Perfect Potted Trees – Thuja Green Giant

Everyone knows Thuja Green Giant as a hedging or screening plant – probably the best choice around. But evergreens have many other uses in the garden, and one popular use for them is as potted trees. These green specimens are perfect for the corners of a patio, on either side of an entrance, or lined up along a walkway. With the right choice of pot, they will enhance almost any garden style. Italian terracotta pots look perfect in a formal garden. Modern concrete ones bring to life the most modernist and minimalist designs. Big half-barrels look perfect in a country garden. Yew trees are popular choices for this purpose, but they are slow-growing, and take years to develop good form. Laurel are sometimes used, but trimming has to be carefully done, as the large leaves look unattractive with cut ends. For a plant that will mature in just a few years, is easy to clip into a variety of forms, grows large enough to make substantial specimens, and survives cold and drought, with never a pest in sight, it is hard to go past Thuja Green Giant. Always bright green no matter what the season, and quickly developing a tight, dense structure with clipping, this great plant can stand tall in any garden as a beautiful potted tree.

Choosing the Right Pot

Your choice of pot will be dictated by the overall design and theme of your garden, as we have already mentioned. There are some things that you need to consider for any pot, whatever its design. These basics are:

  • Drainage – make sure the pot you choose, whatever its design or the material it is made from, has at least one large drainage hole in it. For large pots two or three holes is ideal. If you find the perfect pot, but it has no drainage, then it is possible to drill out suitable holes. Wooden barrels are of course no problem, but concrete and terracotta can be tricky. Use a slow-drill speed, and turn off the hammer action. Use a masonry bit and trickle water onto the hole as you go. Drill a guide hole with a narrow diameter drill, and finish with a larger one. If you can, drilling from the inside while the pot is bedded on some sand will reduce vibrations and prevent cracking. Take your time, especially towards the end, to avoid shattering, and you will soon have perfect drainage in any container.
  • Material – choose something durable. There are some attractive plastic or fiber-glass pots available, but if these are very light you may find tall plants blowing over. Place a couple of large stones or bricks in the bottom to add weight if you use a container like that. Terracotta is an excellent choice, as it ‘breathes’, and by losing water through its surface draws air into the soil. This is ideal for vigorous trees like Thuja Green Giant, and for long-term growing.
  • Size – Thuja Green Giant is suitable for creating larger potted plants – 6 feet or taller. You need a container large enough to hold such a plant, so choose something that is between 18 and 24 inches in diameter, and about the same depth. In pots of this size your trees will live for years happily, as long as you water and feed them correctly.
  • Soil – Never use garden soil for potting. It is too dense, and holds too much water. Instead, use soils designed for outdoor planters, which are often available at garden centers and hardware stores. If you can’t find one, then use regular houseplant potting soil and add 15 or 20% composted bark, or shredded bark, like that used for mulch. This will open up the soil so it drains well, and also reduce shrinkage. Some gardeners add a little garden soil too – perhaps 10 or 15% – which helps the soil last longer and adds stable nutrients. This is not essential, but if your garden soil is rich and fertile, adding a little is worthwhile.

Taking Care of Thuja Green Giant in Containers

Thuja Green Giant is almost as easy to care for in a container as it is in the ground. A little attention will go a long way to keep your plants in top condition and looking their best.

  • Watering – this of course is the most basic attention needed. The rule is simple – water only when the top few inches are dry, and always water thoroughly until a little water flows out of the drainage hole. That’s it. Simple. In hot weather this might be every few days, while in the winter, waterings could be a couple of weeks apart. Let the soil tell you what to do, and never just give a small amount.
  • Fertilizer – the big difference between plants in pots and those in the garden is in fertilizing. Potted plants should be fertilized regularly, and a liquid fertilizer is best. You can also use slow-release granules sprinkled over the top of the soil. These release some nutrients every time you water, and one application can last all season. Whatever you use, follow the directions carefully. The season for fertilizing runs from early spring to early fall, and use a product designed for evergreens, such as a hedge food.
  • Pests – the simple answer here is that you almost certainly won’t have any if you are growing Thuja Green Giant. It is such a tough plant that insects and diseases leave it alone.

Trimming Thuja Green Giant

The wonderful thing about using this plant for containers is how quickly it will grow into the shape you want. You can create any simple geometrical form easily – straight or tapering columns – round or square; pyramids; large balls; or whatever your imagination suggests. The ‘secret’ to trimming is to trim off small amounts at a time, and do it regularly. While a big hedge can perhaps be left for a while, and will quickly recover from a hard trimming, you want your potted trees to look their best at all time, so ‘little and often’ is the key. This will create beautiful green surfaces of dense foliage, and give you the look you want. Always use sharp tools, and remember that hand-shears will give you the best control with something relatively small like a potted tree.

 

If you have been looking for suitable evergreens for large containers, to decorate your garden, or for a courtyard or terrace, Thuja Green Giant might not have been your first thought. But such a fast-growing plant is ideal for this, because it will very quickly develop into the shape you want – much more quickly than other evergreens will. Because it is in a pot, once established it will slow in growth, so you can easily keep it the shape and size you want. For the perfect all-year-round green column, it should be your first choice.

Fall – The Best Time to Plant Thuja Green Giant

Still the most popular hedging and screening plant around, Thuja Green Giant really gives its best in your garden. For a reliable, fast-growing and tough hedge, it can’t be beaten. When you have made the decision to plant this terrific evergreen, then timing is important, and the question of when is the best time of year often comes up from beginner gardeners.

With plants growing in pots, it is possible to plant any time the ground is not frozen, and deciding when may not be a matter of choice – you need that hedge, and you need it now. The availability of potted plants makes that possible, None the less, there are good times, and not-so-good times to plant. The middle of summer, with its heat and dryness, is probably the worst time, as you will need to be watering almost constantly, and root-growth into the surrounding soil will be minimal. As for the best time, there is really no doubt, it is early fall. Let’s see why that is.

The Soil is Warm and Moist

We often say that when it comes to plants, ‘it’s the soil, stupid!’ With fall planting, that is certainly true. Fall often begins with an extended period of rain, and falling onto soil that is hot from the summer, the result is moist, warm soil – ideal for the growth of roots. Contrast that with spring planting, when the soil is cold and wet. If you live in areas where the frost goes deep into the ground, you might even have frozen layers still below the surface in spring, so you are effectively planting onto an ice pack. In that environment, water moves slowly, and there is little oxygen in the soil. Dangerous microbes thrive in these low-oxygen conditions, and they can attack the young roots of your Thuja Green Giant, setting up a struggle for survival that certainly slows down the establishment of your plants.

In that warm, moist fall ground, good microbes are active, releasing nutrients, and protecting your plants. The roots divide and divide rapidly, and if you have prepared the ground well, they quickly penetrate deep into the ground.

The Air is Cool

In contrast, the air temperatures of fall are low, especially at night, and it is a fact that the roots of your Thuja Green Giant grow well in temperatures that would stop the top growth all together. The top is prevented from growing by the cool air, so all the energy of the plant goes into establishing a wide and deep root system.

In spring the opposite is true. Then the ground is so cold that even roots don’t want to grow, yet the warm days stimulate new shoots. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that rapid growth of new leaves means your plant is doing well. If it is newly-planted, that may not really be true. Sooner or later the roots will have to catch up, or the top growth will suffer. If you have a spring heat-wave and drought, something that is common, then it is easy for the roots to dry out, fail to supply the leaves with enough water, and we see die-back. At the very least, you will have a lot of work keeping your new hedge watered. In fall, those first rains are almost always followed by more, so a steady moist soil is yours, with no work needed.

There is Plenty of Time

The most common cause of poor establishment in spring is the rapid arrival of summer. Spring planting is often a narrow window, between frozen ground and summer drought. Spring flowers know that – which is why they burst out of the ground and flower so quickly. There is no time to spare. If you are a bit late in planting, or summer comes early, then your plants are not established, and you are facing a summer of endless watering, not what you want at all.

In fall, we are pretty much guaranteed a couple of months of mild, damp weather. This gives your plants plenty of time to establish their roots, without facing drought or heat. Obviously a much better situation for good establishment.

What about Winter?

At this point somebody will be thinking, “But won’t my plants suffer in winter, if I plant them in fall?” This is a common idea, but one that is not true. If you live in a zone where Thuja Green Giant has no problem with winter (which would be zone 5), then neither will young plants. The earlier in fall you plant, the better – September beats November, without a doubt. The secret is to allow enough time for the roots to spread out and establish themselves, before soil temperatures get close to freezing, and root growth stops. But you have a big window, depending on where exactly you are – certainly from Labor Day to mid-October, and usually all the way to Halloween. Just a few weeks, under these ideal conditions for root growth, is all it takes.

If you do find yourself delayed, and don’t plant until close to freeze-up, then spray your plants with an anti-desiccant coating, just to be sure. These treatments are excellent for evergreens, and they protect from winter-burn very effectively. Use them even on established evergreens if you want to see perfect green in spring, particularly in colder regions.

Ready for Spring

The greatest thing of all about fall planting is that by spring, your plants will be ready to take off – and put on lots of strong new growth. They will have the root-development to support vigorous stem extension and a dramatic increase in height.

Thuja Green Giants that are well-established when spring arrives can take advantage of the season to really get going, and they will take the summer much better too. You can pretty much guarantee that the same size plants, one batch planted in September, and the other in April, will not make the same growth. By the end of their first summer the ones planted in fall will be significantly taller and bushier than their spring-planted equals. It is from plants such as these that the measurements of over 3 feet in growth a year are taken. Fall planted, well-established by spring, and fertilized and watered as needed.

Save Money Too

Oh, there is one more thing. Nurseries often put their plants on sale in fall. So there are really substantial savings to be had. Plus, many sellers offer free shipping. As well, the plants you receive have already had a season being cared for by the nursery, so they are solidly the height advertised, and you get an extra ‘growth bonus’ too.

 

Taken together, all these factors tell us that fall planting of Thuja Green Giant is the way to go. If you are planning a hedge, but thought you would wait till spring, think again, get your order in, and plant in fall. You won’t regret it.

Instant Hedge, or Let It Grow?

The decision to start small and grow a hedge from young plants, or invest in larger plants and get an instant result, is a perennial question the comes up with Thuja Green Giant, and other hedging plants as well. There is no ‘one answer fits all’, but there are certainly several considerations that help guide the decision. Let’s look at some of the issues, and the best way to handle your plants – big or small.

Growth Rate and Cost

It is obviously cheaper to plant a hedge with smaller plants, and the great thing is, that with Thuja Green Giant, the growth rate of young plants is high – they slow down as they get older. Young trees that are 1 to 3 feet tall might grow 3 or even 4 feet in the second year after planting – or in the first one if you plant in late winter. So they will often ‘catch up’ with larger plants. After 7 years, your small plants will be 10 feet tall, or more, and the ones you planted when they were big might easily be not much taller. That growth rate was demonstrated at the University of Arkansas, so it really is a reliable and accurate figure.

Privacy Issues

Instant privacy is the usual reason for investing in large plants, in the 5 to 6-foot range. You know how it goes – you move into a new home, or perhaps a new one goes up next to you, and suddenly you are overlooked by neighbors. We all love our neighbors, but we don’t really want to become a reality TV-show for them, so the desire for privacy is natural. With 6-foot trees, you instantly gain privacy from anyone walking on the ground, and even from most ground-floor windows. The extra cost is often worth it, for the peace of mind you gain by an instant solution.

On the other hand, if you don’t have an urgent need, then plant something smaller – they won’t take long to catch up, as we have already discussed. Use the money you save to buy beautiful and interesting shrubs and trees to decorate that beautiful private space you are creating with your Thuja Green Giants. Those trees and shrubs will grow along with your hedge, and in a few short years you will have a beautiful private garden to enjoy.

Planting Larger Thuja Green Giant Trees

When planting larger trees, there are some things to pay more attention to, so that you get the best and quickest establishment, and the fastest growth to add more feet to your hedge or screen. First, dig a wide area of ground for them. Three feet wide is not too much. One of the mistakes often made is to dig holes just big enough to take the root-ball, with little or nowhere broken up for the roots to grow into. This is a big mistake, and will certainly slow down growth very much. Instead, use a tiller to save yourself the work of hand-digging, and prepare an area 12 inches deep and 36 to 48 inches across. Add plenty of organic material, and a starter fertilizer as well. Break up the ground thoroughly, but don’t try to bring in new soil. That is almost always a mistake – put the effort instead into top-quality organic material, and dig in a layer 3 or 4 inches deep.

When you plant bigger trees, it is best to dig a trench the width of the pots all along the planting area, rather than dig individual holes. You can more easily get the spacing even that way, and even spacing will give you a solid hedge quickly. Make sure to water the trees well the day before, and use a sharp knife to cut an inch or so into the root ball at three points around the root-ball and in a cross on the bottom, after you carefully remove the pot. Place the plants in the trench right away, and don’t lift them by the stems, lift the root ball, or you may cause it to break apart. Water thoroughly.

Big trees will benefit from regular watering and liquid fertilizers during the first year, and always water the surrounding soil, not just at the stem, so that the roots quickly spread outwards.

Planting Smaller Thuja Green Giant

If you are using trees in the 1 to 4-foot range, the most common mistake is to plant them too closely together. Use the same spacing, no matter what size your trees are. If you buy a lot of small trees, and crowd them together, many will die, and the strongest will be slowed down by the smaller ones, that act like ‘weeds’ and steal water and nutrients. Over time they will naturally thin out, but not in the neat way you might like – more like a mouth of broken teeth!

Even though your trees are small, still prepare the wide area we have already described. You want the roots to spread out and find water and nutrients from the surrounding soil, and they can do that best in well-prepared soil.

The best spacing depends on the final goal. If you plan on keeping your hedge around 8 feet tall or less, then a 3-foot spacing is best. Those small plants are going to look too far apart, but really, this is the right thing to do. Without competition from each other they will grow wider, taller and be much healthier. They will grow so fast, before you know it they will be touching each other and building a strong screen for you. For a taller screen, use a 4 or 5 foot spacing. A double row, with 3 feet between the rows, and 5 to 8 feet between the plants, depending on the final height, will give you the thickest and densest hedge possible.

Young trees have small root systems, so they really benefit from regular applications of a suitable liquid hedge fertilizer. Follow the directions on the brand you buy, and apply from spring to early fall, at the frequency recommended. With most liquid fertilizers, you can safely increase the frequency if you reduce the concentration. Double the frequency, but half the concentration is the usual rule. That way you provide a steadier supply of nutrients, and you will have taller, bushier plants by the end of the season.

 

Whatever your choice – big or small – you can be sure that if you have chosen Thuja Green Giant for your hedge or screen, the result is going to be a gorgeous, healthy hedge or screen, rich green all year round, tough and reliable, and the perfect backdrop and privacy barrier for your garden.

Cordless Hedge Trimmer Review

Almost everyone plants Thuja Green Giant as a hedge, or a screen. Trimming is part of the routine of keeping your hedges neat and tidy, and to do that well, a power trimmer is a great addition to your arsenal of gardening tools. It is worth buying a good-quality unit, as the savings in time and frustration will soon cover any extra dollars involved.

Traditionally, the choices were between gasoline and electric trimmers, but today there are machines on the market that bring some interesting new options. If you have used a gasoline trimmer, then you know about the noise and smell they create. Added to that is a growing awareness of the environmental impact of the CO2 emissions as well. So while gasoline has the advantage of portability, these issues mean that gas trimmers are not as desirable as they once were.

The second choice was electric, but the long cord trailing across the yard is always a problem, especially when you end up cutting it, bringing your trimming, and often all other household activities as well, to an abrupt halt. The relative peace and quiet were always a good quality, but that darned cord is a serious issue.

In the past few years, as batteries have come to be used in more and more of our household items, battery trimmers have hit the market. These offer portability and quiet operation, but do they have the power and endurance needed for all but the smallest hedge?

While prices have fallen a lot since their initial introduction, they still remain higher than for conventional trimmers, so you want to be sure you are getting value for money. What are the key features to look for?

Battery

Right away, you should choose a trimmer with a Lithium battery, not a nickel-cadmium one, if you want reasonable endurance for your trimmer. Most Thuja Green Giant hedges are substantial, so you will need the extended time to get the job done in one go. If you trim a lot in one day, then having a spare battery, or one that will re-charge in less than an hour, is a way of extending your time on a smaller machine, so make sure you can by the battery separately.

Bar Length

A longer cutting bar has two advantages. It cuts a bigger area, so you finish the job more quickly. It also gives you more reach, so when trimming higher up, or doing the top, you can reach farther without such a tall ladder, and you need to move the ladder more often. All these things add up to faster, more efficient trimming, so go for the longest bar you can. 24 inches is idea, but you may end up trading a few inches in return for a better machine.

Weight and Balance

The big drawback with lithium-battery trimmers is the weight, which comes mainly from the battery itself. It’s impossible at this stage of the technology to have both light-weight and a powerful cutter, so be aware that you will be holding a heavier trimmer. Smaller machines weigh in at around 6 pounds, and the weight rises to almost 12 pounds in the most powerful ones. On a power basis, they are usually lighter than a gas machine, but heavier than an electric. Think too about where the battery is positioned, since you are waving a trimmer around a lot, and you need good balance to make that less tiring.

Let’s look at four top trimmers and see how they stand up:

BLACK+DECKER LHT2220 20V Lithium Ion Hedge Trimmer, 22″

This is the top-selling trimmer on Amazon, and with a price well below $100, it deserves its position. However the battery only has an estimated running time of 40 minutes, so it really only works for boxwood hedges and individual shrubs around the garden. A large hedge is beyond its ability. The slightly more expensive LHT321FF has a more powerful battery, dubbed the ‘Powercommand’, and offers longer life, but still the limitation of only 20 volts.

BLACK+DECKER LHT2436 40V 24″

This is a more powerful trimmer, with a larger, 40 volt battery that will trim both sides of a 300-foot hedge, 10 feet tall, on a single charge. Not only that, but the battery charges in one hour, so while you stop for lunch you can bring it back to a full charge. The main drawback with both the Black+Decker trimmers is that they cannot handle heavier branches, so you need to trim your hedges regularly. That way you are only cutting light-weight material, which these trimmers handle well.

Stihl HSA 66

The Stihl brand pioneered battery trimmers, and while other brands might be catching up, they certainly remain on top of the game. Voted the Best Cordless Trimmer by consumer test sites, this machine has the power to cut through heavy material, and the balance to make that an easy job. Even with the smallest of its range of batteries, it will run almost 90 minutes, and with the strongest AR900 battery, it will last almost 8 hours. That option is probably only of interest to professionals, but the ability to choose the battery that suits you best is a big plus for this machine. Of course, there is a price to pay for the best, over $200 for the machine, plus up to the same again for the most powerful battery and charger. Still, if you want a machine that will handle the biggest overgrown hedge, this is the machine you want.

DEWALT 20-Volt 5.0Ah Battery MAX 22 in

If you don’t feel you need the full power of a Stihl machine, then this could be your best choice. Only $200 with the battery included, this machine will cut through ¾ inch branches, so if you haven’t trimmed your hedge for a while, you will be fine with this powerful machine. The battery will not give you anything like the time of the Stihl, but for most of us, that is not so important, as if we run out of power we can just come back the next day and finish up.

 

In the end, like so much in life, you get what you pay for. If your hedges are relatively small, the B+D options will probably work well for you. For larger, tougher hedges, the Dewalt or Stihl machines seem to be the way to go. Happy hedge trimming!

Grow Thuja Green Giant the Organic Way

A Fertilizer Program for Thuja Green Giant – Part 3

Feeding your Thuja Green Giant is the best way to get maximum healthy growth. Along with supplying sufficient water, this is the best approach to take, and gives you outstanding results. In this mini-series of blogs we have looked in some detail at plant nutrients, so that you can make informed choices when you come to choose fertilizers, and see past the advertising spin. As promised last time, in this piece we will look at how to grow your plants organically. Using natural fertilizers in the garden has gone from being a slightly-suspect fringe activity a few decades ago, to main-stream gardening today. More and more gardeners are choosing organic sources for plant nutrients, because they want to be ‘green’ and environmentally responsible. Like all newer things, there are some common misconceptions around this, which we will try to sort out here, and give some solid guidance for this ethical choice.

Plants Don’t Need Vitamins

No matter how you choose to supply them – from a bag of manufactured chemicals, or from the chemicals released by natural products, your plants use exactly the same handful of minerals we described in the earlier parts of this series. For the plant, these are exactly the same elements, and there is no evidence that plants can tell the difference between where they came from. After careful analysis, it is also clear that plants do not need vitamins or any other complex nutrients – just those basic elements.

That doesn’t mean that organic gardening and green growing are wrong. Not at all. Their emphasis is on the soil, not on the plant. What does that mean? Well, chemical fertilizers are designed and developed to deliver the chemicals needed by your Thuja Green Giant directly to the plant. They dissolve in the water in the soil, and are then absorbed through the roots, and sometimes through the foliage. Organic growing aims to build a healthy soil, with high levels of nutrients derived from the soil and the organic material added to it, so that your plants always have a good supply of exactly what they need. This more natural way of gardening focuses on keeping the soil healthy, and good plant growth follows – naturally.

Take Care of Your Soil

When we add organic material to our soil, we feed the natural cycles of decomposition and recycling that nourish all the plants growing in that soil. Organic material is the key to green growing, although we can sometimes use more concentrated natural materials such as sea-weed extracts, as boosters. Organic material is anything that was once alive, so all the parts of plants, plus animal waste. It can be garden compost you make yourself from garden trimmings, kitchen waste, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, and even old wool or cotton clothing. There are lots of places you can find out how to make your own compost, and it is a wonderful way to start gardening organically.

If you live in a more rural area, you may have farms around you keeping cows, sheep, pigs or chickens. All these animals produce manure, which on most farms is mixed with straw and left to rot. If you can get some well-rotted manure, this is an excellent source of organic material for your garden. Never put fresh manure around your plants – it will burn them and can even kill them. Garden centers often sell rotted manures in bags, which is a very convenient way to use them, especially for a smaller garden.

When added to soil, this organic material continues to decompose, helped by the multitudes of fungi and ‘good’ bacteria present in healthy soil. This decomposition releases the nitrogen we talked about in earlier blogs, that builds healthy, green foliage and shoots on your plants. Nitrogen gives you maximum elongation of the stems, and your Thuja hedge builds height quickly. The decomposing organic material feeds the good microbes, which then more effectively release nutrients from the soil itself. It also retains moisture, helping your plants stay healthy.

As organic material decomposes, it turns into a substance called humus. This long-lasting material remains in the soil for years, holding nutrients as they are released from the soil minerals, and preventing them escaping in drainage water. The levels of good plant nutrients rise over the years – you get naturally healthier soil, and so healthier plants growing in it.

The Plants Will Take Care of Themselves

To effectively grow your Thuja Green Giant plants organically, you should start before you even plant them, adding organic material to the soil when you prepare the planting area. Dig or roto-till a layer 2 to 4 inches deep into the planting site, mixing it well with the soil. This will release lots of valuable nutrients – more than enough to grow your plants well without needing any added fertilizers.

To give young plants a boost, before they have spread their roots out into the surrounding soil to get to the nutrients from the organic material, you can use an organic supplement. One of the best is liquid seaweed. This is made from harvested kelp, which is a sustainable resource. Harvesting it doesn’t damage the environment, so you can use it while completely respecting the natural world around us. This liquid is diluted with water, and poured onto the roots of your plants, providing nutrients that are immediately available, and adding some longer-lasting ones to the soil as well. Once your plants are well-established, you don’t need to use it anymore, but keep some around, because diluted to a suitable strength it is a great food for everything from vegetables to flowers and even house plants.

To maintain good levels of organic material in your soil, and so feed your plants for maximum growth and health, you need to replace material that decomposes. Periodically, you should add new material as a mulch over the soil. You don’t need to dig it in, just spread it beneath your plants in a layer 2 to 4 inches thick. Cover the root area, extending out beyond the edges of your plants by as much as a foot. Not only will this material inhibit weed growth, and retain moisture, but organic mulch gradually breaks down, and works its way into the soil. On sandy soil and in high-rainfall areas, you may need to do this every year or two. On heavier soils, and in drier areas, every 4 or 5 years is probably enough.

By taking care of your soil, keeping it rich and healthy, and full of good microbes, your plants will benefit. You will be growing them in a natural, sustainable fashion, recycling household and garden waste through composting, and putting animal waste to good use, keeping it out of our rivers and lakes. This green approach to growing your Thuja Green Giant plants is certainly the natural way to go.

Moving Established Plants of Thuja Green Giant

We try to plan carefully when we start a project, but sometimes we have insufficient knowledge, and sometimes the situation can change suddenly, making our plans come unraveled. This happens in any part of life, and it can happen in our garden plans too. So there are situations where we plant something, perhaps a specimen or a hedge of Thuja Green Giant, and then after a few years we discover a problem, or decide to make a change. The reasons for moving established plants are many. Perhaps you have decided on some construction, and the plants are now in the way. Perhaps you need to open a section of hedge for vehicle entry, planning to put it back later. A neighbor might have suddenly added an extension, and you just as suddenly need privacy. Maybe you are even moving to a new house, and you have arranged to take plants with you.

Whatever the reason, here is the dilemma: you planted some specimens, or perhaps a hedge, or Thuja Green Giant, a few years ago. Maybe just one or two years, maybe 5 or 6 years ago. The plants are well established, and they have grown well, so you have lovely specimens, of a substantial size. How feasible is it to move them? How can you go about it? What preparation is needed? These are all the questions that arise when you find you need to move established plants of Thuja Green Giant, or for that matter, other evergreens.

How Feasible is Moving Established Plants?

The answer to this depends mainly on how long the plants have been in the ground, and how big they are. The main limitation is a practical one – the bigger the plant, the larger the root-ball will need to be, and so the heavier and harder to handle, the plants will be. Of course, you can hire professional help, and with that, even very large trees can be moved with the help of a tree spade. If you have access for machinery, a contractor can come in, and with a tree spade of a suitable size, pick up and move around anything in your garden in a matter of minutes. Considering the high value of large plants, the investment in moving them is often worth it, as it will be much less than replacing them with trees of the same size. If you want to do the job yourself, then with the help of a few friends, and your combined muscle power, you can move even large plants yourself. So the short answer is – very feasible if you have the ability to move them around.

When is the Best Season to Move Established Plants?

The idea seasons for moving are in early fall or early spring in colder areas where the ground freezes in winter, or anytime between fall and the end of winter in warmer regions. At that time the plants are dormant, and they need much less water, so there is a window available for them to re-establish their roots before warmer weather comes. Trees that have only been planted for a couple of years could probably be safely moved at any time except for July and August, if they are carefully watered for a couple of months after moving them.

What Preparation is Needed Before Moving Established Plants?

If our Thuja Green Giant, or other evergreens, have been planted for more than a couple of years, some preparation is a good idea, if you have the time available. As much in advance as possible – a year is considered best –  take a spade and cut straight down around the root ball, but without moving the plant. For very old plants, doing half one year, and the other half the next, by dividing the circle around the plant into alternating segments, is often recommended.

This is what professional nurseries do with all their trees, to develop roots closer to the trunk, and make transplanting easier. You can do it too, and it will make moving your plants much safer, if they have been in the ground for a few years. If you don’t have much time, then you can of course just dig and move the trees in a single operation, but the risk of failure is greater.

Immediately before you dig up your trees, give them a deep, thorough soaking, even if the ground is damp. Do this 24 to 48 hours before moving the trees.

How Big a Root-ball do I Need?

The bigger the tree, the bigger the root-ball. This seems obvious, but how big should they be? For a 5 to 6-foot tree, the root-ball needs to be at least 20 inches across, and preferably wider. For an 8-foot tree, it should be 24 to 30 inches in diameter. For every 2 feet added in height, add 6 inches to the root-ball size. So, a 15-foot tree will need a 4 to 5 foot root ball. That is heavy, so you will need equipment or a team of people to move that one!

Making a Root-ball

When it comes time to dig the trees, and you are doing this by hand, here is what to do. Measure the size you want the ball to be, and draw a circle around the tree on the ground. Now dig a trench, with that circle as the inside wall, all around the tree, going down about 2 feet. Remove all that soil, and then trim the root ball into an upside down rounded cone, until it is sitting on a small column of earth. Now wrap burlap tightly around the roots, securing it with rope, and only then can you cut all the way underneath and release the root-ball.

Replanting Your Trees

Once you have the wrapped tree ready to go, you can safely move it to the new hole, and lower it in to the same depth it was before. Put back some soil, removing the wrapping as you go, and firm it down around the roots, until you have the hole about two-thirds full. Then flood it with water, and let it drain away, before returning the rest of the soil and filling the hole completely.

 

As you can see, this is a fairly complex procedure, but once you have moved that beautiful big tree, you will be so pleased with the result that you will not mind the work at all. Hopefully you won’t have to start moving big Thuja Green Giants around your property, but if you do, now you know how to do it to maximize the chances of survival.

Creating Topiary with Thuja Green Giant

As you can see from the picture, working with hedges and evergreens doesn’t have to be dull. It doesn’t matter if you have children, or do it for your own inner child, creating fun and amusing ‘pet plants’ around the garden is easy with Thuja Green Giant. Because this plant is so incredibly fast growing, it takes just a few months to do what might take years with something slower, like Yew. And because it is so fast-growing, if you get bored and want to go back to a plain look, then most of the time that will be easy too.

You are only limited by your imagination in what shapes you can create with Thuja Green Giant. This skill, called topiary, has origins going back centuries. There are paintings on the walls of ancient Roman tombs showing plants clipped into ornamental shapes, and the art was very popular in Italy during the Renaissance and in Holland too.

Some simple shapes are still commonly used in gardens – balls, pyramids, both round and square, and spirals are seen in a lot of more formal gardens. These simple geometrical shapes are easy to produce, but more complex shapes, like puppies, pigs or elephants, are possible, or objects like teapots, cars and trains too. So here are some tips of how to set about making interesting topiary objects to bring fun and entertainment to your garden. Your own, and all the kids in the neighborhood too, will love you for it, and you will put a smile on the face of everyone who passes by. Make sure you choose a place where your work of art is easily seen – why keep it all to yourself?

Equipment

While you might use electric or gasoline hedge trimmers for a regular hedge, for topiary hand clippers are best, at least for the detailed bits. Not the big ones your grandfather used to use for hedges, but smaller, sharper ones available today, with narrow blades and a pointed tip, that allow you to get into corners and cut into, as well as across, the plants. Keep these sharp and well-lubricated, and you will find that hand-clipping is great exercise for your pecs.

A good pair of battery operated shears is still helpful for larger areas. Go with an 18” or 24” blade, nothing longer. A longer blade will just get in the way, as will an electric cord, and gasoline trimmers are noisy to work with. Choose a new-generation battery trimmer by a reliable manufacturer – they work like a charm, and with two batteries you will have no ‘down-time’.

Remember that the key to success is frequent trimming. The more you trim, the denser the growth becomes, and the more pronounced your design will be. Four to six clips a season is not too much, and in fact it is when you are only taking an inch of that you know you are on the road to success. Plan on clipping at least once a month, and maybe every two weeks during spring and early summer.

Forming Shapes

To build the framework for narrow shapes, like the handle of a teapot for example, you need some stiff wire. Copper wire is best, although for a bigger project aluminum wire is a lot cheaper. If you have some scrap electric cable, that is a good source of copper wire. 6-guage wire, which is 4 mm thick, is good for smaller to medium-sized branches. You need to anneal the wire first, and this is easy, the next time you have the barbecue on. Roll up the wire, and place the coils on the hot coals until they are glowing red-hot. Once they cool, clean them in a solution of vinegar and salt. Use 2 tablespoons of salt per cup of vinegar, and boil the coils in it until they are clean. Once you have annealed the wire, you will see that it is soft and easy to bend, but once twisted it stiffens and holds its shape – exactly what you want.

Imagine you want to make a teapot handle. Select a long shoot – it doesn’t have to be the full length yet, and twist one end of a wire loosely around the branch the shoot is coming from. Then coil it around the stem, and bring it out and around until you have the shape you want. If the stem is not long-enough, continue with the bare wire, and you can gradually attach the stem as its grows. Another approach is to use thin flexible long rods to create a framework, and then tie-in a branch or branches to cover the rod. Once you have the branch in place it will soon start to send out side-shoots. Trim these when they are still short, and as more and more are produced, gradually you will have the material for the part you are creating, and you can thicken and shape it as you wish.

Depending on the shapes you want, sometimes bamboo poles can be used to guide you for the basic form. To make a cone, just make a tepee shape out of four bamboo poles, space around the tree and tied together at the top. For a square cone, place on at each corner of a square drawn on the ground in string. For a circle, use 6 canes, or 8 for a big cone. Use a string attached to the trunk at the base to draw a circle on the ground, so you know where to place the canes. These canes act as a trimming guide, so you keep everything straight.

Growing to Order

While simple shapes can be made from one tree, for larger objects the quickest way is to plant several trees in a group, placing them so you have plants where you need them. Remember to allow at least a foot of growth outwards to the final shape you want, and for bigger shapes allow 2 feet. By planting exactly where you need them, you can create four-legged creatures, with each leg a plant, with the upper parts bend over and tied together to make the body. Look on-line for inspiration – you will be amazed at what can be done. For a fun garden hobby that will soon get you a name in the neighborhood, take up Green Giant topiary and amaze yourself.

Five Tips for Growing Thuja Green Giant

When it comes to fast-growing evergreens, we all know that Thuja Green Giant is right at the top of the list. But even the best of us can use a little help, and your plants are no exception to that. If you are planting Green Giant for a clipped hedge, a taller screen, or as a beautiful specimen tree, here are some tips on where to put your energies most effectively, to give you the fastest, strongest and healthiest growth from this plant.

5 Tips for Growing Thuja Green Giant:

  • Prepare the soil well – give your plants a great start in life
  • Keep up the water – especially at first
  • Fertilize regularly – we all need a healthy meal
  • Start trimming right away – build a sturdy, dense structure
  • Go for the right shape – a good profile is always best

Prepare the Soil Well

Strong roots mean strong growth, and for your trees to make the strongest root system, they need good soil to grow into. Thuja Green Giant is a tough plant, but if you prepare the area well, and break up the soil deeply, across a wide area, then the result will amaze you. You can easily prepare the area for one plant by digging with a spade, but for all but the shortest hedge, a powerful rototiller is the way to go. Rent the biggest one you can handle, and make sure you go down deep. It is easy to skim across the surface and it will look great, but your trees need broken-up soil underneath them. If you can break up the soil 12 inches down, that is ideal. Prepare an area at least 3 feet wide when planting a hedge.

No matter what kind of soil you have, adding organic material always improves it. Sandy soils will dry out more slowly, and have more nutrients, while clay soils will drain better and allow more vital oxygen down to the roots. Use something rich – like well-rotted sheep, cow or horse manure – if you can get it, otherwise garden compost, rotted leaves, or peat moss will be great too. A layer 3 inches deep all across the area you are preparing is about the right amount.

Keep up the Water

More plants die or suffer badly from lack of water when newly-planted than for any other reason. Start out by watering the plants in their pots the night before you are planting. If the area you are planting into is dry, then water it well a day or two before you plant. When planting, put back about two-thirds of the soil and firm it down around the roots – use your feet for this job. Then fill the hole to the top with water, and let it drain away before you replace the rest. Unless the soil is dry, you don’t really need to water again – the watering you did down into the hole will make sure those root-balls have plenty to get them started.

Immediately after planting the roots haven’t spread into the surrounding soil, and they rely on the soil in the root ball. For the first few weeks, water by letting a hose-pipe trickle water slowly down close to the stem, or use a gentle spray nozzle to soak the area right around the plant. Trees can die of drought surrounded by damp soil, especially if they are planted too loosely, meaning the root-ball is not firmly connected to the surrounding soil. Water every day in hot weather for the first two weeks, or every second day in cooler weather, or if you have heavy soil. Then taper down to a once-a-week soaking during that vital first year of growth. After that you will only need to water when the top few inches appears dry.

Fertilize Regularly

Use a fertilizer blended for evergreen hedges. It will have a big ‘first number’ in the fertilizer formula. Always follow the directions, as too much, or too often, can be even worse than nothing. At first a water-soluble fertilizer that you mix in a can, or apply with a hose-end dilutor is best, because the nutrients are quickly available to plants with a limited root system. These must be applied regularly, at low doses, so to reduce the work involved, switch to a granular fertilizer after the first season. Although they are more expensive, if you have a busy life you will probably find slow-release fertilizers a worthwhile investment. They only need one application a year, and release their food steadily over the whole growing-season.

Start Trimming Right Away

Don’t wait for your plants to reach the final height you are planning – this is the commonest mistake in growing a hedge. For a solid, dense hedge, you need a well-branched internal structure, and the way to develop that is by trimming early. You only need to take the tips off the new shoots, just an inch or two. Do this regularly, and your plants will respond by branching much more, and developing a strurdy structure. You can also begin to create the right profile, which is the last tip we have for the best hedge you can grow.

Go for the Right Shape

Older hedges that are thin and dying at the base at common, but that is exactly the area most seen, and most important for privacy too. The mistake is always the same, letting the top grow too wide, and even deliberately trimming the bottom into a rounded shape, undercutting the upper part. The right way to do it is to keep the bottom wider than the top, starting at ground level. The sides should slope in a little, not go straight up, or worse, widen out. It is easy to make this mistake, because the top will always grow the fastest, so if you trim off an even amount, the upper part will naturally end up wider. Take more from the top than the bottom, and let light penetrate right down, so that the lower branches remain healthy and green, giving you screening right to the ground.

 

With these few simple tips, you can be sure that your Thuja Green Giant hedge or specimens look great, and grow as fast as they can, giving you the perfect finished effect.

Planning Your Thuja Green Giant Hedge

Ah, so you have decided to put in a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant. Good choice! Not only is this the fastest-growing evergreen available, it is also one of the most adaptable to climate and soil. It is hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so it will grow happily in zone 5. If you live in colder zones, then a better choice is the Emerald Green Arborvitae, which grows well in chilly zones 3 and 4 – it’s not too late to change your choice!

Besides being cold-resistant, Thuja Green Giant also thrives in heat, and in addition it is both humidity and drought resistant. Wherever you live, from the humid South to the drier Mid-West and Texas, this tough plant will grow through all the warmer zones, including zone 9. That means that unless you live in the southern part of Florida, or around San Diego, California, you can relax. Your Green Giant Hedge is going to grow vigorously and well, wherever you live.

As for soil, it really doesn’t matter much at all. You have sandy soil? Fine. Clay soil? No problem. Something in-between? Nothing to worry about at all. Even if your soil is often wet, that won’t matter either. The only limitation is constantly wet and flooded soil, which does not suit Thuja Green Giant. One idea if you have a wet area, is to build a ridge of soil about 3 feet wide, with a ditch on either side. If you plant along the top of the ridge, the extra drainage you have created will often make it possible to grow this very forgiving plant even in a wet location.

How Many Thuja Green Giant for a Hedge?

So now, having made the right choice, the first question is, “How many plants do I need?” Answering this question is easy – just follow these steps:

  • Measure the Distance – first you need to measure the area you want to run the hedge along. Do this carefully with a tape, as you want to get it right.
  • Decide the Spacing – don’t make the mistake of planting too close. Plan to space at 3 feet apart for a quick-filling hedge, or up to 5 feet if you have a little more patience, or want to save on the number of plants.
  • Double or Single Row? – if you have room, and want a really dense hedge or screen, then a staggered double row is the right choice. It doesn’t take many extra plants, as they are spaced more widely in the rows. For the equivalent of a 3-foot single row, space the double rows 2 feet apart and the plants 5 ½ feet apart in the rows. For the equivalent of a 5-foot spacing, plan on putting the rows 3 feet apart, and the plants 8 feet apart.
  • Divide the Distance by the Spacing You Chose – do this division, double that result for a double row, and you have your answer. If it contains a fraction, just go up or down to the nearest number.

What Else Do You Need?

To improve the soil, you will need some organic material. Garden compost or animal manures are best, but well-rotted leaves are good too, and peat moss is fine if that is what you have. You need the length of your hedge as cubic feet or material. That means for a 30-foot hedge you need 30 cubic feet of compost. Some extra never hurts.

You also need some mulching material, such as shredded bark, to cover the soil when you are finished planting your trees. You need the same amount as the amount of organic material needed for digging into the soil. You might also use some fertilizer for evergreens as well, especially if you have sandy soil, but adding organic material is always better than relying on fertilizer alone.

For preparing the soil, a spade is good if you are strong and fit, and the hedge is not too long. Otherwise book a rental on the biggest rototiller they have. A big tiller will make the job easy, and also dig deep, which is important. You can easily do a long strip in a one-day rental.

A length of porous irrigation pipe twice the length of your hedge is an excellent addition too, as it will make watering so much easier. Maybe you need a length of regular hose to connect the porous pipe to the nearest tap as well.

Oh, one final thing. You will need a length of sturdy string to run down the hedge to get all the plants straight, and you will also need that tape you used to measure the length for your hedge and calculate how many plants you needed.

Now You are Ready to Go

It’s time now to order your plants, find out when they should arrive, and mark down a day or two to plant your hedge. You won’t need any stakes – Thuja Green Giant is too tough to need anything like that. Be prepared to water once or twice a week during the first season, and after that you can sit back and watch your hedge grow. Remember to start trimming while the hedge is still young and developing – don’t wait until it reaches the final height you want it to be. This final tip is the secret to the densest and sturdiest hedge you have ever seen.

Does Thuja Green Giant Attract Pests or Diseases?

The short answer to this question is ‘NO’, but despite the toughness and resistance of this great evergreen, problems can very occasionally develop, some caused by growing conditions and some by specific pests or diseases. Don’t worry, these problems are rare, and most gardeners never see any problems at all with their plants. So that you can be equipped to deal with anything that may seem to be going wrong, it’s time for some advice. So here are some things you may see, and what to do about them.

My new plants look dull and the ends of some of the branches are turning brown

New plants of Thuja Green Giant need plenty of water. When they are first planted they only have roots in the root ball from the pot. Especially if the surrounding soil is a bit dry, those roots won’t be able to take up water and this will first show by the ends of the branches bending over and beginning to turn brown. If the weather is warm you may need to water your plants every second day for the first few weeks after planting. Otherwise water them at least once a week. New plants need plenty of water to establish in your garden, so don’t forget them – they need you!

My plants look yellowish, not bright green, and they aren’t growing

Especially when young, these fast-growing plants need lots of nutrients. They don’t have a big root system yet to get enough from the soil around them. So they can easily run low on essential food elements, grow more slowly and show a characteristic yellowing of the leaves. If you see this, it is time to start fertilizing your plants. For young plants choose a water-soluble fertilizer formulated for evergreen hedges and apply as directed. If your plants are older, then a granular fertilizer will be lower-cost and quicker to apply. Modern slow-release fertilizers cost a little more, but they only need to be applied once a year and they will continue to feed your hedge all season long.

There are strange-looking clusters of dry needles hanging in the tree

These could be bagworms. This is a common pest of some arborvitae trees, and it is occasionally found in Thuja Green Giant. Since this tree is so tough and hardy, they are only very rarely attacked by this insect. If you see what look a bit like hanging greenish or brown ‘cones’ one or two inches long on your plants, then you have bagworms. Inside there is a green caterpillar that will eat the leaves, and can make parts of the bush very bare. If you just have a few, or your plants are young, then simply pick them off and throw them into a bucket of hot, soapy water. The caterpillar makes the bag out of silk and pieces of the plant it has chewed off. Once you remove the bags your trees will quickly grow back. If you have larger bushes, or a lot of bags, then spraying with Bt (pronounced ‘bee-tee’) or Spinosad. Ask at your local garden center for specific brands of these safe, non-toxic sprays made from naturally occurring microbes. These products only kill caterpillars and they will not hurt other insects, animals or humans. Since bagworms usually don’t attack Thuja Green Giant at all, you will probably never see this pest on your hedge.

I have something sticky on my leaves, and black powder on them too

Again, this is a very rare problem, but it can happen. The stickiness comes from sap being taken from the plant by scale insects. The black (or occasionally white) growth is fungus growing on the sugary sap. Neither the sap or the fungus will hurt your plants, but the little scale insects, that look like brown pimples on the stems, do weaken the trees and can cause browning. Luckily Thuja Green Giant grows so fast and so vigorously that scale is rarely a problem. If you see areas like this, usually you can trim them away, clean up carefully, feed and water your trees and they will quickly recover. Only very rarely, perhaps if your trees are growing in poor, dry soil, will scale be bad enough to need spraying. Ask at your garden center for something suitable.

Poor growth, and branches are dying

Although your trees need water, they can have too much of a good thing. If the soil is constantly wet no air gets to the roots, and they die and rot. If your plants are not growing, well, and parts of them turn brown and die, or if a whole plant in your hedge dies, you may have root rot. Once the symptoms show it is hard to do anything, so first make sure you plant in an area with good drainage. If you need to plant in a badly-drained spot, then mound up the soil and plant on that mound. If the plants are a few inches above the soil the roots will get more air. If you have an irrigation system, check that you don’t have a leak, or reduce the watering time. Your plants should get plenty of water, but the soil should become a little dry in between each watering.

In the End

Thuja Green Giant is one the most pest and disease resistant plants you can grow, so if you give them a little basic care with water and fertilizer the chances are very good you will never see any problems at all. Now that you know what to look for, you can take some simple steps to deal with any rare problems that might come along.