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.