How to plant a plant

Posted on September 25, 2009 by sonjabarrie

I’m not saying I am an expert by any means but having gardened on three continents and just planted over 35 trees, 55 shrubs and countless perennials in one yard and am in the process of planting another 5 trees, 20 shrubs and another countless perennials in another yard I guess I do have a thought or two about the process.

I know being English means I have the gardening DNA (England is a country full of gardeners even if they only have a yard 10 feet by 10 feet which is the norm!) but being transplanted here to the USA and to a high desert region like Utah means learning a whole new way to garden, again!

The first thing you have to realize when gardening anywhere is that 20 miles from where you are trying to dig a hole is going to be really different from where you are right now.  Sounds crazy but it’s true, every area has its own soil, micro climate, you name it.  I live on the side of the Rocky Mountains (actually called the Oquirrh Mountains at this spot) in a place called Herriman overlooking the Salt Lake Valley.

The soil here is the worst imaginable, solid, baked dry clay with rocks that appears to have no life in it all, I’ve never even found a worm.  There’s an old adage about Herriman, the soil is 90% rocks and the other 10% has rocks in it including the water!  That should give you some idea.  If you have seen any of my other posts about trying to put a plant in or digging out rocks you will have seen the movies.  But I digress.

Herriman soil


Herriman Soil (these rocks were dug out of one small bed!)

My point is, 28 miles away on the other side of the valley where I used to live is a town called Sandy, it’s called this because it sits on sand, literally, even though I lived on the side of the mountain there (the Wasatch Mountains and still part of the Rockies) it was very sandy.  It is also on the fault line which means we needed earthquake insurance and we were told the sand had a “low liquefaction factor” it was still sand with all its inherent problems when planting.

So what do you need to consider when putting in a plant, whether tree, shrub, perennial or annual? The first thing is how acid or alkaline is your soil, too acid and you can grow azaleas, rhododendrons and peiris with ease but lime loving plants don’t stand a chance. The reverse is also true and while you can make the soil more acid, or more base it doesn’t really stay that way, once all the acid has been used by the plants you will have to keep replenishing it which can make gardening a chore not fun.

You can buy cheap testing kits at a garden supply or DIY store that will show the Ph of your soil but another way is to have a look at what your neighbors are growing.  Get a couple of plant books from the library and see if you can find out what they are called if you don’t know already.  That will give you a good clue as to the type of soil is in your area. 

So after identifying the plants the next step is the garden center or nursery to ask them what they recommend for your area.  As they don’t want to have to replace anything that has died that they have sold you they will be very knowledgeable about what will grow in your yard.

The next step is putting the plant in and no matter what your soil type if you want your plant to live to flourish there are specific things you need to do in order to make that happen. So in this post we have to find out our soil type: good loam, sandy soil, clay soil, wet soil, dry soil, rocky soil, acidic, neutral, limey, etc. Once you are armed with this information we can move on to the next step which is how to plant the plant, what to add to the soil as you plant it and how to overcome problem soil.

All will be revealed in the next post!

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