Gardening 101: How to Plant (Almost) Everything

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It's a gorgeous Saturday for you (I hope). As spring moves north 10 miles/day, more are beginning to feel the warmer days and cool nights that typify this time of year. We just can't help it. We want to get out and plant something to experience the season of rebirth and renewal. I've already discussed preparing your soil and pots; today, how to successfully plant almost anything.

It comes down to the golden rule of planting:

Dig a hole $10 dollar hole for a $1 plant.

But what does this mean?

Remember when I told you about preparing the soil? Lots of compost and organic material was added to the garden beds. This is part of that $10 hole. Give your plants the very best soil to grow in. Make it easy for them to spread roots and take hold.

There is more to good soil than $10 hole, however. Planting is a time when size matters. And for plants.. wider is more important than deeper. When you're getting ready to put a plant in the ground, look at the size of the root ball: it might be a small 2" cube growing an marigold for your flower garden; it might be a 24" round and 2' deep growing a tree you hope will shade your back yard. The hole you place this plant in should be as deep as the root ball (2 inches or 2 feet) and twice as wide.

Let me back up some. In your nicely prepared garden bed, the hole can be as deep as the root ball. If, however, you're taking up grass and digging a hole to plant that tree? Dig it a bit deeper. Mix all the soil you dig out of that hole with about an equal amount of organic material; scatter some bone meal or blood meal in the bottom of the hole along with some slow-release fertilizer. Then fill the hole partly up again so now it's the same depth as the rootball. Always prepare the soil around a plant before you put it in the ground.

Now back to depth and width. When you put your plant in the soil, the first thing you want those roots to do is to spread out. Stake their claim. Take hold of your dirt and be able to support that plant as it grows. Often the first things the roots will try to do is spread OUT. Remember the last time you spent in a cramped tight space? When given the opportunity, didn't you stretch? Make a WIDE hole for your plants, and they will do the same thing. Then, as the plants get established, they will send roots down into the soil to balance their upward growth.

Now that we've got healthy soil and a properly sized hole, it's finally time to get something in the ground. I like to soak my plants in a bucket of water for a short while before planting. It guarentees that they start their new life well hydrated which should reduce the chance of transplant shock. For six packs and small pots, five minutes is enough. Anything a gallon or larger gets at least an hour drink.

Gently remove your plant from its container. Ok, sometimes removing is not so gently. Make certain to protect the main stem, though; if this breaks there really is no reason to continue trying to plant it is there?  I like to round down the shoulders of this root ball and gently massage the roots a little to get them ready for their new home.

Center your plant in your perfect hole and refill it about 1/3 of the way.  Check the height of your transplant.  If it's a very small plant, it should be even with the top of the soil.  Larger plants should be slightly higher than the surface; as the ground settles they will settle down into place.

When you've check the height of your plant, completely fill in your planting hole, gently pressing the soil down so that your soil makes good contact with the root ball.  Give your plant a good deep drink and step back! 

What about planting seeds? The variables are considerable, so follow the directions on the packet.

Oh, and remember when I said that this is how to plant almost everything?  Tomatoes break the rules.  Next week: how to plant and grow tomatoes. 

Related Reading:

Shadowhelm will be planting a vegetable garden this year. As she contemplates it, she writes:

When I was younger, I used to think that the gardens my parents made were kind of silly.  After all, you can get fruits and vegetables right from the store.  But I've gotten older, and maybe a little wiser.  Having a garden is not necessarily a bad thing.  In some ways, it's a creative thing -- it's just different than writing.  I guess as a writer, I've decided that I need to do something creative, and yet a little mindless.  A vegetable garden is sort of a Zen thing.  You're taking care of something and the work gives your subconscious time to think about all the plots, and the characters, and the current situations that you've been writing about, while at the same time you're doing something physical.

Emily is glad she has resisted planting flowers yet. Check out photos of her back yard this morning.

Claire at Alameda Garden is spending a month propagating plants through rooting, cutting and sowing, lots of sowing. She's on day 18 of her month long tale.

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her mundane life at Deb's Daily Distractions. The garden, both art and mundane, is likely to show up almost anywhere!

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