this gives a steadier supply of those vital nutrients. Start in mid-spring, as soon as you see signs of new growth, and flowers coming out around the garden, and keep feeding into early fall. Then stop, especially in colder areas, as you want your trees to finish growing in time for the new growth to harden off before winter. In warmer regions you can continue feeding until late fall.

Start Trimming Right Away

Since you want your plants to grow as much as possible, trimming might sound counter-intuitive. Some people wait until their plants have grown to their intended size before beginning to trim, but this is a mistake that can shorten the effective life of your screen or hedge significantly.

The best practice is to trim lightly almost as soon as you plant. Once you see a little new growth, take a sharp pair of shears and trim a little bit off. It doesn’t even have to be an inch of growth, and pay special attention to the top, as it will soon ‘run away’ if it can, leaving the bottom areas thin. This is something that cannot be fixed later, so slow down growth in height just a little, to build up bushy, broad plants that will stay green to the ground for decades. In fact, if your new plants have some wispy long upper growth, trim it back a few inches the same time that you plant.

Your goal should be broad, full plants with many branches right to the ground. Regular light trimming, taking a little more from the top than the sides, will make that happen. Taper the growth inwards a little, so that light reaches right to the bottom, and always do that for the life of your hedge and screen. During the first and second seasons you might want to trim lightly 4 or 5 times during the growing season, and since your plants are still small it won’t take long. Use sharp tools and just remove the tips from the new growth.

 

These simple steps are just a little extra work but a big investment in a great future for your plants. Your new Thuja Green Giant are going to do most of the work, so give them a helping hand – it’s a small effort that brings big results.

Can I Plant Thuja Green Giant in Summer?

As spring slides into summer, those who didn’t do everything they planned for spring start to worry. Is it now too late? Will I have to wait until fall or next spring to do that planting in the garden? Specifically, I am planning to plant a screen or hedge of Thuja Green Giant – am I now too late?

The traditional planting seasons of spring and fall were connected to the traditional way that plants were grown in nursery fields. When they reached a saleable size, they were dug and usually wrapped in burlap, or put into temporary pots, before being sold and then replanted. These things must be done at the right seasons, and trying to dig and plant in summer was something doomed to failure, because a large part of the active root-system is left in the ground.

Nursery methods have changed a lot, and today plants like Thuja Green Giant are grown for most or all their lives in pots. This means there is no root disturbance when they are moved around, and they arrive at your home with 100% of their root system intact and healthy. So the simple answer to planting is that today we can plant almost all year round, as long as the ground is not frozen. There are some good reasons for not planting in the depths of winter, but the situation for summer is much easier. Summer planting is not only possible, but easy and successful, as long as you take some simple precautions. Let’s see what those precautions are, and then you will be ready to plant that screen or hedge you have been planning – no matter what season it is.

Tips for Summer Planting

  • Prepare the area well, and water it thoroughly the day before
  • Be sure the plants have been water well before taking them out of the pots
  • Water deeply when planting
  • Mulch the root-zone to reduce water loss
  • Water close to the trunk every second or third day for the first weeks

Preparing the Planting Site

Just as for any other season, preparing the ground for planting should be top of your list. Most failures can be traced back to poor preparation. Digging a pot-sized hole in hard ground, and then pushing the plant into it, is always going to give bad results, even for tough plants. Instead, dig the whole row you are planting in, to a width of at least 3 feet. Incorporate plenty of rich organic material, to hold water and feed your plants.

If the ground is dry it may be hard to dig, so you should water the day before you dig or till. Once it is all ready to go, water thoroughly again the evening before you are going to plant.

Preparing the Potted Plants

When your new plants arrive, you may not be ready to plant right away. Remove all the packaging, and then place the plant in an area shaded from the afternoon sun. Plastic pots, especially black ones, absorb a lot of heat from the sun, and this damages the roots. If you do have to leave the plants in the sun, arrange them in a block so they shade each other, and then put something over the pots on the south and west side to protect them from direct sunlight. Burlap, some broad planks, mulch or loose soil are some possible materials you could use.

The biggest risk when planting in hot weather comes from handling plants with dry root balls. The soil can fall off, the roots rapidly become desiccated once outside the pot, and there is a real danger that the root ball will still be dry after you have planted and watered them. So always water the pots thoroughly the evening before planting. If you have to water them just before planting, go ahead – the only problem with that is the soil is wet and so makes more mess.

Water Deeply When Planting

You should still cut through the circling roots around the root ball in two or three places – it doesn’t hurt, and it encourages the roots to grow outwards, which is what you want. The commonest way people plant is to fill the holes completely and then water the area. A much better method, especially during summer weather, is to put back half to two-thirds of the soil, firming it down around the root ball. Then fill the remaining space with lots of water, and wait until it soaks down. This simple trick makes sure that plenty of water is available around the roots, where it is needed, not in the top few inches, where the roots can’t reach it. If you are forced to plant into dry soil, then do this soaking twice, so that the water spreads outwards too. Once the water has drained away, put back the rest of the soil, and once all the plants are in, go around and give them a final soaking.

Mulch the Root Zone to Conserve Moisture

Applying mulch over the root-ball zone of newly planted trees is always the right thing to do, but even more so in summer. It will keep the soil cool, which encourages root growth, and it reduces water-loss from the soil surface, reducing the risk of the soil drying out. Cover the soil further out than the width of the root-ball, because you want to create a cool, moist environment that the roots will want to grow into. Apply a layer 3 to 4 inches thick and keep it a few inches away from the stem and foliage.

Keep up the Watering

The biggest risk with summer planting is the rapid drying of the root-ball because of high rates of water loss from the foliage. Warm weather encourages growth, and it also increases the rate that water is lost from the leaves, especially from soft new growth. The only water available to newly-planted trees is in the soil that the roots are in, which is a small volume. So that moisture can be removed in a day or two. Water will be drawn into that soil from the surrounding earth, especially if you have firmed it down properly, but it may not happen fast enough. Because you see the soil surface looking damp, that doesn’t mean the hidden root-ball is. For the first three or four weeks, water every second or third day by letting water trickle down close to the stem of each plant. That way you will keep that root-ball damp. Water the surrounding soil too if it starts to look dry, because you want the roots to grow outwards, and they won’t grow into dry soil. Once the plants are established, you only need to water the whole area, as normal.

 

If you follow these simple tips, which are just good gardening habits, then summer planting of Thuja Green Giant is as easy as relaxing on those gorgeous summer days and watching your plants grow.

How Did Thuja Green Giant Come to Be the Top Evergreen?

There is no question that among evergreens, Thuja Green Giant is the most recommended and the most popular of them all. When it comes to rising to the top of the poles, it’s a case of, “May the best plant win”. So what qualities does this plant have that allowed it to rise to the top? In answering that question, we can learn more about this plant, its suitability for your garden, and what it is about it that has proved so successful. Now read on. . .

The Origins of Thuja Green Giant

When we think of famous places for producing plants, Denmark is not a country that immediately comes to mind – yet it is there we begin our story. Dorus Poulsen was a keen amateur botanist and gardener, and in 1878 he started a nursery, growing and selling plants, near a grand manor house called Frijsenborg. There he became known for his rose breeding, and the Poulsen name was associated with quality and innovation. When Dorus retired in 1925 his sons took over the nursery, and it was probably one of them, who, in 1937, found a seedling that would eventually become famous. Here the picture is a little murky, because we don’t know if this was something produced by a breeding program – the Poulsen family were all keen on plant breeding – or just an accidental event that caught their keen eye. In any case, within a short time World War II would engulf Europe, and seedling evergreens were not of much importance in that life-or-death struggle.

It is 1967 before we pick up the trail again, now at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. They received a shipment of plants from a Poulsen nursery – the company now had a number of branches- in Kvistgaard, north of Copenhagen. There were several different plants of Thuja evergreens, and these were planted out for observation in a nursery area. Several staff members noticed the speed of growth of this plant, which was very rapid in the early years, and in 25 years this plant was 30 feet tall – a remarkable achievement. In the early 1990s people were starting to pay attention

What is Thuja Green Giant?

So what was this plant? The botanists could see that it was a Thuja, a relative of the eastern Red Cedar, which is a common plant throughout the north-east. Because of its vigor and rapid growth, they suspected it was a hybrid – a cross between two natural species – but they didn’t know. The records didn’t help much, and beyond tracing it back to that Poulsen plant found in 1937, they didn’t have much to go by.

However they now had DNA analysis available, a great tool for solving these kinds of mysteries, and using that a team of scientists from the major American botanical gardens figured out what they were dealing with. This mystery plant really was something remarkable and never seen before – a hybrid between the Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata, and the Japanese Arborvitae, Thuja standishii.  One grows in Oregon and Washington state, and the other grows in Japan. We may never know exactly what happened in that nursery in Denmark 80 years ago, but it produced a trans-pacific hybrid, full of what plant breeders call ‘hybrid vigor’.

Why Does Thuja Green Giant Grow So Fast?

When two plants are bred together, all the best forms of the many genes it has hide the bad forms, that naturally accumulate over the millennia. So a hybrid plant is running on all cylinders perfectly, creating this hybrid vigor, and this is the simple explanation of why Thuja Green Giant grows as fast as it does. Growth rates of over 3 feet a year have been seen in young plants. In a trial at the University of Arkansas, tiny plants grew 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide after only 7 years. This was a trial of many hedging plants, and the fastest was the Green Giant. This is the major reason for the popularity of this plant – its growth rate. If you need large evergreens in a short time, then Thuja Green Giant is the number one choice – right on top of the list.

Deer Don’t Touch It

Deer are a serious problem for some gardeners, and they can and do decimate plantings. Some kinds of Thuja are popular winter food, and a hedge or screen can and is often stripped completely of its lower branches – ruining the work of decade or more.

Deer are very unpredictable, and when driven by hunger will eat just about anything, so it’s impossible to make an absolute statement, but the evidence is that Thuja Green Giant is almost always left alone. Spraying with a deer repellent in winter, especially when plants are young, is always a good idea, but compared to other Thuja, deer resistance is another reason why Thuja Green Giant is at the top of the polls for large evergreens.

Lack of Pests and Diseases

That hybrid vigor that produces such rapid growth also protects Thuja Green Giant from any serious pests or diseases. This is unlike some other evergreens, and one reason for the success and popularity of this plant is its usefulness in replacing old hedges that have become diseased

How Winter-hardy is Thuja Green Giant?

If you live in zone 5, or anywhere warmer, then there is no question that this plant will thrive, and it will survive winter in a perfect green state. If you have heavy snow, then any evergreen needs to be trimmed from time to time, so that it doesn’t have long side branches that can bend and break under wet, heavy snow. But as for winter burn, browning, or the bronzing that plagues some evergreens, those will not be a problem.

If you live in colder zones, then Emerald Green Arborvitae is a better choice. It’s hardy to zones 2 or 3, making it a top choice. At the other end of the scale, if you live in zone 9, or in a hot, dry area like Arizona, then the Italian Cypress is the best choice. It’s still fast-growing, and it is acclaimed for its drought-resistance.

Looking at these things -from growth rate to hardiness – it’s easy to see why Thuja Green Giant has risen to the top of the list for larger evergreens, whether you need an informal screen or a trimmed hedge. Just remember that it does get large, so don’t use it for hedges less than 6 feet tall, or plant it in narrow spaces, or too close to buildings. It’s a great plant, but sometimes something smaller is a better choice!

How to Choose a Hedge Trimmer – Part 2

If you are in the market for a hedge trimmer, then the first part of this blog will help you ask the basic questions about what you need, and what features to look for. From the right bar length for your needs, to the safety features to look for, there are a several things to think about. Once you have done that, the next big question is how your trimmer is going to be powered. So this week we are going to look at the options, and why you might choose one over the other.

Trimmer power – the basics

There are three ways to power hedge trimmers – by hand, by gasoline, or by electricity. We will save some comments on hand trimming for the end, so let’s look at gasoline first.

Gas-powered Hedge Trimmers

Gas trimmers give you complete flexibility. You can use them anywhere, without being tied to a cord, and they just need a quick re-fueling to go as long as you need. But they are usually heavier, and noisier, so they are more the choice for someone with larger hedges, thicker wood to cut, and for someone with more experience with garden machinery. If this is your first trimmer, then gas might not be the right choice.

As many people will know, small gasoline engines come as 2-stroke or 4-stroke. Traditionally, trimmers operate from a 2-stroke engine, which runs on a mixture of oil and gas. 2-stroke engines are lighter in weight, with fewer parts, and they can be operated easily in any position. 4-stroke were always for larger machines, such as mowers, but in recent years some of the top-branded hedge trimmers are coming with new, flexible 4-stroke engines, that work in any position, and are relatively light. These are mostly for commercial gardeners, but if you have some large hedges you might want to consider one. You need to be strong, and willing to pay several hundred dollars, but the result is a tough machine that can handle just about anything.

For the rest of us, and normal garden use, a 2-stroke engine is a better bet, and a quality machine will be in the $200 to $400 range.

Electric-powered Hedge Trimmers

It used to be that electric meant a long power cord, but today there are cordless electric trimmers. Let’s think about those that use a cord first.

Corded Trimmers

If you have smaller hedges, closer to the house, and you don’t have a lot to trim, then a machine with a cord is probably your easiest choice. These machines are light-weight, since you aren’t carrying fuel around, and they are priced at the lower end of the market, so you won’t break the bank. Unless you already have an outdoor extension cord, you need to add the cost of that to the cost of the trimmer, so the price is more than it looks at first. As a rule, a cord is probably not a practical option if the furthest point you need to go is more than 100 feet away. Within that range you should be fine. Remember that outdoor cords are usually 100 ft long, and it is unsafe to join two together – moisture can enter the connection, and it might drop into a puddle. Also, long cords don’t always trip the safety switch, with potentially fatal results. So stay within that 100 feet range. Take a ball of string and measure it out as if you were working, from the closest power-point. Don’t just run a straight line with a tape. If you don’t have outdoor power-points you will have to run it from indoors, or perhaps from the garage, which will add distance too.

The second issue with corded trimmers is handling them when working. There is a danger of trapping the cord in the blade while cutting, so you always need to be aware of where the cord is while you are working.

Cordless Electric Hedge Trimmers

The development of improved re-chargeable batteries has made cordless trimmer the latest thing, although few approach the power of a gas trimmer. You can reckon on a high-end gas trimmer cutting branches an inch thick, a similar corded trimmer will cut ¾ of an inch, but the best cordless will probably only be able to handle ½ an inch. If you trim regularly that should be more than enough.

There are several advantages to using a cordless trimmer. They are lighter than a gas machine, although heavier than a machine with a cord. They are the quietest of all, which can be a big consideration for your family and neighbors. They don’t surround you with fumes, and they don’t pollute the environment with exhaust gases and carbon dioxide. You don’t have to go out for fuel, or carry it around with you, although you might want to have a second battery pack. Which is the main limitation to these machines – run time. Smaller machines may not run for enough time to finish the job, so consider how long it takes you to cut, and try to buy something that will last.

The other thing to check for is the charging time. There have been a lot of innovations in this area, and charge times of just 30 minutes are increasingly common. So on a big job, you can recharge in the time it takes you to have a coffee break, or over lunch. This means that in practice you can go forever on just one battery.

Batteries can become heavy, and to get the longest run-times without carrying a heavy trimmer, back-packs are available. Wearing the battery makes it a lot lighter, and once you enter this bracket of machine, you can consider a system with one power-pack and multiple appliances – blower, hedge-trimmer, string-trimmer and more. You get high quality with a lower overall investment.

Hand Trimming

Some people consider hand-trimming something for grandad only, but others recognize that for the best finish, nothing beats it. If you have small sections of hedges, or specimen plants you like to keep trimmed, you will be amazed at the difference in the quality of the look from hand trimming. If you want to make complex shapes, then hand trimming is pretty much essential.

Find a good pair of shears. The best are usually sold as ‘topiary shears’, and have shorter, slim blades. Learn how to sharpen them properly, and keep your shears sharp, and properly lubricated. This is the quietest option of all, and there is something satisfying and calming about hand trimming. If you have never tried it, give it a good – it’s the Zen of hedge trimming.

How to Choose a Hedge Trimmer – Part 1

Everyone loves to see an immaculate hedge, trimmed perfectly, with that perfect smooth, dense surface. Having the right trimmer for the job makes all the difference, and so does taking care of it properly. If you have an old trimmer, now is the right time to be out buying a new one, so that your hedge will look great and the job will go quickly. If you feel bewildered about which kind of trimmer to buy, read on, and things will soon be a lot clearer. In this part we will look at the basic parts and options of a trimmer, and safety features to look for. Next time we will look at the possible power sources for your trimmer.

Trimmer basics – the components

A power trimmer is a simple machine. It has a motor, either electric or gasoline, which drives a bar in a reciprocal action – back and forth. This slides along a fixed bar, the blade support rod. There are teeth along both the blade and the support, which create a scissor action cut at each tooth. There are several differences between trimmers that you should consider when shopping and thinking about what your personal needs and abilities are:

Single-sided or double-sided blade?

Most trimmer blades have teeth along both sides, but some have them on one side only. Single-sided blades are safer to use, because you are always cutting away from yourself. Double-sided blades are more usual and cutting in both directions is considered better for your hedge. If you are left-handed then a double-sided blade will be easier to use.

How wide is the gap between the teeth?

The space between the teeth varies, and it determines the widest branch you can cut cleanly. The branch has to fit between the teeth to be cut. Larger machines have more powerful engines, and can cut thicker branches, so the teeth are wider apart – an inch or more. If you are planning to cut an over-grown hedge, with thick branches, then you might need that, but for ordinary use a gap of 3/8 to ¾ of an inch will be fine. Remember that for most conifers (yew is an exception), if you cut into a thick branch with no green parts on it, it won’t regrow, so if you have an arborvitae hedge for example, like Thuja Green Giant, you don’t want to be cutting into thick branches anyway. Also, finer spacing gives a neater trim, so if you trim regularly, a narrow gap will give you the best results.

How long is the blade?

Blade lengths vary a lot. A short blade is useful for smaller plants, but it will take longer to do a large hedge, and it’s a little harder to get a really even surface with one, too. Longer blades are heavier, and change the balance of the trimmer, making it harder to lift up. So if you are not too strong you will find a long blade more tiring, although the job will go more quickly. Long blades are more difficult to use to make rounded or curving shapes too, but terrific for that flat hedge look.

A 13 to 16-inch blade is ideal for smaller shrubs, and small hedges, like boxwood.

A 16 to 20-inch blade is perfect for an average, medium-sized hedge and is a good ‘all-round’ size too.

A 20 to 40-inch blade is the choice for a big hedge or screen, or if you do a lot of trimming.

How fast does the blade move?

The ‘stroke rate’ is the speed at which the blade goes back and forth. High speed cutting gives you sharper, more precise trimming, but cut finer growth best. Speeds of up to 5,000 strokes per minute can be found. If you trim regularly, so you only cut fine growth, look for a high stroke rate and narrow teeth spacing – it will give you the smoothest hedge possible.

What is the blade made of?

Some blades are titanium coated. Others are made of high-carbon steel. Titanium is stronger and lighter, but not as hard, so it doesn’t stay sharp for so long. Most professionals choose high-carbon steel, as it sharpens well and holds the edge. However, carbon steel rusts, so you need to keep it clean and well-lubricated, especially over the winter period when it is being stored.

Wraparound handle?

This is a common feature, but it may be missing from cheaper models. If the front handle goes around three sides, you can turn the trimmer more effectively, making it easier to reach tricky spots.

Extension pole?

Some trimmers can be operated from a removable extension pole. This gives you more reach from the ground, and its quicker and safer to trim that way than from a ladder.

Is it part of a kit?

If you need a range of garden tools, like a string trimmer, or small saw, then a hedge trimmer that is part of a kit range will save you money overall, even if the initial investment is higher.

Safety Features

Anything sharp is a potential safety hazard, and hedge trimmers are no exception. To reduce the risk of injury there are several safety features available. You can decide which ones are most important to you and your own circumstances.

Front-handle shield?

Most trimmers have a shield fitted at the back of the blade, between the blade and the front handle. This protects that hand from being accidently caught in the blade, especially in those seconds when it is coming to a halt. It also deflects wood chips flying backwards, reducing the chance of one getting into your eyes (you should be wearing goggles anyway!)

Safety lock?

If you have children, then a safety lock is important. Even if you keep your trimmer in a locked cupboard you might have to leave it out for a few minutes unguarded. Children love tools! Some trimmers have a lock that secures the machine in the ‘off’ position, so it can’t be accidently started. You have to simultaneously hold down the lock and activate the machine to start it. You might find this action a bit tricky, so if you don’t need this feature you might choose to avoid it, although most machines for the home market will have it.

Tooth extensions?

Some blades have blunt sections coming from the teeth, so you hit those before you hit the blade. This is a useful safety feature, but it can make the blade heavier and a bit more awkward to use.

Dual operation?

The biggest danger when working with a trimmer is operating it with one hand and then cutting the other one, or your free arm. So some trimmers have dual switches, one on the handle and one on the bar that runs across the top. That way you can only operate the machine when holding it with both hands. This does reduce your potential reach, so you might need a taller ladder to trim the top, for example.

Lock on?

If you do a lot of trimming, being able to lock the blade on, rather than have to keep squeezing the handles, makes trimming easier. It does of course also make accidents more possible.

How to Care for Thuja Green Giant in Spring

In the garden it makes sense to establish a season routine, so that plant care happens at the times when it can have the most impact. Thuja Green Giant, grown as a hedge or screen, or as a specimen tree, is low-maintenance and easy-care, but some basic activities can make the difference between good and great. So let’s see what should be done for it at this time, as your garden is waking up, and new growth is everywhere. These things are especially helpful for new plants, perhaps ones put in last year, or planted over the winter.

Fertilizer

A good fertilizer program is the best way to get the maximum growth this plant is capable of. If you planted Thuja Green Giant, then you probably wanted something that would grow quickly, and create the hedge or screen you wanted, in the least possible time. You can help that out by using a suitable fertilizer for your situation.

Young plants benefit from liquid fertilizers. These carry the nutrients already dissolved in water, so they are immediately available for the roots to take up. They are especially useful for the limited root volume of new plants, and their rapid availability means a quick response from the plants. These fertilizers are available either as concentrated liquids or as powders. Whichever you use, follow the directions carefully, as too much can make for big problems, with browning foliage and even death a possibility. Used correctly they are safe and efficient. Once mixed with water at the right concentration, water onto the roots, making sure you cover the whole root zone, which is a couple of feet or more in each direction.

Liquid fertilizers can take a while to apply, especially on a long hedge, although hose-end applicators make it a lot easier and quicker. For more established hedges granular fertilizers, which are sprinkled onto the ground over the root zone, are much easier to use, and have the advantage of lasting much longer. While liquid fertilizers need re-applying every two weeks to a month, granular fertilizers need on only two or three applications a year. In fact, if you go for the modern slow-release forms, once a year, in spring, is all you need. These are more expensive, but the saving in time and remembering to re-apply is worth it. Fertilizer spikes are not so effective, as they do no give even coverage. They can be useful for a single plant, but overall their cost and reduced efficiency is hard to justify.

Increasingly, gardeners are choosing organic sources for fertilizer, to avoid using harsh chemicals. There is a also a greater understanding of the need to activate natural processes in the soil, which improve it, and increase nutrient flows to your plants. This is often achieved by boosting the levels of soil microbes, adding those that can be missing, or specific forms to tackle the fertilizer sources being used.

Whatever type of fertilizer method you use, make sure you choose something designed for evergreens. These always have a high first number in the formula printed on the box, something like 12-3-5. The exact numbers are not important, but the balance is. Look for a high first number, which is nitrogen, for green leaves, and ideally the last number – potash – will be a little more than the middle number, which is phosphorus. Potash makes plants more resistant to cold, heat and pests.

Watering

In many places spring is a time of rain, and extra watering is the last thing you think off, but in some areas a dry spring is always possible, so be ready to water if the soil dries. Because this is such an important time for growth, where much of the year’s growth can happen in a few weeks, any dryness is going to stop that.

If, in your area, you need to water your hedge very often, installing an irrigation line is a great time saver. The simplest and best is a leaky pipe, which weeps water from all over the surface. You need a pipe double the length of your hedge. Weave it in and out of the plants, laying it over the soil area, not right up against the trunks. Then use a regular hose to connect it to a tap. Let it run for several hours, so that the water soaks right in. An easy idea is to use a simple timer valve on the tap. This is then programmed for the length of time you need to run it, and you can also set it to run once or twice a week, if you don’t have substantial rainfall. If you have a built-in irrigation system you can connect it to that, as a zone.

Always check the soil moisture directly, by touching it, or using a moisture meter. Even after a lot of rain it can be dry around a hedge, because the dense foliage prevents the rain penetrating. This is especially true with heavy but brief thunderstorms.

Trimming

A spring trim is always a good idea – for a hedge of any age. Start with an inspection and removing any dead stems or damaged branches. For new plantings it is important to trim lightly, even if the hedge hasn’t reached where you want it yet. This builds a dense structure, and it makes for a much better and longer-lived hedge. Just take the ends of the branches several times a year. You will hardly slow down the growth at all, but the result will be a terrific hedge. For established hedges, wait until the new growth has completely covered the hedge before trimming.

When you trim, pay close attention to keeping the front of the hedge sloping inwards a little. Never trim so that the top is wider than the bottom. This basic principle will give you a terrific long-lived hedge that always looks great.

For screening, trimming may not be necessary, but it still pays to go over the trees once a year, cutting back any branches that are outside the main structure, and even giving the whole screen a light trim. You may not want to reduce the size, but trimming will increase the density, and make for a more beautiful screen.

 

Attention to these basics will give you perfect Thuja Green Giant plants – however you are growing them. It simple, doesn’t take a lot of time, and pays you back in beauty and utility.