Monthly Archives: May 2019

Watering Thuja Green Giant – Everything You Need to Know

How and when to water plants is always an issue, and one of the most common basic questions about Thuja Green Giant, and almost every other garden plant as well. It is said that in Japan an apprentice gardener had to work for 7 years before being allowed to water plants, so if you find it a tough issue, no wonder!

Thuja Green Giant is certainly a sturdy and reliable evergreen, but it too needs the right amounts of water, at the right times, so let’s take a look at the issues around watering properly, to have the greatest success.

Watering Before Planting

Good planting is the key to success with almost all plants, and Thuja Green Giant is no exception. When it comes to watering, there are two key things to keep in mind, and to do. The first ‘rule’ is never to plant a dry tree. If the root ball inside the pot is dry, the roots exposed to the air when you take off the pot will quickly dry, and they can die. As well, a dry root-ball can repel water, so it is easy for it to still be dry after you have planted – something that should definitely be avoided.

The best way to make sure these problems don’t happen is to water your plants, in their pots, thoroughly the evening before you are planning to plant them. Just give each pot a thorough soaking, allowing plenty of water to flow through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If the plant is very dry, even that may not be enough, as a dry root-ball will shrink away from the pot, allowing water to flow through without wetting the soil much at all. If you think your plants are very dry, then take a large bucket, fill it ¾ with water, and place the plant and pot into the bucket. It may float for a while, but don’t worry, soon it will sink and become thoroughly wet. After 15 minutes to half an hour, lift it out, allowing the water to flow back into the bucket, and then place it on the ground to finish draining. Repeat as necessary until all your plants are properly wetted. Good job!

Watering During Planting

Now you have good moist root-balls, you are ready to plant. Here too, some people make the mistake of waiting to water until they are all finished. Then a quick splash with a hose is all that happens. No, there is a better way. You want to have the water deep in the soil, around the root-ball, to attract those roots outwards. So when you have put back about 2/3 thirds of the soil, firm it down around the roots, and then fill the hole to the top with water. Wait for that to drain away, and then put back the rest of the soil. You really don’t need to water again, unless the soil you are planting into is very dry. So no muddy puddles, just a neat finish to your planting, and plenty of water where it is needed.

Watering After Planting

Follow-up watering is vital for the successful establishment of your new Thuja Green Giant, and there are several factors to consider.

  • Time of year – if you are planting in spring, the warm weather and rapid growth of your plants means regular watering is needed. Once a week should do it. If you plant in summer, make that twice a week. If you plant in fall or winter, you may not need to water at all, although if you don’t see much rain, soaking every couple of weeks is worthwhile.
  • Type of soil – if you have sandy soil it will not hold much water, and it will dry fast (you probably already have experienced this!). You should increase the frequency of watering new plants accordingly. For example, newly planted trees in sandy soil in summer may need water every second day for the first couple of weeks, and then twice weekly for the first month. At the other end, don’t be fooled by clay soil. Although it looks sticky and wet, it becomes effectively dry to plants quicker than a loam soil does. Clay will bake hard and crack, which you don’t want, so keep to a good watering schedule with it.
  • Weather conditions – this one is just common sense. If you have unusually hot weather, you need to water more frequently.

So here is what to do: Water once a week for the first two months – allowing extra or less based on the points just raised. Then reduce that to every two weeks for the rest of the first growing season. In the second season, water whenever the soil looks dry for the top few inches. Don’t be tricked by thunderstorms and sudden downpours of rain, as these often only wet the top inch, and most of the water simply runs away into the drains.

How to Water

Now you know when to do it, here is how. Water should always be applied slowly, so although standing with a hosepipe spraying water can feel like a ‘good deed’, it is not very effective. Much better is to place a trickling hose a few inches from the base of your plants, and let it run for a while. The water will spread outwards, but more importantly, downwards, and everything will be well-soaked. Not only is this better for your plants, but you use less water too, as hand-sprays lose a surprising amount of water to evaporation, especially on a hot, dry day. When it comes to watering, slow and steady always wins out.

If you have a hedge, this method can take some time, so invest in a length of leaky pipe. This low-cost piping sheds water all along its length, and it can be coiled around and along a row of plants and left in place. Simply connect it to a hosepipe and turn it on for as long as it takes for the whole area to look wet. Once you have an idea how long it takes for your particular situation, you can install a simple timer on the tap, and it will do the job once a week without you having to do anything at all – what could be simpler?

About this time of year, in spring, a common distress call is about hedges that haven’t gone through the winter well. This is especially common if they were freshly planted in the fall before, and perhaps winter was severe, or very dry, or just not mild and pleasant. You step outside and see that your new Thuja Green Giant hedge is looking sad. Maybe there are some dead or brown twigs, the foliage looks yellow, maybe a few plants have been pushed over by heavy snow falls, and despite this being a tough and reliable plant, that is not what you are seeing! But don’t worry – this really is a tough plant, and with a bit of TLC you can soon have them back on their feet and growing strongly.

Get Your Thuja Green Giant Plants Growing Strongly

  • Firm them down and straighten them up – frost and snow can shift them around, and loosen the roots
  • Feed your trees and your soil – if you are planting in poor soil, adding soil microbes will bring it to life
  • Water – deep watering will get everything going – repeat each week for the first season
  • Put down a rich mulch – this will conserve moisture and feed both the soil and the plants
  • Tidy and trim – remove any dead or broken twigs, and trim back the tip to encourage bushy growth

Firm Down Around the Roots

In winter, when the ground freezes, the water in it expands. This lifts and loosens the soil. Sometimes this can be a good thing – in areas you plan to plant vegetables, for example – but for newly-planted bushes it loosens the root ball and makes it hard for them to send out new roots. New plants need to be in close contact with the surrounding soil, so that new roots can easily spread out from the root ball, exploring for food and water, and anchoring your trees.

If your plants seem wobbly and loose, or are crooked and not straight up, then take hold of the stem halfway down, straighten them, and use your foot to press the soil down around the root ball. They should be nice and firm in the ground, and they should be pointing straight up. If you now have footprints, take a cultivator or rake and level out the ground. Now they can get going, and you will have a good straight hedge too.

Feed Your Trees and Your Soil

If you have good soil, and an established garden, and you mulch regularly, then there is nothing wrong with using simple fertilizers that boost the levels of nutrients for your trees. Evergreens like Thuja Green Giant need plenty of nitrogen, so choose something blended for evergreens, which should have a big number at the beginning of the three-part formula on the package.

If you are starting a new garden, on a development site, or an area that has had a lot of construction activity, the chances are that the soil will be depleted. Not just of nutrients, but also of the necessary micro-organisms that create the complex soil cycles. These both break down nutrients and make them more available for your plants. There are several products available, but one of the best is Bio-Tone organic fertilizers. These blend natural, organic sources of nutrients, including those all-important micro-nutrients, with a range of specialized bacterial spores, which germinate in the soil and establish colonies. These release the nutrients, and also begin the natural development of the soil ecosystem.


How often have you read the importance of watering? Well it’s true – plants can’t grow without water, especially when they are newly planted. I likely reason your Thuja Green Giant don’t look good in spring is if they were not deeply watered in late fall – something you should always do. So make up for it with a good, deep soak this spring. Rather than standing with a spray on your hose, set it up to run slowly beside the base of each plant, so that the water penetrates deeply.

Even better is to install a simple irrigation system. The easiest, yet one that is very effective, is a leaky pipe system. These are black pipes made of a porous material, that drip water all along their length. They are perfect along a hedge, undulating like a snake between the trunks, and covering further out too. You can even put a timer on the tap and set it to come on for a few hours once a week – maybe twice during hot, dry weather if your hedge is new.

Put Down Some Rich Mulch

Hopefully you added some rich organic material when you were planting, but even if you did – and especially if you didn’t – putting down a layer as a mulch is a great idea. Materials like garden compost, rotted cow, horse or sheep manures, mushroom compost, or even rotted leaves, are much, much better for your soil than using bark chips, shredded bark or pebbles. Those material might reduce water loss, but they do nothing for your soil. Rich materials build richer soil over time, and that is the secret to having your plants grow well.

A mulch layer should be 2 or 3 inches thick and cover well outside the area around the stem. Keep it away from the stems, and off the foliage, as it can rot the leaves and damage the bark. This layer will also reduce weeds, as the last thing you want is for your new hedge to have to compete with weeds for water and nutrients. Mulch can go down in late fall or early spring, and it should be renewed every few years, as it will decompose into the soil over time – which is a good thing.

Tidy and Trim the Plants

Once you have taken care of everything else, finish up by going over each plant with your pruners. Snip out any dead or damaged branches, and ones where the leaves have turned dry and brown right to the ends. This will not only make them look a whole lot better, but it will leave some room for new growth, and often stimulate it too. Thuja Green Giant will not re-sprout from branches with no leaves on them, so don’t leave any stumps. Then snip off the ends of the growing branches and straighten up the top by cutting back to all the same height. Regular trimming during the growing phase of a hedge is needed to build a strong internal structure, so don’t just let it grow to your desired height and then start trimming – that‘s a common mistake.

Now you have done all these things – which won’t take so long – you can look forward to seeing some strong growth on your new hedge, and a quick recovery to the beauty and vigor that this plant is capable of delivering.

If you do a little research, you will usually find that Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae is listed as an evergreen that needs full sun. Yet look around, and you will see good specimens and hedges of this plant growing pretty well in shade – so what’s going on?

To understand this a little better, we need to look more closely at the different types of shade in gardens. Understanding this will help you grow not only Thuja Green Giant, but all your other plants too. Basically, there are three or even four distinct types of shade found in gardens, and each of them has a different effect on plants growing in them. Once you understand the differences you will see why it is that you see the same plant doing well in shade in one place, and badly in another, including plants of Thuja Green Giant.

Types of Shade – One: Open Shade

The first type of shade we find is what is often called open shade. What is ‘open’ about it? Simple – just look up. Can you see the sky, free of tree branches or any other obstructions? If you can, then you are looking at open shade. Even though the direct rays of the sun don’t come through, the atmosphere scatters and spread the light, and all the wavelengths of sunlight are present, in a very similar balance to direct light. This is important, and it explains why many plants will grow well in these locations. We find this kind of shade on the north side of buildings (or south side, if you are reading this in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or most of South America) and in the shadow zone cast be trees, most noticeably between fall and spring.

Sunlight contains all the wavelengths and colors of visible light – all the colors of the rainbow. Plants use mostly red, and some blue light, but not green light. This is why they look green – the green part of the light is reflected back to our eyes, and the other colors are absorbed for photosynthesis and growth. Open shade gives plants all the necessary colors, just less of them, so growth is possible, even if it is reduced. Indeed, many plants grow very well in open shade – hydrangeas for example. Especially in hot states, and in the south, some plants prefer to be in open shade, since the very strong sunlight can burn the leaves and inhibit growth.

So if you want to grow Thuja Green Giant in a place in open shade, it may grow well. Not as fast as in full sun, and it may not be quite as dense, but this reliable plant will survive and grow, especially if it gets a few hours of direct sunlight, as we will discuss a bit further down.

Types of Shade – Two: Overhead Shade, Deciduous Trees

If you look up in this kind of shade, you will see that it comes from tree branches overhead. These may be solid and dense, or they may be more open and showing some blue sky. They may be close overhead, or high up above you. The denser and closer they are, the less light there will be. This kind of shade has another disadvantage. Most of the light that reaches the ground has passed through the leaves, and the valuable red and blue colors have been extracted by the chlorophyll. This creates that lovely cool look in shady spots – at least to us – but for plants growing in these areas the light has less value, because a lot of the ‘photon goodness’ has been taken out before it reaches them. This is why plants that will grow happily in open shade will grow less well in overhead shade.

Now, the shade from deciduous trees has some advantages, because in spring most trees are slow to leaf out, allowing much more direct sunlight through. In fall too, after the leaves have gone, light comes through, and in warmer, southern areas this is especially helpful in winter, where temperatures may be warm enough for plants to still be growing slowly. So a Thuja Green Giant, planted in the overhead shade from deciduous trees, especially in a warmer zone, may still do OK. It will certainly be a bit thin and more open, but with some trimming it should be possible to keep a reasonable look to it.

Types of Shade Three – Overhead Shade, Evergreen Trees

Now we come to the really difficult shade, the sort of thing you find underneath a big old spruce or fir tree, or a laurel bush. Not only are many evergreens very dense, allowing very little light through, but the shade is unrelenting, just as dense in fall, winter and spring as it is in summer. Gardeners know from experience just how few plants will grow in these conditions, especially if the branches are low and close to the ground. Here, Thuja Green Giant is simply not going to make it, so use something more shade tolerant, like Yew or Plum-yew (Cephalotaxus).

Types of Shade Four – Seasonal Shade

Most of us know that the sun is in the sky for longer in summer than in winter – pretty basic stuff. As well, the sun is higher in the sky in summer, especially between the two equinoxes, March 21 and September 21. Each day up until June 21 the sun is a little higher, and then it goes lower again, until everything turns around on December 21 and starts again. So if you look at your garden in winter you will see a lot of shade, from buildings and the long shadows of trees, especially evergreen ones. But as the shadows shorten, areas that were in shade are now in full sun, and this coincides with the growing season too. If you plant Thuja Green Giant in a spot that is only shady in winter, it will grow almost as well as in a spot that is sunny all year, because most of the growth happens between spring and fall, even though the plant is evergreen. If you want to know if you can make a hedge with this great plant, or plant a specimen or two, it is best to look at the available light during the summer period, as any shade in winter has very little effect.

Ah, I See. . .

It’s obvious that shade is a complex subject, and simply rules like ‘grow in sun’ have to be thought through in each garden, and the areas more closely identified. Then you will be able to plant more effectively and get ‘the right plant in the right place’. Hopefully that will mean that you can grow Thuja Green Giant in more places than you thought possible.

Planning and Laying Out Hedges

Hedges are a critical part of a garden, providing privacy and shelter. Gardens inside hedges are warmer that exposed ones, and they allow you to grow a wider range of plants, especially ones at the limits of their hardiness. With a more private garden you will find yourself using it more, and feeling more relaxed, knowing you are not the object of casual – or deliberate – gazes. Planning those hedges is therefore an important job, and one often done at the start of creating a garden. Often, though, we see hedges that have not been planned well, and that don’t serve the intended purpose as well as they might, and can lead to problems with neighbors, your city, or just within your family. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the planning stage of hedge planting.

Follow These Tips for the Perfect Hedge

  • Decide where they are needed – spend some time figuring out exactly where you need the screening and shelter. Wind direction can be important.
  • Space back from property lines – make sure all your hedge is yours. Anything hanging over a neighbor’s land can legally be cut off, and that could be most of your hedge.
  • Find the minimum effective height – a bit of simple math will show you exactly how high you need to go – it may be less than you think.
  • Create Internal Screens too – creating garden rooms with hedges turns a large, open property into a wonderful series of varied spaces

Where Do You Need That Hedge?

If we split the main functions of hedges into their parts, we can look at privacy, screening and shelter. These goals may conflict, or they may mesh with each other. Reconciling them with the best outcome is obviously a good idea!

Privacy is usually the more obvious need, and it may also be the easiest to satisfy. Stand in your garden and look around – do you look onto a highway or road? Are there windows overlooking you? If there are, is this a part of your garden where that matters? After all, in the front yard may want to be seen – remember that important ‘curb appeal’ – and most of us don’t use the front garden for private activities anyway. If you do plant a hedge, just to mark your boundary, the chances are that you won’t want it tall, and 2 or 3 feet will probably be best. You might also want to consider something informal, like a row if flowering shrubs, all of a similar size.

As well, if you only have a few points where your privacy is invaded, then maybe a cluster of upright evergreens will do the job, without a full hedge. The same is true of ugly views – maybe you don’t need a complete hedge to obscure it, and can be more casual, with clusters of evergreens strategically placed. Working with another person to see just where you need to be to give you the desired screening is a good way to go with this.

When it comes to shelter, and reducing wind, you need to first off all find out the direction of the prevailing winds where you live. Maybe you need shelter from cold winds in spring and winter, or maybe hot, dry ones in summer. Neighbors may know but try your local weather station for the best information on this. Then use a compass to figure out that direction. To be effective in filtering wind, a hedge needs to cut across the wind direction at right-angles, or close to it. This may or may not correspond to your property boundaries, so some creative design might be needed! There really is no hard-and-fast reason why a hedge has to run along a boundary.

Set Your Hedges Back from the Property Line

A common error when planting hedges is to plant along the property line. This can seem like a good idea, as it leaves you with the most space. The problem is that it puts everything over the line onto your neighbor’s land. That might not be a problem at first, but if that property chances hands, you have no idea of what could happen. In most places a neighbor can cut back everything overhanging their property, and if your hedge is throwing shade, for example, they may do just that, leaving you with a very poor hedge indeed.

Much better is to run the planting line at least 3 feet inside the property line, and 6 feet it better, especially when planting larger evergreens like Thuja Green Giant. That way it is all yours, or at least, enough of it is to avoid future damage.

Calculate the Height You Need

A simple bit of school math will show you exactly how tall a hedge you need. Say you want to hide the upper windows of a neighboring house. Estimate how high up the top of that window is, and how far away the house is. Then measure how far from the hedge you want to be screened. Use this formula to calculate the height of hedge needed.

Multiply the height of the window by the distance you are from the hedge. Divide the result by the distance away of the house. The resulting number is the height of hedge needed. For example, if you have a window that is 18 feet up, and the house is 100 feet away, then to screen up to 50 feet back from your hedge, you need a hedge that is 9 feet tall. (18×50 ÷ 100).

The taller a hedge is, the more effort and time is needed to trim it. Using this formula will minimize the height you need, and save a lot of trimming time, as well as minimizing any shade effect.

Use Hedges to Create Rooms in Your Garden

Many people think a hedge is just for the property line, and in a smaller garden that may be true. But on a larger property, internal hedges turn a big open space into a series of rooms, making a much more intimate and magical garden. They only need to be about 6 feet tall, and they allow you to separate the different activities – like a vegetable garden from a party/barbeque area, or to create a children’s play zone that is visible from the kitchen window. Or of course to make a retreat, completely private, to find peace in solitude.