The Vital First Year for Your Hedge

So you planted a hedge last fall, you have just planted one in the last few weeks, or you are about to do it very soon. Congratulations – hopefully you chose something tough and fast-growing, like Thuja Green Giant, or in colder areas, Emerald Green Arborvitae. In very hot, dry areas you perhaps went with Italian Cypress, but whatever you chose, what happens in the first year after planting will set things up for the rest of your hedge’s life. Let’s see what you can do – nothing complex you can be sure – that will give your valuable new hedge the best start in life.

Prepare the Soil Well

If you have already planted your hedge, then this may be advice too late, but if not, then three things are important:

  • Dig Deeply – try to prepare the soil as deeply as possible. Try to go down 12 inches, mixing the soil, and adding suitable materials. For a single tree, prepare an area at least 3 feet across, or a line 3 feet wide for planting a hedge row. If you use a roto tiller, these machines can fool you into thinking you have done a great job, while in fact they just went over the surface. Go over two or three times, working the machine slowly, and letting it sink into the ground as far as it will go.
  • Add Organic Material – it doesn’t matter much what kind, just as long as you add it. A layer 2 to 4 inches deep is usually best, and garden compost, rotted farm manure, rotted leaves, even lawn clippings and fresh weeds, are all good materials to incorporate into the soil. These increase the water-holding capacity of light soils, increase the drainage and air content of heavy ones, and add nutrients and valuable microbes too.
  • Add Phosphates – this nutrient, needed for root growth, doesn’t move into the soil from the surface for many years, so it must be dug in to be effective. Sprinkling it on top after you plant is completely ineffective. You can use bone meal, superphosphate, or triple superphosphate, it really doesn’t matter, so consider cost. Sprinkle a layer over the soil before you add the organic material. You can’t damage your plants if you use too much, and a solid dusting is about right, so that it is clearly visible.

Water Regularly

This is so important, and basic, that it cannot be over-emphasized. New plants only have the soil that was in the pot to depend on, and in warm weather, or when growing vigorously, they soon use that up. It takes some time for roots to move out of this limited space and explore the surrounding soil. So when watering your new hedge, don’t use a spray and water the top only. Use a gently rain head, or a slow-running tap, and soak down close to the stem of each plant, letting the water run deeply down. This will keep your plants happy. You do also need to keep the surrounding soil moist, to tempt the roots to spread out, and this is why many smart gardeners put a ‘leaky pipe’ watering hose – the black, porous kind – down along their hedge. Weave it in and out of the stems, and let it run for a few hours, until the whole area is thoroughly watered. It does a great job, and also saves you the trouble of standing their watering.

Fertilize with Liquid Fertilizers

Feeding hedges is important. Like lawns they get clipped regularly, so foliage is lost, and it has to be replaced. This means more nutrients are used than by an untrimmed plant. Granular fertilizers are the easiest to use, and the most cost-effective, but young plants don’t have big root systems, so they can’t easily access the nutrients from these materials, which need time to migrate down into the soil. Far more effective is a liquid fertilizer, that carries the nutrients right down to the roots with the water. Choose something designed for evergreens, which will have lots of nitrogen to stimulate rapid growth. These fertilizers come as concentrated liquids – the easiest to use – or as a powder – the most economical. The only issue is that because they are dissolved in water, they cannot be very strong, so you need to re-feed every 2 weeks to a month. But for the first year they really make a noticeable difference in the growth rate and foliage density of your new plants, making them sturdy and strong. Stop feeding in early fall, to allow your trees to slow down and toughen up for the coming colder weather.

Start Trimming When Your Start Growing

When creating a hedge, we want a dense, twiggy structure, with lots of tight branching, to give you the solid structure that makes the most private hedge, the best looking one, and the one that resists winter breakage too. The single biggest mistake when people plant new hedges is to let it grow until it reaches the height you want, and then start trimming. This never gives the best structure. Far better is to trim lightly and regularly from day one. As soon as you see new growth, snip off the end inch of it. This will encourage the dense branching you want. It will also allow you to direct the growth upwards, not outwards, so that you have a slip hedge. Don’t forget to keep the upper part narrow, to encourage plenty of growth lower down. Once it gets going, trim very lightly once a month from spring to mid-fall.

Try to keep the front flat, but sloping slightly inwards, and the top horizontal – you might need some strings and a level to get started. Don’t trim at the very end of the season, especially in colder areas, as soft, young growth can suffer winter damage. In the end you won’t reduce the rate of growth significantly, as your new hedge works its way up to your target height, but you will have a great hedge as a reward for that bit of extra work.

How to Plant Thuja Green Giant

With spring arriving across the country – sooner in some places than others – planting time has arrived, and many people will be planting hedges and specimens of America’s most popular evergreen, Thuja Green Giant. This fast-growing tree is the top choice for taller hedges and screening, but when faced with that shipment of plant, sitting in their pots, some new gardeners may not be too clear on the best way to plant them, so let’s consider that. After all, getting plants off to a good start is always the first secret of success, and equally, a bad start can set you up for poor results, and even failure.

Prepare the Ground

Although we don’t see it, the life of plants below the ground is at least at important to them as what goes on above ground. Scientists have laboriously excavated the root-systems of plants from grasses to big trees, and in every case the roots occupy a vastly bigger volume than the above-ground parts. Many times bigger. So it follows that we should give it just as much attention, since we want to see much faster growth than a tree is nature will achieve. Most young seedling trees sprouting in the wild die, and those that don’t usually struggle for years to gain a foothold, but in gardens we want rapid growth and establishment from Day One. To do it properly you need two things when preparing the soil for your Thuja Green Giant plants – organic material and a source of phosphates.

Organic material

The exact type you use is not so important, but adding it is. No matter if your soil is sandy, clay, or something in between, the magic of organic material always improves any soil. Sandy soils retain more moisture and nutrients, and clay soils (which usually have lots of nutrients already) develop better drainage and more vital air penetration into the soil. You can use garden compost if you have it, rotted leaves, old potting soil from planters, rotted farm or stable manure, or even peat moss (which despite its popularity is not such a good choice). If you are planting a single tree, you need about a bucket full, and if it is a row for a hedge, you need a layer 2 or 3 inches deep, over an area 3 feet wide.

Phosphate

Of the three major plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate, and potash) you only need to add phosphate when preparing the ground. Why? Because this nutrient doesn’t move around in the ground easily, so if you sprinkle it on top it will quite literally take years and years to work its way down to where the roots are. All other nutrients are quickly carried down into the soil by watering or by rain.

There are several good sources of this, and most gardeners know bone meal. Expensive for a big job, its great for a couple of trees. Otherwise track down some superphosphate (or triple superphosphate, which is a bit stronger) and use that – it does the job at lower cost. A heavy sprinkling of this – like a light snowfall – should go down before digging, and in poor soil as some more as you go too. You can’t hurt your plants with too much, and it stays in the ground for many years.

Digging

Scatter the phosphates and then spread the organic material on the ground before digging or rototilling, which should then be done as deeply as you can go. For a row, prepare a strip at least 3 feet wide, or 5 feet wide if you are planting a double row. For an individual plant, dig an area at least 3 times the width of the pot, and again, go deep. Then level of the surface and leave it to settle for a few days before planting, if you can. If it was dry when you dug, setting up a sprinkler and giving the area a thorough watering is also a good thing to do.

Planting

Now to get down to the real job. The night before you plant, give the trees in their containers a good watering, soaking the soil. Never plant a dry tree, because it can be hard to get the root-ball wet after planting is over. Doing it the night before will mean it is not soggy on the day, and easier to handle than a freshly-watered tree.

You will have worked out the spacing for your plants, as we went into in detail in this previous blog, so set out your plants according to your plan. With hedges and screens, the best future look requires careful, even spacing, so put some time into adjusting this until you are satisfied. Use a stretched string to get the row straight.

If you have prepared the planting spot well you will only need to dig holes a little wider than the pot – just enough to be able to easily plant. Dig the holes where you have placed each plant, to the same depth as the pot only. Leave the tree standing next to each hole.

Preparing the Root Ball

Some people find the next step surprising, and hesitate to do it, because they are fearful of damaging the plant. Don’t be. This is an important step in helping your trees become established quickly and preventing future problems with roots strangling the growing trunk of your trees – a problem called ‘girdling’. It is similar to what you may have seen with trees tied to tightly to a pole – the rope cuts into the bark, and it can kill the tree. Roots wrapped around inside the pot can do the same thing as they and the trunk grow larger. Preventing this is important, so don’t be afraid for the tree.

Slide your Thuja Green Giant out of the pot. Take a sharp box-cutter and make 3 or 4 deep cuts from top to bottom around the root ball, going in about one inch deep. This will cut through the girdling roots.

Into the Ground

Now it is time to finish, and this is the easy bit. Sit the tree in the hole. Use a short stick laid across the top of the hole to adjust the position so that the top of the soil in the pot is level with the soil surface. Don’t bury deeply, and if your ground is poorly-drained, raise it up an inch or two above ground level. Now push back some soil, and using your foot, firm it down around the roots. Once you have about two-thirds of the soil back, fill the hole to the top with water. While it drains down, move on to the next tree. Once the water has drained away, put back the rest of the soil, firming it gently down. Rack the surface level, and you are done – no need to add more water, although if you want to you can.

To finish, mulch over the root balls with an inch or two or organic material, keeping it away from the trunk and foliage.

That’s it! You have given your Thuja Green Giant trees the best possible start for their life in your garden.

Take Care of your Evergreens Under the Ground

It is the green parts of plants that we see, and beneath the ground is often ignored. But for trees, that area is so important, as vital activities happen there. Successful growing should emphasize what we do with the root system, and if we do that, the upper parts will usually take care of themselves. Let’s see what we should be doing to care for the roots of our evergreens, to give us the fast and healthy growth we want to see.

Give them Room

We are (hopefully) going to consider how much room above ground our plants need. For example, Thuja Green Giant has a spread of as much as 12 feet, so it should not be planted closer than 6 feet away from walls, fences, property boundaries and foundations. Its root system takes up even more room, and although it will adapt to obstructions, growing around or underneath them, you cannot grow a full-sized tree in a very small volume of soil. So when planting around buildings, or between construction features like driveways and garden walls, consider if you have enough room. As well as your plant suffering, your construction can too, as large plants too close to retaining walls can weaken them and cause their collapse, and planting right alongside a walkway or drive can result in cracks and lifting developing in a short time.

For the best growth of your trees, creating a large volume of soil is essential, as often the ground is too hard for them to easily penetrate. This is especially true in newer properties, as heavy construction machinery will have been driven over the site, making the soil hard and unyielding. This problem is called ‘compaction’. Soil where you are planning to grow Thuja Green Giant, or other trees, should be dug or roto-tilled to loosen the soil. For a hedge a section at least 3 feet wide, and preferably wider, up to 6 feet, should be dug or tilled to a depth of 12 inches, or as deep as you can go.  For individual plants, an area at least 3 feet in diameter should be prepared. This will separate the pieces, and even if your soil is poor, it will make it much easier for your young trees to spread out and down, finding water and nutrients over a large area, and so growing stronger and healthier. This is far better than planting into a small hole in hard soil, and then finding you have to water all the time and fertilize too, to keep your plants growing. The extra work of good soil preparation will be re-payed many times over with great growth and good health.

Enrich the Soil

No matter what type of soil you have, adding organic materials to it will improve it. In sandy soils, it helps retain moisture and provide nutrients, and in clay soils it improved drainage and air penetration into the soil. Suitable materials include garden compost; well-rotted animal manures like cow, sheep or horse; rotted leaves; spend mushroom compost; peat moss; or almost any other well-rotted organic material. Do not use woody material (such as wood chips) as these things rob the soil of nutrients as they decompose, and only years into the future do they feed your plants. Usually a layer 2 to 4 inches deep over the area is sufficient. Spread it over the surface and dig it in. If you are using a tiller, run over the area once, spread your organic material, and then till one or two more times. Mixed into the soil it will hold water for the roots, and as it rots down it creates drainage, and releases nutrients too.

Once you have finished planting and watering, then spread another layer 2 or 3 inches deep over the dug area. Keep it away from the stems of your trees, and don’t cover the low foliage close to the ground. This layer will act as mulch, conserving moisture. It will also prevent the growth of weeds, as these should not be allowed to grow up around your plants, especially when they are still young. As well, mulch of this kind, rather than bark chips or stones, will feed your plants too, as it rots down into the ground. Mulch should be renewed in spring for a couple of years at least after planting, and if your soil is very sandy, mulching each year is recommended. In richer soils it is not so necessary, and it may only need replacing every two or three years.

Water Regularly

The soil is where your plants get water from, and even if your plants look healthy and green in dry soil, they are not growing. So watering is often necessary, especially when plants are young, and especially in sandy soils, and in hot places. New plants should be watered at least weekly during dry weather, even in the temperatures are not so high. Remember that newly-planted trees depend for a while on the root ball that was inside the pot, until they spread their roots outwards. So even if the soil looks damp, that root ball may have already dried out. Use a slow-running hose to trickle water down around the roots, rather than standing with a spray nozzle and squirting water about. Most of that will be wasted and simply evaporate into the air. This watering during the establishment phase is vital for your plants to get off to a flying start and put on lots of new growth for you.

In the longer term, putting in a trickle line will make watering easy. This can be connected to your irrigation system is you have one, or connected directly to a tap with a timer so that it comes on automatically, meaning less work for you.

Fertilize your Plants

New plants can take several years to develop an extensive root system. Without that they may not be able to access enough nutrients for maximum growth, even if you have enriched the soil. Today chemical and natural sources of fertilizer are available, so you can use which ever kind you prefer. The important thing for growing evergreens is that there is enough nitrogen in them for growing all those green shoots, especially if you are clipping, which removes the growth which then must be replaced. Look for fertilizers with a high first number in that set of three – it is the level of nitrogen. It should be close to 10 in a natural fertilizer, and close to 20 in a chemical one.

The simplest approach is to choose a blended fertilizer designed by experts for evergreens. Apply this a week after planting, unless you are planting in late fall or winter. If you are, wait until spring to fertilize, and in sandy soil or in the early years, a second feeding in mid-summer and another in early fall is beneficial, especially in warmer zones. In colder areas a spring and summer feeding should be enough.

With these steps – dig and enrich the soil, water regularly, and fertilize – you will see the best growth possible. It pays to focus on the ground if you want the best results in the air.

Top Tips for Planting Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is the most popular fast-growing evergreen, across a large part of the country, for hedges, screens and large specimens. Always fresh and green, with dense, upright growth even when untrimmed, it’s perfect in many locations. Like raising children, getting plants off to a good start in life is the key to future success, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception. So, let’s consider the best way to do that, so that your new plants become established quickly, without any transplant shock, and take off growing fast from day one. The period of fastest growth is between the second and fifth year, where growth-rates well in excess of 3 feet a year, and possibly up to 5 feet, are possible. That period, when your new hedge or screen develops into something substantial, will kick in sooner, last longer, and give you the most growth, if you have planted your trees well and giving them some extra TLC to get stared.

Top Tips for Planting Thuja Green Giant

  • Prepare the soil – deep digging and organic material as the secret
  • Give them room – space out properly to allow for vigorous growth
  • Plant properly – firm your plants down and water well
  • Don’t forget after-care – water regularly during the first season

Preparing the Planting Area

Good soil preparation, no matter what kind of soil you have, is key. There are three principle things to think about, and the most important is opening up the soil to let the roots quickly spread out and down, to find water and nutrients. So be prepared to dig a larger area than the pot – the most common mistake is to dig a hole in hard soil that is just barely big enough to fit the root-ball into. If you are planting a single tree, then the area you dig should be at least 3 times the width of the pot – and more is better. It should also be deeper than the pot, although this is much less important than width, as most tree roots are found in the top 12 inches of soil. If, when digging, you hit a hard, bottom layer, perhaps of clay or stone, as long as it is more than 10 inches down you don’t need to attack it. Focus on turning over and loosening that top area, to the depth of a full-sized spade or shovel.

For a single plant, or a small group, a spade is all you need, but for a hedge it pays to rent the biggest roto-tiller you can find and prepare a strip of soil at least 3 feet wide, or even wider. When using a roto-tiller you can be fooled by it, because you will immediately see nice soft soil. It is very easy to just scratch the surface, and you may need to go over the area two or three times to get down deep enough. Move very slowly, because the faster you go the shallower the prepared soil will be.

Secondly, add organic material to the soil. The type is less important, it is the doing it that counts. It can be almost anything, from garden compost or rotted manure, to rotted leaves, grass clippings, or peat moss. Just don’t use anything woody, like shavings or bark, because these will rob the soil of nutrients, not add them. Keep those materials for mulches on top, not mixed in. Put a layer several inches deep – 2 to 4 is about right – over the soil before you start tilling, and you don’t need to remove any fresh weeds that might be there, just dig them in. If you find thicker white roots of weeds like thistles or dandelions, then take those out, but otherwise you can leave fresh weeds to rot down.

Once you have prepared the area, rake it level and you are ready to plant.

Give Your Plants Enough Room

Thuja Green Giant will grow into a wide plant up to 12 feet across, so give it room. Plant no less than 6 feet away from walls, fences or your property line, and when planting a hedge or screen allow between 3 and 6 feet, depending on how dense you want it. If you plant closer than 3 feet apart the plans will struggle with each other, and grow tall, but spindly, with the lower branches dying in a few years, leaving gaps, rather than dense foliage right to the ground, which is what you need for a good hedge.

Proper Planting Procedure

There are several things to remember when you plant:

  • Water the pots thoroughly the day before you plant.
  • Don’t plant into dry soil – if necessary, water the area well a couple of days before.
  • Remove the plant from the pot 😊
  • If the roots are spiraling around inside the pot, take a box cutter or sharp knife and cut down the sides at two or three places, and across the bottom in a cross. This will encourage the roots to grow out sideways, rather than keep spiraling, which can lead in future years to strangulation of the growing trunk. Don’t worry, you won’t hurt your plants by doing this – just the opposite. The roots will quickly grow out, exploring that great soil you prepared.
  • Plant at the same depth as in the pot – don’t bury your plant with more than an inch of soil on top of what was the surface of the pot.
  • Use your feet to firm the soil down around the roots, as you plant
  • Use plenty of water when planting. This is not really about watering the plant, but it brings the soil closer to the roots, and eliminates air-spaces. Again, this encourages rapid outward growth, and early establishment. The best way is to place the tree in the hole, put back about two-thirds of the soil, and then fill to the top with water. Replace the rest of the soil once that water has drained away completely, and firm it down again. You don’t really need to water again after that.
  • Job done!

After-care is Important

Follow up with regular watering throughout the first growing season. Once a week is usually enough, but if you have very sandy soil, or if the weather is very hot and dry, twice a week may be necessary. Don’t rely on showers or thunderstorms, but you won’t need to water if you have a solid day of rain. Water each plant close to the stem with a slow-running hose, as the original root ball is the part that will dry out first. Standing and spraying with water is never as effective. For a hedge, putting in a trickle-hose irrigation pipe makes it very easy. These are inexpensive, and they can be attached to a tap with a timer, so you can just forget all about it and have your trees watered on a regular schedule. If there are watering restrictions in your area, see if you can divert the water from your washing machine or shower into your garden – it’s a great way to be water-responsible and still grow your garden.

Q&A on Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is the number-one choice evergreen for hedges, screens and specimens, so lots of people have lots of questions about this plant. Here are some of the common ones – with answers.

Question: How fast does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Apart from the obvious answer, ‘very fast’, we are lucky to have some real research to tell us this, which is by far the most common question about this plant. Luckily, we have some accurate information from research at the University of Arkansas a few years back. They planted some small trees from 1-gallon pots 10-feet apart in some fields at three different spots across the state, in three climate zones, and measured their growth over 7 years. At the warmest site, in zone 8a, the trees were 11 ½ feet tall by the end of the trial. Even in the coldest location, a windy spot in zone 6b, they were just a few inches shy of 10 feet tall. The fastest growth happened in the second, third and fourth years after planting. The plants grew as much as 3 feet a year during those fastest years and at the warm site the trees added 5 feet in a single year, the third, which had ideal growing weather.

These plants were in full sun, and they had drip irrigation, but only limited fertilizer, so you can see that with good care, in good soil in a warmer zone, you can grow a respectable 12-foot hedge in 7 years, and in even less time starting with bigger plants. Remember, don’t expect to see a whole lot of growth the year you plant, but you will see some big changes in the following few years!

Question: How big does Thuja Green Giant Grow?

Answer: Left without trimming, in good soil, Thuja Green Giant will grow over 30 feet tall, and it will be between 8 and 12 feet wide. This is a plant for taller hedges, or for untrimmed screening, so be sure to leave enough room for it. It is important to plant a screen at least 6 feet inside your property line, so that it doesn’t encroach on neighboring property, and even if you don’t trim it regularly, consider cutting the top down every few years to reduce the shade it will throw in winter. You should also consider this final height and width if you are planting near your home, so that you don’t block windows. This plant doesn’t have a big root system, as many deciduous trees do, but even so allow 6 feet from the foundations when you plant. The most common mistake seen when planting around your home is not considering the size of the plants in 10 or 20 years.

Question: How good is Thuja Green Giant for screening?

Answer: A screen is like a hedge, but with little or no trimming. Plants need to be naturally upright, and not likely to fall apart when they become older. Thuja Green Giant is great for screening, as it does grow naturally dense, stands up tall, and resists breakage during storms and heavy snow. All this makes it perfect for screening. The only consideration is the height if untrimmed, but of course you can deal with that by simply having the top cut back by several feet every few years. Trimming the sides at the same time is also a good idea, just to keep it tidy and really solid. If height is not an issue, the great thing about this tough plant is that it is fine without trimming. This means a screen is basically ‘plant and forget’ – except for watering attention during the first season, and perhaps some fertilizer in the early years too. For screening, plant your trees 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on how solid you need this barrier to be. It will take a while for the plants to touch if they are 10 feet apart, but 5-foot spacing will fill in just a few years. If you have plenty of room, a good way to make a really solid screen, for maximum sound screening for example, is to plant a double row, with 5 feet between the rows and 8 to 10 feet between the plants, staggering them in the space between the plants in the opposite row. This doesn’t take very many extra plants, but it grows into a really solid screen.

Question: Will deer eat Thuja Green Giant?

Answer: The basic answer is, ‘probably not’, but deer being a little unpredictable (!!) nobody can say for sure. Many people do report that deer leave this plant alone, while it is well-known that deer will eat other Thuja plants, like the eastern white cedar. So while we are not going to say an definitive ‘No’, the chances are good that your Thuja Green Giant plants will be left alone. Another good thing is that since this plant grows so fast, if there is some limited damage, your bushes will grow back so quickly it will soon recover.

Question: How much watering does Thuja Green Giant need?

Answer: This depends on how long they have been in the ground. During the first growing season, from early spring to the middle or end of fall, it is best to water your plants well, soaking them once a week. Standing with a hose and spraying water is not the best way to water them (or most other plants either). It is much better to have a hose trickling slowly at the base of each plant for an hour or two, so that the water soaks deeply down, to where the roots are, and to encourage the plant to go down looking for water, not to grow on the surface, where the roots are much more vulnerable to drought. Even better is a leaky-pipe or drip-line irrigation system, attached to a hose. This will water all the plants at once, and you can even set it on a timer to do it automatically without any effort from you at all.

Whatever way you do it, that regular watering in the first year is vital for the survival and establishment of your bushes. After that you can reduce it a lot, although regular watering during dry periods will give you the strongest and fastest growth.

Question: Is Thuja Green Giant drought resistant?

Answer: Except for the first year, where regular watering is needed, and perhaps in the following two or three years as well, the answer is, ‘Yes’. Once established normal summer dry periods are not a problem for a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant. They won’t grow much during very dry periods, but they will almost certainly survive without damage. In areas where extended dry periods are normal, such as the south-west, then a better choice would be the Italian Cypress.

Plan for the Perfect Garden Screening

Winter is the time gardeners plan. Sitting inside, looking out a window onto a cold, wintery garden does something to bring out ideas and dreams. We might clearly all the things that need doing, and if looking out that window you see that your garden needs some screening, read on . . .

Reasons to Plant Screening Trees

It might seem obvious why you put in screening plants – because you have something to hide, right? In reality, it could be you don’t even realize that what is missing in your garden is screening. We often get used to the way things are, and don’t consciously see what it is that we are finding unsettling. Even if you are fairly comfortable with what you see from your garden, don’t underestimate the impact of enclosing the space, and creating a solid green backdrop to your garden. It creates intimacy, and all your plants look better and more significant against a wall, rather than against the background of neighboring houses, passing cars, or even simply the sky. If you don’t think so, imagine for a moment your living room furniture sitting in a field. What do you think? Does it look better or worse? I think you get the point.

Screening gives you that calm, green background, and the feeling of privacy and isolation is very calming on the spirit too. You will be less inhibited and more relaxed. In practical terms too, screening can block noise – from cars, neighbors, sports – and so make a more relaxed atmosphere too. It will reduce wind and make your garden warmer for both you and your plants too.

A good hedge or windbreak will raise the environment inside often by half a zone (from 6 to 5b for example), allowing you to experiment with a range of borderline plants. By reducing the wind speed you increase the ‘real feel’ of the temperature, making it warmer for humans too, extending the time you can comfortable use your outdoor space. In winter the slower wind will release snow further from your home, reducing drifting, and snow blowing through a hedge will be trapped, instead of building up inside, or against your home.

Check the Site

Once you decide to put in that screen, the next step is to look at the area you want to plant it along. How much space is there available? If this is along a property line, remember that you need to plant you hedge along a line that is at least 3 feet inside that line for a smaller hedge, and 6 feet inside for a larger hedge or unclipped screen. Then there is the thickness of the screen itself, which can grow to be 12 feet wide if you use larger trees. Often how much space you have available will decide what plants you use, and if you trim or leave it au naturel.

While you are outside checking this with your tape, take the opportunity to measure the length too, so that you can calculate the number of plants you need. This will depend on which plants you choose, but to calculate that number, divide the distance by the number of plants, and then add one more. No, not for good luck, but because the first and last plants will be placed at half the distance from the edges as the distance the plants are apart. For example, if you need to space your trees 6 feet apart, the first and last ones will be 3 feet from whatever it is that makes the end – your front property line for example, or your garage or house.

Choose the Best Plants for Your Location and Purpose

Now you can think about what type of plants you want to use. In most cases something evergreen makes sense, since it gives you screening 365 days of the year. But sometimes a deciduous tree is a better choice, if, for example, the screen is close to windows on its north side. The winter sun is low in the sky, and an evergreen hedge can make rooms dark when it casts a long shadow.

The main factors in deciding which evergreen will be the height you want, and where you live. For smaller hedges, and for all hedges in colder regions, the Emerald Green Arborvitae is a top choice. Hardy in zone 3, this dense selection of the native white cedar is perfect for hedges up to 6 or 8 feet, and it can easily be kept narrow too, an important consideration in a smaller garden. If you garden in zone 5 or warmer, the traditional choice would have been Leyland Cypress, but that has largely been replaced with Thuja Green Giant, which is very fast growing, but not quite as big. This tough and reliable hybrid evergreen will give you a solid screen, and it is drought, salt drift, and deer resistant too. For most gardens it is the ‘go to’ plant for screens and hedges. If you live in a very hot and very dry region, like Arizona or California, then consider using Italian Cypress, which is super drought-resistant, and has beautiful dark foliage that looks good under a hot, blue sky.

Planting Distances

Now it’s time to figure out how many plants you need for that screen. If you have limited space, you will certainly go for a single row. With larger evergreens like Thuja Green Giant, a spacing of 3 feet is the absolute minimum, and 4 or 5 feet is better, if you have a little more patience. This allows the plants to develop more at the base and keeps your planting thick right to the ground. For smaller evergreens, that 3 foot spacing is just about perfect. Anything less than 2 feet will mean the base is always thin, with a tendency to die out. If you have more room and opt for a double row, you end up with the densest screen. Space the rows 2 or 3 feet apart, and stagger the plants in each row, allowing 5 to 8 feet apart for the plants in each row. Again, use the smaller spacing for smaller evergreens or for a quicker fill with something larger, like Thuja Green Giant.

Plan your Soil Preparation

Now you are ready to order, and all that remains is to plan on preparing the site. Depending on where you live, you might be able to do this during the winter months, or wait until the ground thaws in spring. Either way, plan on rototilling a strip at least 3 feet wide for a single hedge (obviously wider for a double one) and incorporating a good quantity of rich organic material into the ground. Get the biggest tiller you can handle, and then work it as deep as possible into the ground. Bring in enough compost to dig in a 3 or 4-inch layer, and still have enough left over to mulch about 2 inches deep after planting.

That’s it. Once you have your plants ordered for a date after you will have the ground prepared, you are all set to put in the perfect screen, and reap all the benefits of privacy, warmth and silence. Enjoy!

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Hedges

The New Year is always a time for new beginnings, and especially for resolutions to do better in the coming year, wherever we think our lives need improvement. Gardeners too are always looking to improve things, and if you take a look at your hedge and think, “Hmm, not so great!”, then maybe this season of the New Year is a good time to make some resolutions to do better by your hedges in the coming year. Here are some ideas for things you can do to have better hedges around your garden, and to help you make a set of New Year’s Resolutions you can easily keep.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Hedge

  • Grow the Right Plant – maybe it is time for a change
  • Have a Fertilizer Program – the most effective way to improve any hedge
  • Trim Regularly and Well – faulty trimming shortens the life of a hedge  – and spoils the look too

Grow the Right Plant

Let’s start with the worst-case situation – your hedge doesn’t work because the plants are the right choice for your needs. Maybe the prospect of starting again scares you, but don’t worry, you can replace a hedge in a few years, and never regret it. For example, maybe you have a hedge of a deciduous tree – willow perhaps, or some other fast-growing tree. The trouble with a deciduous hedge is that it is, well, deciduous. In winter you can see right through it, and you don’t like what you see. Plus, of course, people can see right through too, and you miss the privacy of a green, leafy hedge. As well, many fast-growing deciduous plants need a lot of trimming, and they always look messy and tend to develop big trunks with all the leaves at the top.

Alternatively, you might have a broad-leaf evergreen, like laurel, and are tired of looking at brown edges on those big leaves after trimming. Maybe your hedge is in shade, or in a hot, dry area, and the plants are not well-adapted to their location, so your hedge is thin and wispy, or brown and burned looking. Perhaps in spring a lot of it is burned and brown, from the winter cold, because it just isn’t hardy enough for your location. It could be that you have a very old hedge, and it is thin at the bottom, or bulges out and blocks paths and driveways. There are lots of reasons why you don’t like the hedge you have, but you don’t have to keep it.

Whatever the reason, if your hedge offends you, pluck it out. Really. You will be surprised how easy it is to remove a hedge, especially if you bring in a contractor, or use a truck to pull the trees out by the roots. A quick session with a chain saw, into the dumpster, and it’s done. A load of compost, then run a roto-tiller over it once or twice, and it’s ready to replant. Once you remove an old hedge you will be amazed at how much room you get back. Hedges can grow wide without realizing it, and lots of valuable garden space will suddenly be yours. A bigger lawn, or room for garden beds – that space is yours to enjoy.

Now you can re-think a more suitable plant for the spot. Luckily, for most areas and most locations, there is one available – Thuja Green Giant. It’s evergreen, so all-year-round screening is easy. It grows across most of the country, and it’s tolerant of some shade, as well as sun, so it will grow well in many parts of your garden. It grows well in most soil, except for areas that are constantly wet, so that is probably not a limitation for you either. Best of all, this is the proven fastest-growing evergreen available, so you won’t have long to wait at all until your new hedge is looking great and doing the job for you. Of course, in the far north you will need something hardier – maybe Emerald Green Arborvitae. In really hot, dry areas a tough juniper, or Italian Cypress are often better choices, but across most of the country, nothing beats Thuja Green Giant.

Have a fertilizer Program

If putting in a new hedge is more than you need, maybe the reason your hedge isn’t doing well could be down to feeding it properly. Hedges are like lawns, that is, plants you trim a lot need extra nutrients, and they can become weak and wispy without it. If you have a new hedge too, then a regular feeding schedule will get it growing at maximum speed and keep it healthy and dense too.

Using fertilizer is especially important if you garden on sandy soil, where there are few nutrients available. You can take too approaches – improve your soil by adding organic material that will release nutrients, or you can add the nutrients directly from fertilizers. The ideal thing is often to do both. Obviously when you are planting a new hedge is the right time to add organic material mixed right into the soil, but even an established hedge will respond amazingly to mulching on the soil, without any digging in needed. It doesn’t matter a lot what you use – garden compost, rotted animal manure, city compost or mushroom compost (if these are available in your area), or any other similar kind of material available locally. All these materials improve your soil, retaining moisture and simultaneously improving drainage, and most importantly, slowly releasing lots of nutrients as they rot down. You will soon see your hedge greening up and sprouting strong new growth. Add more each spring for a few years and that tired old hedge will be looking brand-new again.

For maximum growth, combined this with fertilizer. You can find out more detail about fertilizing hedges here, but the secret is to add plenty of nitrogen, spread out over spring and early summer, with a boost of potash in early fall to strengthen your hedge for the winter. Modern slow-release fertilizers are available today that only need one spring application to feed all season long, which is a great time-saver. You can use chemical or organic sources, as you choose, they all work well. For the small cost and time needed, regular fertilizer is the most effective way to have a better hedge.

Trim Regularly and Well

Good trimming will prolong the useful life of a hedge, and keep it looking its best. Start trimming while a new hedge is first growing and do it as often as you can. If you wait until it reaches full size before starting, you will never have a dense hedge that stands up to bad weather.

Young hedges especially benefit from three or more trims a year, and light trims take just a short time, so you don’t spend so much extra time in the end. The best hedge is the one with dense growth, and many small branches, and regularly trimming is the best way to achieve that.

Slope a hedge inwards slightly, while keeping it flat. This lets more light down to the lower parts, so they stay green and healthy right to the ground. A hedge that bulges outwards as it goes up is much more prone to breakage, and to becoming a nuisance. Round the top to prevent snow and ice building up, and of course always use a good hedge trimmer that is correctly sharpened and adjusted – during winter is a good time to drop it in for repairs and sharpening, so it’s ready to go in spring.

The Best Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant for Your Garden

In life we want the best, right? The same is true in our gardens. Why fill your garden with second-rate plants, that will grow slowly, be weak and unhealthy, and never have the impact and beauty you dream of? Shade trees, flowering shrubs or evergreens – we should always choose the best types and varieties for the purpose we have in mind, and of course for our location. When it comes to larger specimen, screening or hedging evergreens, one variety stands out above the other offerings, for most of the country – Thuja Green Giant.

Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

Grows Well in Most Soils

Thuja Green Giant grows well in a wide range of soils too. This plant handles acidic or alkaline soils well, and most soil types too, from sandy soils to clays. It does need moderate drainage, and won’t thrive in soil that is constantly wet, but apart from that it really doesn’t mind. Whatever your soil type, it is recommended to add plenty of rich organic material when you plant. This will retain water in sandy soils, and improve drainage in clay ones, as well as providing lots of valuable nutrients. An annual or bi-annual top-dressing over the roots of similar materials will keep your plants thriving over the long haul too.

Grows Well in Most Locations

Some plants need full sun all day long, while others burn quickly when exposed to the hot afternoon sun of summer. Most evergreens like sunshine, and Thuja Green Giant does too. But compared to any similar plant, it is more tolerant of variations in light levels. Of course it will perform best in full sun, growing dense and fast. In real life, however, almost every garden has some shade, at least for part of the day, so along the length of a hedge there will usually be areas that receive more sun, or less sun, through the day. Shade levels also vary with the seasons, with more shade in summer and fall on bigger areas of your garden. Because of its vigor, Thuja Green Giant will perform remarkable uniformly in those conditions, so that you won’t have a screen or hedge that is thick in some areas, and thin and weak in others. In deep continuous shade there are plants that will do better – like Yew or Laurel, for example. But in lighter shade you will still get great growth, and a good density of foliage too.

Grows Fast

For screens and hedges, we mostly want them yesterday. The quicker than become big enough to do their job, the better. Thuja Green Giant has proven the fastest-growing evergreen in controlled research, and you can be almost certain that in the early years you will see your plants add 3 feet in height every year. They won’t take long to reach your target height, and they will thicken quickly too, giving you the density you need for solid screening – even without clipping. As large specimens too, they grow upright and dense completely naturally, and just look great. That doesn’t mean you can’t clip them – you can of course – and they respond well too, turning into a solid wall, or a tight formal specimen you will really love.

Pest and Deer Resistant Too

Nobody wants to be out spraying their plants, especially in this time of concern over chemical exposure. You certainly won’t need to be spraying if you choose Thuja Green Giant for your garden, because it is right up there for resistance to diseases and pests. With its natural toughness it will soon recover from anything that does come along, so you can plant with confidence, knowing that this is one plant that can take care of itself.

Many people have horror stories to tell about their battles with deer, which can ravage a garden overnight. Deer are hard to predict, and if hungry enough, just like people they will eat just about anything. So no, we won’t say that no deer, anywhere, anytime, has ever taken a bite from a plant of Thuja Green Giant, but we will say that it rarely happens, they rarely take much, and the plants almost always recover rapidly. Compared to most other evergreens, and certainly others with soft-foliage like Thuja Green Giant, this plant is certainly deer resistant.

Always Looks Good

Some evergreens look lush and green in spring and early summer, but then they can yellow in the hottest months, or turn brown in winter, especially when grown in cold areas. Thuja Green Giant is not like that. It stays green all year round, and indeed, it often looks at its best in winter, when the softer light brings out the green in most plants. Other kinds of Thuja plants are very prone to turn bronzy and brown in winter, not recovering until the new growth appears in spring. We really don’t want our plants to do that, since that green in winter is so much more cheerful, and Thuja Green Giant won’t. It is always green.

So you probably get the idea by now. If you are looking for large evergreens, to create a screen or hedge, or to plant as low-maintenance specimens around the garden, then it is truly hard to find a single reason why Thuja Green Giant is not your best pick, while there are many reasons why it is. So make your life simple, and choose the best.

Protect Your Hedge from Snow

Heavy snow falls have already happened – and well into the south, where they are much rarer. We can guarantee that right now there are gardeners staring at hedges that have been damaged – either a little, or seriously – by that snow, and other gardeners looking in trepidation at their hedges, wondering if all those years of care are about to be undone. So let’s consider what, if anything, can be done to help a damaged hedge recover, and what to do next time,or in anticipation of future damage.

Help – the Snow Smashed my Hedge!

Let’s start with the worst-case situation, your hedge is looking caved in, and you can see broken branches – it looks really bad. The first step is to pull as much snow as you can off the hedge, and then give it a little time to see how much it bounces back. As anyone who has shoveled a driveway knows, snow is heavy stuff, and when it lodges in the branches of your hedge it really pulls on it, so that you might be seeing sections that have caved in, or branches pulled out of the hedge. A rake or broom is the best way to remove the snow and try not to tear more at any branches while you do it. This is easiest to do when the snow is fresh, so once you have the driveway and paths cleaned, turn your attention to your hedge.

Along the top of a hedge is a spot where you will often see a big buildup, and even if your hedge is not damaged, removing some snow before it turns to ice, and remains in place, only to be added to be the next fall, is a good thing to do too, even if you have no damage visible.

Now you need to wait, and really, there is not much point in doing anything until spring, when all the snow has melted, and no more is expected. If your hedge is old, and there is a significant amount of damage,then almost certainly the best course of action is to remove it all and replant.If you choose a fast-growing hedge plant you will be looking at a good hedge is just a few years, so don’t feel too saddened.

Some people try cutting back, but this simply doesn’t work,and is a waste of effort. It will work fine for a broadleaf evergreen hedging plant, like holly, privet or laurel, and also for a few conifer evergreens,notable yew (Taxus). These plants can re-sprout from old stems, and often they will regenerate themselves in just one or two seasons. But for plants like cypress, arborvitae, juniper, and even our old friend Thuja Green Giant, re-sprouting is not going to happen. These plants are unable to produce new growth from stems that don’t already have green parts.Cutting back to stumps or hoping that broken branch that is leaving a giant hole will re-sprout, is never going to work – really, it isn’t.

If the damage is limited to branches being pulled out of the hedge, but not broken, things are much more hopeful. These can often be tied back to other branches, and once new growth begins, and you have had one or two trimmings, everything will probably look fine. A word of warning though – never tie ropes tightly around the stems of hedge plants, or any other plants for that matter. As the stem grows the rope will cut into them, and in a few years everything above the rope will die. Always use open loops, with plenty of room left in them. Threading a section of hosepipe onto the rope, to cradle the stem, is a good idea too, or movement of a rope under tension can cut into the bark.

But My Neighbors Hedge is Fine!

This is perhaps the most annoying thing of all – the same snow storm, and your hedge is flattened, while next door everything looks perfect. There will be some good reasons for this, and if you are now going to plant a replacement hedge, here is how to reduce enormously your chances of losing that one too in a few years.

  • Start trimming while the hedge is young. Many people make the mistake of waiting until their hedge is fully grown, before starting to trim. This creates a weakly-structured hedge, which can easily break and fall apart. Instead, begin almost immediately to remove an inch or two regularly. If you do that your hedge develops lots of internal branches, giving it has a dense structure that resists breakage.
  • Trim in fall. A neat,smooth hedge will not hold snow, but a rough one, with lots of tufts and branches sticking out, certainly will. That last trim in early fall, leaving enough time for a small amount of new growth, makes for a hedge that will shed the snow from it sides, and won’t accumulate much at all. Look around and you will see that it is almost always the untidy, untrimmed hedges that break apart during a heavy snow storm.
  • Slope the sides inwards.This has lots of other benefits, but for snow protection it keeps the top as narrow as possible, so that snow is more likely to be shed and fall to the ground,rather than build up on top. As well, it keeps the lower parts healthy and green, and discourages your hedge from growing big and fat on top – a sure-fire recipe for winter snow disaster.
  • Keep the top rounded.While a square-cut top might look very formal and elegant, a rounded top is much safer. Keep it as narrow as possible too. This can often mean getting around the other side and trimming the top from there too, but the point is to achieve a narrow top that has rounded edges. This creates a flowing surface that encourages the snow to fall off, rather than build up.

Replace with a Vigorous Hedging Plant

And now for the plug! If you do have to replace that hedge,consider using Thuja Green Giant this time around. Proven to be the fastest hedging evergreen available, your new hedge will be ready in just a few years,and with its resistance to deer, drought, salt and diseases, Thuja Green Giant is going to be a great hedge for years to come, especially if you follow these tips to reduce the risk of snow damage this time around.

7 Ways to Use Thuja Green Giant in Your Garden

Most of the millions of plants sold of Thuja Green Giant as planted in hedges, but while that is an important use, there are other things you can do with this great evergreen to add useful and attractive features to your garden. Some of the following things might be issues or problems you have, so here are some useful ideas that show just how versatile this plant is.

7 Ways to Use Thuja Green Giant in Your Garden

  • Foundation Planting – perfect for those taller spaces between windows and in angles
  • Mixed Windbreaks – ideal evergreen ‘spine’ for a windbreak of trees and shrubs
  • Avenues – bring some class to your driveway with an avenue of upright columns
  • Screens – always dense and neat without any trimming needed
  • Lawn Specimens – looks lush and green all year round
  • Focal Points and Accents – vertical ‘exclamation marks’ catch the eye and make it linger
  • Formal Hedges – the classic green wall that turns your garden into an outdoor room

Foundation Planting

Foundation planting is the plants – both evergreen and deciduous – that you place close to and around your home. The overall purpose is to visually tie the house to your lot – so it flows into the surrounding garden, rather than sitting in a blank space. When choosing plants for this purpose we often need smaller plants, that will fit between windows. Often, though, there are places such as the angle between two walls, or blank wall areas two stories tall, where taller plants are needed. Since there are often windows on either side, these plants need to be upright and not too broad. Thuja Green Giant can be the perfect choice for such a spot, especially in a home that is at least two stories tall, or that sits on tall foundations. Because it grows fast, it will soon reach to the second floor, and then the roof, screening all that harsh wall surface, and reaching up from the surrounding plants. Because it stays narrow, even when it rises above the eaves it won’t overhand the roof, and become a potential hazard, the way many trees can, and being evergreen it looks great all year round.

Mixed Windbreaks

If you have a larger property, especially in a rural or semi-rural area, exposure to strong winds and storms can really inhibit what you do in your garden. A solid screen is often not the answer – it can cause wind-tunneling, and itself be damaged in storms. Better is to filter the winds, so they slow down, drop their snow in a storm, and this gives you much better protection. A barrier that is about 50% solid gives the best results, and a windbreak 35 feet tall will effectively protect a zone 500 feet deep – the size of most large lots. A good windbreak has a central core of tall evergreens, flanked on the both sides with smaller deciduous trees and shrubs. A good variety of plants paints a much more attractive picture than a solid screen of one plant, and it also becomes a valuable refuge for birds and wildlife. Thuja Green Giant is the perfect choice for that central spine – because it grows so fast it will soon give valuable protection not only to the garden, but to the other plants in the windbreak. You will be amazed at how much improvement there is in the value of your garden, and the range of plants you can successfully grow, once a windbreak has been in place for a few years. A row of Thuja Green Giant, spaced 12 feet apart, makes the perfect spine for your windbreak, and gets it off to a flying start.

Avenues

If you have a long driveway, nothing gives it more of an air of importance and even grandeur, than flanking it with a row of trees. Imagine a double row of stately green columns along that driveway – a beautiful sight. Thuja Green Giant is a terrific choice for this purpose. Space the plants between 15 and 20 feet apart, depending on how long your driveway is, and keep them in facing pairs, even as you go around the curves, where the outside row of the curve will need to be further apart than the inside one. Be careful to set them well back from the driveway – at least 6 feet, and 10 is better, so that it doesn’t become a narrow tunnel once they grow tall. Keeping them well spread out will increase the sense of space and grandness and give you an entrance of real quality.

Screens

If trimming hedges is not your thing, Thuja Green Giant is great for more informal, unclipped screens. Maybe you want to hide an ugly view, or you need privacy from surrounding buildings or homes. Since Thuja Green Giant stays neat and upright even with no clipping, it’s the perfect choice for an evergreen screen that does the job 365 days of the year. Since it grows so fast you won’t have to wait long at all for a good outcome. For a screen the best planting is a double row, with the plants in one row facing the spaces in the other – a zigzag arrangement. Allow 5 feet between the two rows, and 8 to 12 feet between the plants in each row, depending on how dense you want to screen to become – it doesn’t have to be solid when you use double rows.

Lawn Specimens

On a smaller lawn, a traditional shade tree can become too wide. Thuja Green Giant will always look lush and green all year round, and it makes an attractive alternative. On a larger lawn you can add a few among the trees, so that the area has more visual interest when the leaves have fallen from the trees.

Focal Points and Accents

If all the plants in your garden are rounded, the eye tends to rush over them, and you don’t notice much. When we meet an upright accent, we stop for a moment, and that helps us take in more of what we see. The result? Your garden is suddenly more visually interesting and satisfying. Accents placed at the end of lines of site, perhaps between parallel beds, brings the eye to a full stop, and effectively completes the scene. In small gardens these accents can be a single plant, and in larger ones, groups of three are very effective. Around your home you can put emphasis on the front door with a pair of evergreens on either side – make sure you space them well out, so that they don’t end up crowding the door space.

Formal Hedges

Nothing creates the ‘room outside’ like a clipped hedge. For taller hedges nothing beats Thuja Green Giant. It gets to the height you want quicker than anything else will, and it clips beautifully into a dense green wall. To mark the boundaries of your property, or to create internal spaces in a larger garden, plant your hedges as the first job, so they are well-established by the time the rest of your planting starts to mature.

 

As you can see, Thuja Green Giant is far more than a hedging plant. Utilize its fast growth in lots of ways around your garden – for speed, toughness, all-year-green and trouble-free growth, it simply can’t be beaten.