You took the big step and planted a new screen or a hedge of Thuja Green Giant, right? Or maybe you have used some as future large specimens in the corners of your garden. Whichever it is, you have made the right choice if you are looking for fast-growing, disease and pest free plants, that even deer leave alone. These first years are the most important ones, because after that your plants will be almost completely self-maintaining, unless you are planning to trim them regularly for a formal look. It’s during these years, especially the first season or two, that the foundations of an easy and successful future for your plants are laid down.
For the Best Growth of Your New Trees:
- Water regularly – it’s vital
- Fertilize properly – use liquid formulations
- Trim right away – establish dense growth early
We will assume you did all the early steps properly – ground preparation, correct spacing, and good planting – but if not, you will find blogs on this site covering all these things in detail – assuming you haven’t actually put them in the ground yet. Here we are going to consider the important steps in caring for your new Thuja Green Giant plants for the first season or two, so they really get going with a bang.
The biggest mistake made is to think that because these are tough, reliable plants, you can just plant them and forget them. Maybe you will get lucky, with good falls of rain spaced out nicely through the season, and everything will be fine if you ‘plant and walk away’. But it’s much better to give some simple basic care until your trees become established, and watering should be at the top of the list. Remember that your plants went into the ground with just the soil from their pots around their roots, and for the first little while that is the only soil available to them. So when the weather turns warm and dry, and the summer sun begins to shine, they will start to lose water from their foliage immediately. The only source for that water is the soil around the roots, although if you have planted well, and firmed the soil around the root-ball, that ball will suck some water out of the surrounding soil too. None the less, even if the soil looks damp, it pays to look after that root ball with a little extra care, until enough time has passed for the roots to grow out.
So once a week, or even twice a week if the weather is hot and dry, go along the row with a hose and let plenty of water trickle down close to the stem, soaking that hidden root-ball. Any excess will drain out into the surrounding soil, and this simple exercise, which doesn’t take long, is the best single thing you can do to guarantee the survival and good growth of your new trees.
Pay attention to the surrounding soil too, as the roots won’t grow out into dry earth. The best way, and the most water-wise, is to run a porous hose along the row of your new hedge, weaving it in and out of the stems as you go. This can stay in place for years, and it will quickly be hidden by new growth. By running the water directly on the ground, you get it exactly where needed, and you don’t lose it to evaporation, which happens with a sprinkler. Connect this trickle hose to a regular line, and turn it on for a few hours, until the water has soaked in and spread sideways. How often you need to do it will depend on the type of soil you have, how hot it is, whether you have used mulch (which is recommended), and how much rain has fallen. Don’t be fooled by light showers – scrape back a little soil to see if it is dry underneath, as it often is after light rain. Keep the soil damp, but don’t water until the soil is looking a little dry, as the roots won’t grow into a swamp!
You probably enriched the soil when you planted – it’s highly recommended – but until the roots grow out that food is not available. Plants grown in containers are fed regularly with liquid fertilizers, and you will get the best growth from your new plants by doing the same. Choose a water-soluble formulation designed for hedges and evergreens, and use it as directed. If the directions are to apply monthly, you will get even better results by halving the concentration and applying every two weeks instead, as this gives a steadier supply of those vital nutrients. Start in mid-spring, as soon as you see signs of new growth, and flowers coming out around the garden, and keep feeding into early fall. Then stop, especially in colder areas, as you want your trees to finish growing in time for the new growth to harden off before winter. In warmer regions you can continue feeding until late fall.
Start Trimming Right Away
Since you want your plants to grow as much as possible, trimming might sound counter-intuitive. Some people wait until their plants have grown to their intended size before beginning to trim, but this is a mistake that can shorten the effective life of your screen or hedge significantly.
The best practice is to trim lightly almost as soon as you plant. Once you see a little new growth, take a sharp pair of shears and trim a little bit off. It doesn’t even have to be an inch of growth, and pay special attention to the top, as it will soon ‘run away’ if it can, leaving the bottom areas thin. This is something that cannot be fixed later, so slow down growth in height just a little, to build up bushy, broad plants that will stay green to the ground for decades. In fact, if your new plants have some wispy long upper growth, trim it back a few inches the same time that you plant.
Your goal should be broad, full plants with many branches right to the ground. Regular light trimming, taking a little more from the top than the sides, will make that happen. Taper the growth inwards a little, so that light reaches right to the bottom, and always do that for the life of your hedge and screen. During the first and second seasons you might want to trim lightly 4 or 5 times during the growing season, and since your plants are still small it won’t take long. Use sharp tools and just remove the tips from the new growth.
These simple steps are just a little extra work but a big investment in a great future for your plants. Your new Thuja Green Giant are going to do most of the work, so give them a helping hand – it’s a small effort that brings big results.