Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2000
Regional Report

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Row covers help protect August transplants.

In The Heat of Transplanting

No gardener likes to have a shabby, dried-to-a-crisp garden - especially when WE feel dried to a crisp as we continue to endure the searing heat. Thankfully, there are flowering plants that love the heat. In my desperation to get something fresh back into my garden in August, I bought some transplants. But how to get them to thrive in this 95F to 100F heat? I didn't want to wait a month or two until the weather cooled to plant. I wanted color immediately. If you're in the same situation, here's what you can do.

Choose the Right Plants

Buy only healthy plants. During hot weather, don't choose plants that are blooming, rootbound, tiny, or overmature. Those plants are fine for cooler-weather transplanting, but not for now.

Get Them Ready

Deeply water the garden area at least 24 hours before transplanting and water the plant well a few hours before transplanting. Transplant at the end of the day, after temperatures cool and the sun is down. This will allow the plant to recover a bit overnight and begin to acclimate itself to its new environment.

Dig the Hole

Dig the hole only as deep as the container and three to four times as wide. This is where most of the feeder roots will extend outward into the native soil. Loosen the soil several inches farther down with a digging fork to provide good drainage for deep, anchoring roots.

Plant Carefully

First, "knead" flexible, smaller containers to loosen the rootball within. Then place your open palm down on the soil in the container, the plant's stem protruding between your first and second fingers. Finally, turn the container over, letting gravity and a sharp jolt do the work. If you must grasp the plant, handle it by its foliage (it can grow more leaves) instead of its stem. Slightly loosen the rootball by pulling and spreading. This will stimulate new root growth. Untangle any circling roots and cut them so they're no longer than the rest of the rootball. Place the rootball in the hole at the same level it was in the container. Backfill the hole with the native soil. Don't add much organic matter, or the plant roots won't extend into the native soil. Better to incorporate the organic matter into the whole planting area during initial preparation and apply more as mulch.

Keep Them Watered

Water the plant well, including sprinkling the foliage. Add some seaweed fertilizer such as Maxicrop to provide natural growth hormones to encourage new root growth. Water the plant well again an hour later or the next morning. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter as mulch, keeping it an inch or two away from the plant stem. Thoroughly moisten the mulch.

Keep Them Shady

Construct a temporary shade structure with floating row covers to shield the plant from the direct sun for up to a week. Water every third day to keep the rootball and surrounding soil moist. If the rootball is mostly nursery potting mix, it'll dry more quickly than the surrounding soil. You want the whole area equally moist, to encourage roots to grow out of the rootball into the soil. Sprinkle the foliage daily in the early evening to refresh the plant, but be sure the moisture will dry off before sunset.

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