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.

A Fertilizer Program for Thuja Green Giant – Part 2

A well-planned fertilizer program for your Thuja Green Giant hedge can make the difference between simply good growth, and spectacular, dense and healthy growth, giving you a solid hedge or screen several years earlier than it would otherwise happen. In this mini-series, we have been looking at fertilizers, not just saying ‘this one is good’, but giving the basics. If you understand plant nutrition, then selecting a fertilizer from the array available becomes a thought-out activity, not a hit-or-miss process. You can tailor your choice to what you know your hedge needs, depending on how it looks, and at what stage it is growing. You can make smart price choices, and understand the value of certain ingredients. As well, you have the pleasure of knowing more about your plants, and realizing that good gardening is something that can be learned, without the required ‘green thumb’.

In the first part of this series, posted last week, we looked at the ‘Big Three’, the major plant nutrients – Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium – that figure in the three numbers of the Fertilizer Ratio on every bag of fertilizer. We looked at what they do, and their roles in the good health of your plants. To summarize that, we can say the Nitrogen is the ‘growing’ nutrient, that causes shoots and leaves to develop; Phosphorus is the ‘rooting’ nutrient, that helps your plants develop strong, extensive root systems; and Potassium is the ‘protecting’ nutrient, that strengthens cells, and makes them more resistant to cold, insects and diseases.

Now let’s look at some of the important minor nutrients, which, like vitamins for us, are only needed in small quantities, but which are just as important as those Big Three.

The Minor Plant Nutrients

There are several nutrients that are used by plants in moderate quantities, although a lot less than N, P, K (these are the scientific symbols for the Big Three). These are Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulphur. Only in very acidic soils, with pH values below 5.5, can there be a lack of calcium and correcting that is not a matter of fertilizer, so we will put that one aside. Sulphur is present everywhere, and is almost never an issue for plants. That just leaves Magnesium.

Magnesium

We all know about the ‘wonder chemical’ called chlorophyll in plants that turns sunlight into sugar. It is what makes leaves green, and it is what feeds everything on the planet, directly or indirectly. Inside the heart of this big molecule is a single atom of magnesium. Without enough of that metal, no matter how fast the plant tries to grow, it will not be able to. Plants can rob older leaves to feed the more important younger ones if magnesium is in short supply, and Thuja will do that, leaving the older parts of the stems yellow instead of green, while the growing tips still look healthy.

This is not very common, mainly because most good fertilizers include magnesium in them. Look for the letters ‘Mg’ to find out if the fertilizer you are looking at has some, which will usually be listed as a percentage. It doesn’t have to be very much, and sometimes it isn’t even needed, but it’s good to see some in there.

The Micro-nutrients

These nutrients are also called ‘trace elements’, and both names tell us that they are only needed in minute quantities. These are sometimes called ‘vitamins for plants’, because they are just as important to plants as the big nutrients, but only tiny amounts are used. There are several, but only a couple are of importance. Iron, boron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, nickel and chlorine are the micro-nutrients that plants need, bringing the total needed to just 14 elements. Others are sometimes listed, but at this point those are not strictly essential, as they can be replaced with one or other of the 14. From a practical point of view most of this list can be ignored, since some, like chlorine, are so widespread that it is almost impossible to even demonstrate in hydroculture that they are essential. Nickel is needed only in very, very, minute quantities, and it need special equipment to even detect such small amounts. In most parts of the country, boron, manganese, zinc and copper are common in soil, and no supplements are needed. That just leaves iron, which we will look at in a moment.

Because it is hard to decide how much of these nutrients are needed, in modern fertilizers they are almost always simply included in small amounts. You will usually see them listed somewhere on the bag, given in ‘ppm’, which stands for ‘parts per million’. This is a commonly-used way of expressing very small amounts of something. Only the cheapest fertilizers will have no micro-nutrients, and the good news is that the materials in them will probably be a little impure, so they will be ‘contaminated’ with enough of these elements to provide your plants with what they might need.

Iron

This element is the only micro-nutrient that is regularly needed by plants as a supplement. We said that magnesium is in the chlorophyll molecule, well iron is in the enzymes that make chlorophyll, so no iron means no enzymes, which in turn means no chlorophyll. However the difference is very easy to see, because iron deficiency shows up on young, new shoots, which turn pale yellow. Like the other micro-nutrients, iron will often be in fertilizer you buy. Look for the letters ‘Fe’, which is the chemical symbol for iron. To get maximum growth from your Green Giant Hedge, iron is an important additive, since it will give your hedge that rich, lush green color that makes such a perfect backdrop for your garden. Nobody wants a pale hedge, and making sure you are adding iron will prevent that. This is by far the most common micro-nutrient deficiency seen, especially on soils that are alkaline, or if you have recently put down a lot of lime, hoping to improve your soil.

Enough for Now. . .

We seem to be on a roll here, so next week we will look at using organic fertilizers on your Thuja Green Giant hedge.

A Fertilizer Program for Thuja Green Giant – Part 1

When we plant a Thuja Green Giant hedge or screen, we want fast, strong growth. That is why we chose such a fast-growing tree. Usually hedges are put in for privacy, and it is hard to really feel at home in the garden until that lush green wall goes up, keeping the outside world truly outside, and screening us from unsightly views, traffic noise, wind, drifting snow, and even the entry of unwanted animals into our gardens. So it makes sense, right from the start, to have a well-planned fertilizer program in place, so that the growth of our new hedge is fast, lush, healthy and durable. There are many products on the market, all claiming to be ‘the best’ fertilizer available. It is a great help to understand the basics, so that the label can give us some real information, and we can read past the advertising and get exactly what we need. Let’s begin with some basics:

The Big Three Plant Nutrients

Plants are very different from animals, and the first thing to realize is that the food groups and vitamins we need have no relevance at all to plant nutrition. Plant live on minerals from rock, dissolved in water, making everything else they need from them, from carbon dioxide in the air, and from the energy of the sun, unlocked by the process of photosynthesis. The only part of that we have any control over is those minerals, and plants use just three in significant quantities. These are the represented by the three numbers seen in the fine-print on fertilizer packaging, called the Fertilizer Ratio, and looking like ’20-20-20’ or ’12-5-15’.

Nitrogen

If we want an analogy with our own diet, nitrogen is the protein of the plant diet. It is the nutrient used the most, and indeed, it does go into all the proteins needed by plants, which are not as numerous as they are for us. The main plant proteins are all enzymes for growth. As well, nitrogen makes DNA, and the pigment chlorophyll for photosynthesis. From a practical viewpoint, we can see immediately that for plants to grow, cells must divide, and each dividing cell needs DNA. As well, without chlorophyll, no growth can take place. So nitrogen is the growing nutrient, encouraging new shoots, green leaves, and in our Thuja Green Giant, nice long stems, of a rich green color, and quick recovery after trimming.

High levels of nitrogen are found in all general-purpose hedge fertilizers, and you should look for a big first number in the Fertilizer Ratio.’20’ or ‘30’ are numbers that indicate a fertilizer bursting with nitrogen. When you use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, it is easy to overfeed, and encourage soft growth, easily damaged by cold or insects. In extreme cases it is even possible to kill plants completely, as is seen when you spill some lawn-food on the grass, leaving a dead patch. So always follow the directions for dilution and frequency of application. In this case a ‘little extra for good luck’ can have exactly the opposite effect.

Phosphorus

This mineral is the second most important one for your hedge, because it develops strong root-systems, and balances the tendency of nitrogen to stimulate soft growth that is sensitive to cold, and more easily attacked by pests. Phosphorus is used by your plants as another essential component of DNA, so it is found in all the growing tips of both roots and shoots. Since a plant has a lot more roots than shoots, it needs a lot more phosphorus for the root-system than it does for the top growth. Phosphorus is the second number in that Fertilizer Ratio, and you will find big numbers, sometimes as high as 52.

Your soil conditions are just as important as how much phosphorus there is in the box, because soil pH – its acid/alkaline balance – plays a big part in making soil phosphorus soluble, and so able to be taken up by plants. Slightly acid soils, with a pH of 6.5, have the best uptake, and if you have very alkaline or very acidic soil, you may not get the full benefit of the phosphorus fertilizers you use.

Thuja Green Giant uses phosphorus to make strong roots, establishing itself well when newly planted, and sending roots deep into the ground to give drought resistance and the ability to absorb all the nutrients needed for optimal growth. For this reason, extra phosphorus, in the form of superphosphate, is recommended when preparing your planting areas. Work all phosphorus fertilizers well into the soil. they dissolve slowly, and only move a few inches a year through the soil. So scattered on top as an after-thought, once planting is over, really is a complete waste of time.

Fertilizers sold as ‘starter’ or ‘planting’ aids usually have lots of phosphorus, and they are ideal for feeding freshly-planted trees. Use them during the vital first few months of growth. They really get your plants off to a flying start, and any extra remains in the soil for decades, so it is almost impossible to over-use phosphorus fertilizers.

Potassium

The last number in that Fertilizer Ratio stands for Potassium. This mineral is not used by the plant to make any structural components of its cells, but it is used inside the cell to keep everything rigid and strong, and its presence stimulates plant cells to build big, sturdy cell walls. This protects them from insects and cold. So you will see large numbers for potassium in ‘fall fertilizers’, designed to bring the growth of your hedge to a conclusion for the season, strengthening and thickening the stems, and increasing cold-hardiness and resistance to being pushed over by snow and ice. Plenty of potassium is especially important if you grow your Thuja Green Giant in colder zones, because cold-hardiness is an important aspect of good health for your hedge.

Enough for now. . .

That’s a lot to absorb, if  you will excuse the pun, so in the second part of this blog series we will take a look at the minor nutrients, which play an important part in the color and vigor of your hedge, even though they are not shown among the ‘big three’ nutrients in your fertilizer.

Seven Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

So you want to grow a screen or tall hedge, right? And you are trying to decide which plant you should choose. Well here are some good reasons – seven of them – why Thuja Green Giant remains the top choice of gardeners across the country looking to plant a screen or hedge.

7 Reason why Thuja Green Giant is the right choice:

  • Fastest growing evergreen available – grows at least 3 feet a year when young
  • Adaptable to a wide range of climates – all the way from zone 5 to zone 9
  • Resistant to deer – usually ignored, so no need for deer-proof fencing
  • Grows in most soils – whatever your soil, this tree will grow for you
  • Lush and green all year round – no browning or bronzing in winter
  • Grows in partial shade – will grow densely with sun for just half the day
  • Pest and disease free – significant problems almost never seen

Screening is important in our gardens. Privacy means we can relax, and the enclosure created by a tall screen gives our gardens that sense of intimacy and completeness that is so important. Planting screening is often the first step in laying out your garden. Once that is established, you can move on to decorate the space inside, taking advantage of the shelter from strong winds it will give you. Inside a sheltered area it can be a whole zone warmer than your official ‘post-code’ zone number. So let’s look at Thuja Green Giant, and see more about why it should be your top choice.

Fastest growing evergreen available

This is not just a claim by a salesman. Some years ago, the horticulture scientists at the University of Arkansas planted a wide range of hedging plants. These were small plants, placed out in a field. The Green Giants outgrew every other plant, growing into dense, upright bushy plants 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide in just 7 years. Starting with larger specimens, you will have a 10 tall, solid hedge or screen in no more than 5 years, and the first 5 or 6 feet happen in the first two or three growing seasons, especially if you use a fertilizer program and water regularly.

Adaptable to a wide range of climates

All the way from zone 5, where winter temperatures can fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, all the way south and east into zone 9, where summer is long and hot, Thuja Green Giant will thrive. This is because it is a hybrid plant, created from two wild species of arborvitae. Hybrid plants display all the most vigorous genes, and mask the weakening ones, so these plants are tougher and faster-growing than either of their parents. Isn’t Nature wonderful?

Resistant to deer

While deer have minds of their own, and can eat almost anything when hungry enough, they almost always leave the Green Giant alone. This is quite different from other arborvitae (Thuja species), which are typically eaten by deer on a regular basis. If you see a general statement that ‘arborvitae are not deer-resistant’, that doesn’t apply to Thuja Green Giant, which is not attractive to them at all. Even if some light grazing does happen, the growth-rate is so fast that it will grow back in a few weeks, once spring comes.

Grows in most soils

We all know about plants that need specific types of soil, such as ‘acid soil’, or ‘sandy-loam’, and that will grow poorly in anything else. Because of its hybrid vigor, this doesn’t apply to Thuja Green Giant. Not at all. In almost any soil type, from sandy to clay, and from acid to alkaline, this evergreen grows well. Of course, in sandy soils you will need more water and fertilizer, and some clay soils are regularly saturated with water, which is not good for most plants. If you do have more ‘extreme’ soil, put a little more into soil preparation, by adding lots of rich organic material, which holds water and nutrients in sandy soil, improves the drainage in clay soils – and counters high alkalinity too.

Lush and green all year round

Especially in colder regions, winter is a long, dull season, with not much happening in the garden. So evergreen plants are great, because they stay green, and make the garden look brighter. The last thing you want is to have your lush, green hedge turn bronzy-brown as soon as colder weather sets in, and stay that way until all the new spring growth has flushed out. Sadly, quite a lot of the traditional hedging plants do exactly that. Not the Jolly Green Giant, who stays a bright, rich-green throughout the winter, with no yellowing or bronzing, brightening the garden all winter long.

Grows in partial shade

Most evergreens do very badly in shade. Some that do grow well in it, such as yew trees, or hemlock, are slow-growing, so usually they are only used in the deepest shade. If you have moderate shade, with some direct sunlight for part of the day during spring and summer, then rather than use those slow-growing plants, pick Thuja Green Giant. It will grow vigorously and stay dense even in 50% shade, standing apart from other arborvitae and most other evergreens. If you have a lot of beautiful shade trees on your property, the chances are that the places you want hedges and screening will not be in full sun. Simply by choosing Thuja Green Giant you know that your hedge will turn out great.

Pest and disease free

Some other arborvitae are very prone to pests and diseases. Some plants like Leyland Cypress were widely planted in the past, only to fall to disease in many parts of the country. if you are planting a new hedge, or replacing an old one, Thuja Green Giant is an excellent choice, because it is much less susceptible to pests and diseases that most other hedge plants. Even the most reputable university and school sites say ‘No serious insect or disease problems’ when describing this plant. Yes, it is possible to have some attack by the insects called ‘bagworms’, which are caterpillars that strip branches of their leaves. But like a deer attack, because of the fast growth-rate of this tree, any damage will quickly be replaced by new growth. It is also possible, if the soil you plant in is almost constantly wet, that root-rot diseases will strike. But that will happen with almost every tree in those conditions, and it is the one time where another plant is the best recommendation for a hedge.

 

Taken overall, these are seven very sound reasons for choosing Thuja Green Giant for a hedge or screen – it’s hard to go wrong with this remarkable evergreen.

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.

Extending the Life of Your Hedge

Don’t end up like this. . .

Hedges have a long life, but sooner or later they can reach the end of that life, and become just too big. Disease may strike, or a severe storm, but the biggest problem is usually that they become too broad. No matter how tightly we trim, we end up adding a little width each year, until eventually the hedge encroaches on our garden, neighbors’ property, or public spaces such as sidewalks. Some novice gardeners try to control this by cutting back hard, leaving bare branches, but for almost all hedges this simply doesn’t work. The main problem is that all the commonly-used plants, like cedar and arborvitae, cannot sprout new growth from bare wood. They can only regenerate from wood with some foliage still on it, and hard cutting back usually means the end of your hedge. To prevent this, and keep your hedge healthy and functional for decades, it is vital to control the width before that point of no return is reached. Otherwise, you are looking at significant labor and costs removing an old hedge and re-planting, as well as several years waiting for the new hedge to grow.

Tips on Extending the Life of Your Hedge

  • Trim right from the start – to build a dense structure
  • Keep an inward sloping face – to maintain growth to the ground
  • Keep the top narrow – to reduce the risk of ice and snow damage
  • Maintain good health –fertilize regularly at the right times
  • Protect from drought – especially in the early years

If you do have to remove an old hedge, then growing a speedy replacement is usually high on the list, and that is where Thuja Green Giant steps up – the fastest thing on roots, this reliable evergreen is the number-one choice among knowledgeable gardeners to replace a hedge that has been removed. Forward planning is important, so let’s consider some ways we can extend the life of an existing hedge, one newly planted, or an older one that you have been tending for some time.

Build a Dense Structure

The biggest mistake, and the most common one too, of inexperienced hedge-growers, is to leave trimming until the hedge is as tall as you want it. If you do this the internal structure of your hedge will be weak, with a small number of very tall, straight branches reaching upwards. These tall branches are vulnerable in several ways, chiefly to bending outwards and snapping if the upper part is weighed down with snow or ice, or if fierce winds dislodge them from the hedge. Once these branches go, big spaces are left open, and the visual effect of your hedge is lost. It is hard to fill in these large gaps once they develop, and it can mean the end of your hedge.

The solution is to lightly trim the top of your hedge, beginning as soon as it is planted, and continuing throughout the growing phase of its development. This encourages lots of internal branching, so that no part of your hedge is vulnerable to opening out and creating a big gap. Any pieces that could become dislodged will be small, and smaller spaces fill in quickly from lateral growth by the surrounding parts of the hedge.

Create the Right Profile

This is the best way to extend the life of your hedge, and it is something to pay attention to from the moment you plant your hedge. The correct profile for a hedge should be a tall narrow pyramid. The base should be wider than the top, and the top should be kept as thin as possible. There are several ways to achieve this, either by free-hand trimming or using a wooden guide you can assemble at home. Even just holding up a long spirit level will show you if you are leaning inwards or not. Whatever way you choose to check it, keeping that inward lean will serve several purposes. Most importantly, it will let light reach the lowest branches, and so keep them vigorous and healthy for decades. Once the top growth widens, it will draw up water and nutrients, starving and shading the lower parts, as your plant aspires to become a full-sized tree. When you are trimming, you should expect to remove considerably more growth from the top, which is more vigorous, than from the bottom. If you aren’t, that is probably a warning that you are not trimming enough from the upper parts.

Go for a Narrow Top

The biggest danger to any hedge, especially a tall one, is breakage from snow and ice. If this builds up on the top, then it can split the growth and pull down branches.  They may in turn break, or if that doesn’t happen, be forever after prone to falling outwards and ruining the look of your hedge. Building internal structure will reduce this risk, but in addition it is important to maintain as narrow a top as possible. A lot of people pay attention to cutting the top rounded, rather than flat. This is important too, but not as much as keeping a narrow top. Rounded or square, a width of less than a foot, even on a very tall hedge, will help it survive the worst storm.

A Healthy Hedge is a Durable Hedge

A good fertilizer program throughout the life of your hedge is the best insurance against an early death. Sturdy growth, resistant to pests and diseases, and able to grow vigorously, is important not just in the years of development, but for the mature hedge too. Just as our own diet, or that of our pets, should change as we grow older, so for your hedge that high-nitrogen diet of youth should be shifter to something with more potash (potassium) in it as they age. Hedge fertilizers sold for fall use have extra potassium, and they can be used all season on a hedge that has reached its full size. You will get less extension growth, which means less trimming, and the growth you do get will be denser and more compact – better able to resist harsh weather, drought, pests and diseases too.

Don’t Forget the Water

During the establishment phase of your hedge, periods of drought mean periods without growth, so they add time to that needed for your hedge to reach the size you want. Drought also weakens the plants, and in severe cases can lead to death, even in a hedge that has been in place for several years. Although watering in fall, winter or spring will almost certainly be unnecessary after the first few years, a few deep soakings during summer dry periods will really make a difference, not just to the appearance of your hedge, but to its health and longevity too.

 

These are some simple, concrete steps you can take to keep your hedge growing well, and keep it healthy and trim for decades. That big job of hedge replacement can be something only other people have to think about, because you grew yours the right way.

 

 

Summer Care of Thuja Green Giant

Thuja Green Giant is a tough plant – millions of happy gardeners can testify to that. However, that doesn’t mean it is made of steel, and some basic care will make the difference between a relatively poor performance, and an outstanding one. We think of summer as a season of relaxation and fun, and hopefully that is what we will all enjoy, but for plants it can be a season of high stress, with lack of water, high humidity and of course high temperatures all putting pressure on your trees to perform well.

Now for Thuja Green Giant, summer should be a season of growth, and a continuation of that spring spurt, when new shoots emerged rapidly and threw a fresh coating of bright green over plants darkened by months of winter. if water is in short supply, instead that promise of adding a foot or two can turn into a few inches, since without water plants cannot grow. This is especially likely to be a problem in the early years of growth, since mature trees have developed deep, extensive root systems. These allow the tree to draw on water reserves in deeper soil levels, even when the top foot is parched and dry.

Don’t wait until you notice your new hedge looking crisp and brown – by then it is probably too late! Keep an eye on it, check the soil by scraping a little away from the surface, which will always be dry long before lower levels dry out. While it is important not to drown your plants, in summer, dryness is almost always a greater threat.

Soil Preparation

To encourage the deep rooting needed for long-term drought resistance, you need to prepare the soil well before planting. Deep digging when preparing your planting area will make it easy for those roots to begin their journey to lower levels, and encourage them to go down, rather than stay in the shallow upper layers. Smart gardeners dig deeply – 12 inches down is not too much at all. If you cannot easily push a full-sized spade its full length into the ground, then you need more soil preparation. Borrowing or renting a full-sized tiller is a good idea, as by running it over the area several times you can get good, deep soil preparation without the sweat and work of hand-digging. Don’t be fooled by the way a tiller makes the top few inches look good – go over the area several times until the tiller has sunk right down.

Regular Watering

Even with the best soil preparation, it still takes a couple of seasons for your trees to become well established, so plan on regular watering until then, especially during these dry summer months. Newly-planted trees may need watering twice a week if you plant just before or during hot weather. Remember too that thorough watering when you actually plant is important too. No matter the weather, or how wet the soil seems, water deeply when planting. The easiest way to do this is by pausing while returning the soil to the planting holes. After you have replaced and firmed down about two-thirds of the soil, flood the hole with plenty of water. It will drain right down around the roots, not run away across the surface, as can easily happen if you wait to fill the holes with earth before watering. Then you can put back the remaining soil, and leave the surface neat and tidy, without mud everywhere.

Once you have finished planting, plan on watering once a week during cooler weather. Now that summer is here, and especially if you have sandy soil, twice a week is not too much. Regular watering through the growing season will keep your plants growing flat out, not falling to a crawl when the soil around them becomes dry.

A useful way to make watering much easier, if you have planted a hedge or screen of Thuja Green Giant, is to install a porous pipe. These pipes are inexpensive, and look just like a black hose pipe. When they are filled with water it flows gently from them all along the length. Thread one in and out of your hedge, and connect the end to a hosepipe. To water, all you need to do is open the tap, go away, and come back a few hours later to turn it off. An inexpensive timer can be put on the tap to do the whole job for you – even if you are away on summer vacation. You also save a lot of water by this irrigation method, instead of using a sprinkler, where a lot of the water evaporates immediately, especially during hot, windy weather.

Adding a mulch layer over the root zone area will help prevent water from evaporating into the air, and even more importantly, it will keep the soil cooler, which plants enjoy. Most plants like a root zone that is significantly cooler than the atmosphere, as roots grow best at lower temperatures.

Fertilizer

Now that you have taken care of the water needs of your hedge, don’t forget nutrition. Young plants do best on a diet of liquid fertilizer, so stock up on some liquid hedge food. These come either as powder you to a can of water, or as liquids that you also add to a can. Even easier is to use a hose-end applicator, as you can simultaneously water and feed that way, without carrying cans back and forth. Once every two to four weeks from spring to early fall is best during the first couple of years, and your Thuja Green Giant plants will reward you with lush, rich green growth and several feet of it.

Once your plants are better established, you can switch to a slow-release formulation. These granules only need adding once a year, in early spring, so the work is greatly reduced. They release their nutrients steadily, so it is important to get the dosage right. Most come with applicators that make it easy to do that. This is one time when more is not better at all. You may pay a higher price for these types of fertilizer, but the pay-back is in reduced effort for you.

With these simple tips, summer will become a time when your plants put on their best, instead of languishing in dry conditions, and even suffering long-term damage.

Which Thuja Should I Choose – Green Giant or Emerald Green?

When it comes to planting hedges, the most important thing is to make the right choice of plant variety. After all, you are going to live with this hedge for many years, and you are going to invest some money into it – so you want to make the right choice. The evergreens called arborvitae, cedar, or thuja by gardeners are the most widely planted, by a long way. In some areas, you might choose instead Leyland Cypress, Italian Cypress, or even the tough Spartan Juniper, but for most people, in most areas, cedar tops the list.

Comparison of Green Giant and Emerald Green

These two varieties of arborvitae are definitely the most popular varieties to use for hedges, and no wonder. Both are fast growing, generally pest and disease free, and they thrive in a wide range of climatic zones and soils. They both also look very similar. Even though they are different species, it can take an expert to tell them apart. But they certainly perform differently. So what questions should you ask, to help make a choice? Here are the key ones:

  • What zone do I garden in?
  • What type of soil do I have?
  • Are deer a concern?
  • How fast do I want a hedge?
  • How shady is it?
What Zone do I Garden In?

This is the easiest thing to consider, as it might lead to an immediate decision. If you garden in zones 2, 3, or 4, then Emerald Green is your choice. It is the only plant hardy enough to survive your winters, and it will do that easily. Similarly, if you live in zones 8 or 9, then Green Giant is for you, as long as you are able to provide water, especially during the early years. If water is an issue, you might want to look elsewhere, perhaps to Italian Cypress, or a Juniper. If you live in between those extremes, in zones 5, 6, and 7, then you still have choices, because both arborvitae will grow well in those areas, and you should move on to some other considerations.

What Type of Soil Do I Have?

Both Green Giant and Emerald Green are tolerant of a wide range of soils, from sand to clay, and from acid to alkaline. Although it is good to know your soil type, as it is a great help when you choose many other plants, here that basic information is not going to make much difference. When it comes to water however, there is a difference. Both do well in damp soil, but Emerald Green has a definite preference for moisture, so if you have poorly-drained soil, or you get a lot of rain and snow, so your soil is often wet, then that is a slightly better choice. On the other hand, if your soil tends to dry, and you are prone to dry summers, then the tough Green Giant is your friend – standing up to drier conditions better.

Are Deer a Concern?

With this issue, the answer is clear. One of the big failings of Emerald Green is that deer love it, and if that is a problem for you, then choose Green Giant right away. Although deer are always a little unpredictable, and if hungry enough they will eat just about anything, the experience of many gardeners is that under normal conditions they will avoid Green Giant. If you live in a place where the first snow brings deer to your neighborhood, that is the arborvitae for you – a clear winner in this category.

How Fast do I Want a Hedge?

Here too, although both plants are fast-growing trees, everyone agrees that Green Giant is one of the fastest growers around. It will easily add 3 feet a year under reasonable conditions, which is perhaps a foot more than Emerald Green will do. Most people want speed, and a hedge in a hurry, which is why Green Giant is such a popular plant – nothing but grass grows faster!

How Shady is it?

Shade is a fact of life in many gardens, and the last thing we want to do is cut down those majestic shade trees we have around us. On the other hand, especially on a new property, the site can be very open, and the sun shines down relentlessly all day long. This can lead to two problems. One is the obvious summer issue of dryness, and here Green Giant, with its higher drought tolerance, is also the best choice for full sun. If you have a lot of shade, then Emerald Green is just a little more tolerant of that, so other things being equal, it could be a better choice for shade.

The second issue is a winter one. When the weather is cold, it can be hard for plants to draw up enough water. So, when warmed by the sun, the foliage losses water, and if it can’t be replaced, discoloration called ‘bronzing’, and even foliage death, is possible. If you water well in late fall, death is unlikely, but bronzing happens more easily. Emerald Green is more prone to this, so again, if the area you want your hedge is very sunny, then Green Giant is the way to go.

Conclusion

You can see that there are no hard and fast rules here, and there are several things to consider when making this important choice. Perhaps one more general thing to consider is this. Thuja Green Giant is a hybrid plant, a cross between western redcedar and Japanese arborvitae, and hybrid plants are almost always tougher, more vigorous, faster growing and overall the better choice. So if at the end of this exercise you have no clear winner, the best advice is to choose the jolly Green Giant.

As many gardeners have come to realize, this outstanding plant is the top choice, unless other factors are strong enough to swing the scales to something different. It is hard to go wrong with this plant – it’s the safest option for almost everyone.

Seven Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant

Planting a hedge or screen for your garden is a big step – you will be looking at it for a long time, and it will be a backdrop to everything else you do in the garden. Getting it right is important, and that means making the right choice of plant. There are lots of plants suitable for building hedges and screens, but some stand out as top choices. Many gardeners these days are choosing Thuja Green Giant, and there are lots of good reasons they make that choice. Here are seven, and considering them will help you decide if this plant is the right choice for you too.

7 Reasons to Choose Thuja Green Giant:

  • Fastest grower of all – you won’t wait long for results
  • Grows well across a wide area – hardy in all but the coldest areas
  • Tolerant of many different soils – grows well in many different conditions
  • Shade tolerant – grows well in partial shade
  • Always reliably green – beautiful every day of the year
  • Easy to trim and shape – quickly develops a solid structure
  • High pest & disease resistance – stays healthy naturally

Fastest Grower of All

Building good hedges and screens is usually a priority in a new garden. Sheltering your property from wind, roads, or neighbors is top of the list for almost everyone – and makes it possible to truly enjoy your garden. So fast growth is really important to give you that tall, dense hedge as soon as possible. This is where Thuja Green Giant literally stands head and shoulders above the competition. With growth rates of three feet a year easy to achieve with some basic watering and fertilizing, in just a few short years you will be looking at a substantial hedge that gives you the screening you want. No decade-long wait for privacy, no hedges growing a paltry few inches a year. This plant really delivers on the fastest growth possible.

Grows Well Across a Wide Area

You can plant Thuja Green Giant everywhere from zone 5 to zone 9. This covers almost all the continental USA, with the exception of the most northerly parts of the north-east and mid-west. In those areas, the best choice is Thuja Emerald Green, a super-hardy relative of the Green Giant, which will grow well in all the coldest parts of the country.

Tolerant of Many Different Soils

Whatever your soil – sand, loam, silt or clay, Thuja Green Giant will grow well. With the hybrid-vigor coming from its two different parent species, it is tougher and more vigorous than any other Thuja, and soil is not a problem. If you have very sandy soil, or heavy clay, then adding plenty of organic material to the soil when you prepare the planting area will really give your trees the best opportunity to grow well for you. In sandy soil the organic material holds water and nutrients, in clay soil it improves the drainage and air penetration into the soil. These are very beneficial improvements, and energy put into soil preparation is always rewarded by optimal growth.

Even wet soil is not a problem, if it is not constantly wet. Soils that stay damp are tolerated well, and it just means you don’t have to do much watering! Some other hedging plants develop diseases of the root system when the soil is often wet, but this is never a problem with this plant. Only if your soil is permanently wet, such as along a stream or beside a lake, will you need to choose a truly water-loving plant, such as the Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, a deciduous conifer that grows well with its feet right in water.

Shade Tolerant

In many gardens ‘full sun’ is an ideal, not a reality. Once you have some trees growing, areas of shade are inevitable, and your hedge must grow evenly in a wide range of light conditions. Thuja Green Giant does just that. It will grow well in full sun, in areas that are shady for 50% of the day, or with dappled shade, with some sunlight coming through. Only if the shade gets very deep will the growth slow and thin significantly. This means that with a long hedge passing through different light conditions, the growth will be even, and you will be able to easily maintain a level top and a solid hedge. Remember too, that shade from buildings is not the same as overhead shade from trees, so on the north side of a tall building, even if there is very little direct sunlight, growth will still be good, because the light is not filtered by passing through the leaves of taller plants.

Always Reliably Green

Thuja Green Giant is truly evergreen – it doesn’t turn brown or bronzy in winter, as so many other hedging plants do. All year round you will have a beautiful green wall behind your garden, fresh and attractive in the coldest weather. Some evergreens always bronze in winter – the foliage turns brown and dull in freezing weather. Thuja Green Giant stays a healthy green right through the depths of winter, so it always looks great. Note: if plants are not adequately watered, especially if they are newly planted, and at the limits of their hardiness, then drying out of the foliage may occur, turning the branches brown. This is not winter bronzing, but actual death of the branches. Always soak plants in late fall, and in very exposed locations use an anti-desiccant spray for the first few winters after planting.

Easy to Trim and Shape

The soft foliage of Thuja Green Giant is easy and pleasant to trim. No sharp needles to deal with, and if you trim regularly the foliage can just be blown under the hedge as a natural mulch. This tree responds well to trimming, growing denser and denser, making an impenetrable barrier. Just remember the basic rules of hedge trimming – start when young, don’t wait till it reaches full height, and trim the top more than the bottom, to keep the lower parts thick and green.

High Pest & Disease Resistance

After investing both time and money into developing a good hedge, the last thing you want is to have it start dying of pest attacks or diseases. This can happen with some popular plants that are choosy about the climates they like, and can easily be planted in the ‘wrong’ locations. Thuja Green Giant is resistant to major pests and diseases, and if you give it some basic care, it will respond by growing well and never giving you any serious problems at all. You can expect to have a healthy, vigorous hedge or screen for decades to come.