Learning to grow plants is an exciting experience, but it can be scary too. We take the lives of these young plants in our hands. You set out wanting an attractive screen or hedge, but then one day a bunch of plants arrives at your door and you have to do something with them! If you aren’t used to working with plants, this suddenly becomes a nervous time. “What do I do now? Will I kill them? Help!” are common responses to this sudden crisis of confidence. If you are here, this is probably your situation. So relax. Sit down. It’s going to be fine. We will take you through all the ‘obvious’ things that aren’t so obvious to a beginner, and so always get left out of the planting guides you might already have looked at. We are going to start with the basic basics, and get those plants in the ground and ready to grow.
Unpack Your New Plants
The first thing to do is to open up the packaging or boxes your plants arrived in. They have been carefully wrapped to protect them during shipping, but now they want to be let free again. Don’t make the mistake of keeping the boxes closed up. Don’t make the mistake of leaving those boxes indoors. Even if it is cold outside, they don’t need or want to be kept warm and protected.
So your first job is to unwrap them completely. Take them out of the boxes, wrapping paper, plastic bags, cardboard, or whatever else they are wrapped in. Carefully cut the tape and unwrap them – don’t try to pull them free without first cutting the wrapping. You could easily snap branches, or loosen the roots. If there is any string around the plant, cut through that and remove it completely. Makes sure you don’t leave any loops still tied on, as these could strangle the trunk or stems as the plant grows larger. Look carefully, these could be hidden by the foliage.
Now take them outdoors, and place them in a sunny or brightly lit place. They have been in the dark for a few days, and they will want to re-build their reserves with the magic of photosynthesis, so they need to be in bright light or full sun. If you have room, spread them out a little, rather than packing them close together, where damp or darkness could weaken some branches, turning them yellow.
Care Before Planting
While you are moving your plants outside, take a look at the soil. Do the pots feel heavy or light? If they feel light, that is a clear sign that water is needed. If they feel heavy, even if the top of the soil looks dry, they probably don’t need watering. If they feel light, or you can see a gap between the soil and the pot, then they need water right away. It is normal to ship plants when they are a little dry – they travel better that way. Now they are outside again, they need a drink. Water each pot thoroughly, so that some water runs out of the bottom of the pot. If they seem very dry, placing each pot into a bucket half full of water, and leaving it for a few minutes before taking it out again, is a good way to get them thoroughly watered.
If you keep an eye on them for water, there is no hurry to plant your Thuja Green Giant. They will grow happily in the pots for days or even a few weeks, while you get the planting area prepared. In hot weather they might need water every day, so don’t neglect them at this stage, but always wait until the soil has dried a little.
Preparing the Planting Site
Preparing the ground for planting is the most important thing you can do to help your new plants become that hedge of your dreams. It is also the hardest job, and the one that takes the most time, but every minute is a worthwhile investment in the future of your plants. Dig the soil as deeply as you can. The full depth of a spade is ideal, or if you use a rototiller, go over the ground several times until it is dug as deeply as possible. Dig the whole length of your hedge, not just where the individual plants are going. If that is not possible, then prepare an area at least 3 feet across for each plant. The strip you prepare should be at least 3 feet wide. Add some organic material to the soil as you dig. This could be garden compost, animal manure, rotted leaves, peat moss, or just about anything you have. Don’t use things like bark mulch, or other woody materials, but anything else will be fine, as long as it is well-rotted.
Planting Thuja Green Giant
Now you have prepared the area, its planting time! This is the fun part, and if the ground has been prepared well, it won’t take long. Water the pots the night before you intend to plant, and if the ground is dry, water the planting area too.
Now, place the plants where they are to go. Use a tape to measure the spacing you have chosen, which could be 3, 5 or even 8 feet, depending on your purpose, and whether you are using a single or a double row. Your hedge or screen will look so much better if the spacing is even, so don’t just eyeball it, use a tape.
Dig a hole in the prepared ground the same depth as the pot, and a little wider. Since you have already prepared the ground, it doesn’t need to be very big. Mix some DIEHARD Starter Fertilizer into the soil you removed, and into the base of the planting hole. This will get your plants off to a flying start.
Remove the tree from the pot, and take a sharp knife or box-cutter. You will probably see a lot of roots coiling around the root-ball, and you need to cut through some of these, so that they don’t strangle the plant in years to come, as they grow thicker. So cut from the top to the bottom of the root-ball, about one inch deep, at three places around the ball. Don’t be afraid you will hurt the trees, you won’t.
Place the plant in the hole, and turn it if necessary to give you the best-looking side facing you. Adjust its position so that the top of the root-ball is about an inch above the surrounding soil level. Put back most of the soil, pressing it down with your feet as you go, until you have replaced about two-thirds of the soil. The soil should be firm. Fill the hole to the top with water, and wait until it drains away. Now put back the rest of the soil, mounding it up a little to just cover the root-ball. You don’t want the root-ball buried deeply, as this can lead to all sorts of problems for your new friends. You can give another watering if you want, but it is not essential. Put a couple of inches of mulch over the root area, or even the whole planting strip, but don’t let it touch the stem or foliage of your plants.
Once you have stood back and admired your work, all you have to do now is water your new plants twice a week for the first month or two, and then once a week for the rest of the season. By next year you can move to a regular maintenance program of watering, fertilizing and trimming. With Thuja Green Giant you won’t have long to wait before your hedge is full-grown – enjoy!