There is a very old joke among landscapers, about the new worker sent to lay some sod. The boss gets a desperate phone call, and the nervous worker asks, “Which way up does it go?” The jaded boss answers in a tired voice, “Green side up, fella.” I am thinking about this joke, because I know that when you are around plants all your life, you can easily forget that new gardeners often need the most basic help, with things that more experienced people simply take for granted. So here, for those of you completely new to gardening, some basic tips that will help you get your new Thuja Green Giant hedge or screen into the ground, and successfully on its way to become that green wall of your dreams. Most of these things are also useful for planting just about anything, so pay attention at the back of the room there!
The Basics of Planting Thuja Green Giant
- Prepare the ground well – soil preparation is the key to success
- Measure carefully – even spacing makes the best look
- Plant at the same depth – don’t bury the root ball deeply
- Water before and during planting – even if it looks damp already
- Keep up the watering – once a week for the first season
Thuja Green Giant is a tough, vigorous plant, that is for sure. But even it needs a good foundation to give you its best. That means putting some effort into preparing the planting area thoroughly. Digging a hole just big enough for the pot is no going to cut it, especially if you plant into hard, heavy soil. What happens above the ground has to be matched below the ground, and you can’t have a big green plant without lots and lots of deep, brown roots. So get a rototiller and some rich organic material and turn it all into the planting area in a strip 3 feet wide. You don’t need to dig out all the old vegetation, just run a mower set low over it, and turn in the grass clippings too. It is very worthwhile, though, to remove the tough roots of perennial weeds, as you don’t want them coming back, which they will if they are left in the ground. As the tiller loosens them and turns them up, pick or rake them from the soil – you will be glad you did. An alternative approach is to spray the strip you plan to dig with a total herbicide, like Roundup, a week before digging. Even if the plants still look green, they will die even if disturbed, and you can simply turn them into the ground along with the compost or manure.
Nothing looks worse than a hedge or screen with uneven spacing between the plants, and not in a straight line. So when you are ready to plant, pull a string tightly between two sticks driven into the ground. Have the string right on the ground and use a tape to mark where each plant is to go. A can of spray paint is an effective way to make a mark where to dig and saves you messing around with stakes. Be accurate, as even a few inches difference will be visible to the eye – after you plant – which of course will mean the messy job of moving plants around, and you don’t want to do that.
Plant at the Same Depth
This is a very important one. Dig your planting hole just deep enough to hold the root ball. Slide the plant out of the pot and with a sharp knife make three cuts an inch deep from top to bottom around the root ball. This is done to prevent the roots spiraling around the stem and strangling it as it grows. Now take a stick and lay it across the planting hole. Place the roots in the hole so that the top of the root-ball is level with the stick. If necessary remove a little more soil, or firmly pack extra soil under the roots until you get the right level. Trust me, this is really, really important.
Use Plenty of Water
More plants die after planting from a lack of water than for any other reason. Don’t let those be yours, and water every pot thoroughly the evening before planting day. Even if the ground is damp, and yes, even if it is raining frogs, water each plant as you put it in the ground. Here is a method of watering that not only gets water deep down, but it very importantly consolidates the ground around the roots, and brings the roots closely into contact with the soil. This means the new roots can grow out quickly, and the root-ball can absorb water from the surrounding soil. A plant that is loose in the ground can become completely dry, even in damp soil, and die. Make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here is what to do. Don’t wait until you have finished planting, before watering, but do each plant as you go along the row. Put back about two-thirds of the soil. Use your boots to push that soil firmly around the root ball, and then add plenty of water. Fill the planting hole to the top. Once the water drains away, put back the rest of the soil. More water is only needed if the soil you dug into was quite dry.
Once you have your new Thuja Green Giant plants in the ground, its time to water regularly. Once a week, or more often in very hot, dry weather, water deeply right onto the root-ball of each plant, letting the water soak down and into the surrounding soil. Soaker hoses are an effective way to do this without having to stand with a hose pipe. Run a soaker hose along the length of your planting, making sure it lies just a few inches from the stems, or even loop it around them loosely. Then run the hose for several hours, until all the soil is thoroughly watered. You can attach a timer to the tap which will take over this job or attach it to an existing irrigation system. The second year you can restrict watering to dry periods, and after that, unless you have extended droughts, you probably won’t need to water very much at all.
These simple steps will establish your plants and make your hedge or screen a great success in just a few years. There is no secret to planting, just a few basic rules that make the difference between success and failure. Now you are set on the road that leads straight to success.