The Q&A Archives: plant timing

Question: we planted 18 small arborvitae (thuja occidental) on first wk of september. is this a good time to plant them, if so what is the best way
to take care of them and make sure they make it till they grow.

Answer: The most important thing you can do to help your new shrubs is make sure they are watered correctly. The soil needs to be evenly moist until it freezes. It should be damp like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet/saturated and not dried out. Whether or not you need to water depends on the weather and the soil where they are planted. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you do water, apply it slowly and thoroughly so it soaks down to the deepest roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far it has soaked in; sometimes it is surprising. It is better to water deeply less often than to water lightly every day.

To help the soil stay evenly moist, mulch over the root area with an organic mulch. It should be applied in a flat layer two to three inches thick year round, covering the root area but not touching the stem or trunk of the plant. The mulch also helps feed the soil as it breaks down slowly over time.

It is too late in the year to fertilize now. In spring, top dress with a good quality compost and/or a granular or slow release fertilizer with an analysis of 10-10-10 or similar. Read and follow the label directions.

Next year, continue watering as needed to keep the soil evenly moist from spring through late fall. Good luck with your arborvitaes!

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