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Sustainable Horticulture

Proper After Care for Newly Installed Plants

Once you have installed your plants, it is important to provide proper aftercare to help the plants grow and thrive. The first 2-5 years are especially important. If you are working on a public site or utilizing volunteers, it helps to have a management plan detailing the following:

  • watering schedule
  • mulching schedule
  • pruning instructions and guidelines
  • weeding schedule
  • pest and disease management guidelines
  • identification and treatment of nutritional problems
  • how to document work done
Proper Practices

The following practices will benefit newly installed plants:

  • Maintain a thick layer (at least 2") of well-drained organic mulch (topdressing) throughout the planting area
  • Keep mulch 2-3 inches away from the plants' trunks to avoid problems with excess moisture or diseases
  • Use mulch or other barriers to protect plants from mowever or other equipment
  • Create a temporary berm around the edge of the planting hole to help provide moisture to the plant - be sure to remove the berm before the wet season begins
  • Water plants as often as needed during the first 1 or 2 dry seasons to help roots and plants establish
  • Fertilize only when needed, providing only nutrients that are deficient (e.g. in the Pacific Northwest, nitrogen is typically the only limiting nutrient)
  • Prune only dead, damaged, or diseased materials during the first year after installation
  • Begin any other pruning (to shape or train the plant) 1 or 2 years after installation
  • Remove any staking or shelters within 1 year after installation
  • Have a trained professional monitor plant health and treat and pest or pathogen problems
  • Regularly remove encroaching turf and weeds to reduce competition

Practices to Avoid

Avoid the following practices, which will at best be a waste of time and money, and at worst harm or kill the plant:

  • Application of antitranspirants
  • Amending native soil when backfilling the planting hole
  • Adding hydrogels to the soil

The following practices are generally unnecessary and should be used only in limited situations:

  • Trunk painting: perform only if the plant has no low branches and is exposed to direct sunlight
  • Root control: use only if problems arise with paved areas, sewers, foundations, or heavy weed infestations
  • Staking or tree shelters: use only if needed for stability; stakes should be low (on the bottom 2/3 of the trunk) and loose enough to allow the plant to move and develop taper
  • Trunk wrapping: use only in places with extremely cold winters

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