Miss Kirby's KommonSenseTips:
Plant Establishment Guide
Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Mix in organic material (potting soil, cow manure, sphagnum moss, etc.). The amended soil allows more of the fertilizer to be used by the plant. Loose soil is easier for new roots to push through. It's also OK to plant in your existing sand, you'll just have to be more conscientious with your feeding program. Use the extra soil or sand from the hole to build a water ring around the outer perimeter of the new bed.
If you can't see the top of the root system, lay your plant on the ground and remove the excess soil until you find the top of the roots. Some plants sink into the soil as they grow, and you should NEVER have soil or mulch on the stem. If you err in your planting depth, always err on the shallow side as you can always add mulch.
Take your plant, pot and all, and firmly place it in the hole. This prevents damaging the root system while confirming the size and depth of the hole; it also compacts the soil in the hole. Remember to allow the top 10% of the root system to be above the soil level. This allows enough room for your mulch NOT to touch the stem of the plant. Remove your plant from the grow pot, place it in the hole, and while the water is gently coming out of the hose, back-fill with the mixed soil or sand. This prevents air pockets and ensures that the root ball and surrounding ground is thoroughly soaked.
Give your Plant its first Meal
Wherever it puts new roots, it will find the nutrition and encouragement to grow into its new home. Fertilize a ring 6 to 8 inches wide, from the outside edge of the existing root ball, all the way around with our Root Ball Special (RBS) 4-24-4. Do this evenly, like peppering eggs, at about 1/4 cup per 3 gallon plant. Annuals or flowering plants love 1 teaspoon of Osmocote in the bottom of the hole; to them it's like catnip is to cats. Certain plants prefer to have Walpole Wonder fertilizer mixed with the RBS. See Miss Kirby’s Fertilizer Guide for everything you want to know about fertilizer but were afraid to ask.
Applying Mulch - Watch those Stems!
Mulch with high quality, non-floating, thatching premium Cypress mulch (you'll probably only re-mulch once a year). This has the following advantages: the roots of the plant are covered, the stem has plenty of air circulation, the soil stays evenly moist, the soil is easier to re-hydrate. It protects the plant roots from heat, cold, dryness; the stem from weed whacker damage, and keeps the weeds down. Pre-emergent herbicide helps, and what weeds do come up are easy to pull. Apply mulch 4" deep for trees or large plants; 3 inches for bushes and 1 inch for annuals. Absolutely DO NOT mulch near the stem of the annuals. Start the mulch at the base of the plant to just cover the root ball. Increase the depth as you get further away, until you are at the proper mulch depth to the outside edge of the bed, which should be 3 inches wider than the size you want the plant to finish at. for trees, mulch 12 inches beyond the existing drip edge.
for the first week, water the entire mulched area, including leaves, every day; by hose, irrigation system always set at 60 minutes, or by Mother Nature. for the second week, water every other day, and for the third and fourth weeks, water every third day. To confirm that the water is wetting the soil below the existing root ball, take a shovel straight down into the ground at the edge of the bed, wiggle it, pull it out, then put your hand to the bottom and feel for moisture.
Watering and Nurturing your New Plants
By week 4, new growth should indicate that the plant is settled in. Once the plant is established, water every other day during the summer, with your irrigation system set at a minimum of 60 minutes. Mist in the afternoon if plants wilt. During the winter, water every 3rd to 5th day. Water according to soil conditions. If Mother Nature does not provide a deep soaking rain in 10 days, run your irrigation system for two hours. Deep watering followed by allowing the ground to dry down to the bottom of the root system makes deep roots. If your new plant drops older bottom leaves or withers, it's usually lack of water, so water it and the surrounding area thoroughly. If it’s dying from the top down, it’s usually too much water and / or root problems.
Keep the circle you made around the plant weed-free and grass-free. The top of the plant needs carbon dioxide, and the root system needs oxygen (not air pockets, just a porous soil).
Check in two weeks to confirm that your plant has not settled too deep. It's very important that stems have air circulation and roots have moisture. The larger and heavier the plant, the more it will settle. DO NOT allow any mulch on your stems!
CITRUS NOTE: Select a site that's well drained and high. Find the top of the root system and plant with the top half inch exposed. I like to mulch lightly for appearance. Remember, top 1/2 " of root must be exposed.
PALM NOTE: As palms continually grow new primary roots and get food from old ones, remove only damaged roots.