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Planting Tips

Planting your trees and shrubs correctly is one of the most important things you can do for your plants. Get them off to a good start by following these simple guidelines.

1. Start with good soil. The rule of thumb in Montana? Amend, amend, amend. Adding organic matter - such as compost, rotted manure, or peat moss - to your soil is always a good idea. However, although this method works well for shrubs and flowers, it isn't recommended that you try to change your soil in order to plant a tree. In this case it's better to stick with the trees that can work in your existing soil conditions, as their spreading roots will surely encounter your original soil at some point in their growth (and probably sooner than you think, at that!)

2. Dig your hole twice as wide, and just as deep, as the rootball of the plant. Never dig deeper because the loose soil you fill into the hole will certainly settle, causing your beautiful trees or shrubs to sink too low into the ground (hint: this means death!)

3. Take your plant out of its pot by turning it on its side, and knocking the pot to loosen the rootball. Then either slowly invert the pot, or pull gently to get the rootball out of the pot.

4. Since the roots will be well-developed, it is likely that the roots will be circling around the rootball. Take a sharp object and scratch up the sides and bottom of the rootball to loosen the roots and promote outward growth. By doing this, you are encouraging your plants to root quickly in their new home.

5. Set the plant in the hole so the soil of the rootball is even with the surrounding soil. This can take a bit of time to get exactly right but the time spent is worth it. Planting depth is very important to the overall health of the plant.

6. Backfill the rest of the hole with your improved soil. Make sure there are no air pockets by gently firming the soil around the plant.

7. Water the plant well, and watch for the soil to settle to see if you need to add more soil to the area. Apply a mulch to conserve water and keep down the weeds.

8. Water newly-planted shrubs, trees, and flowers once or twice a week, depending on the weather. Many plants can take moderate drought once established but don't assume they are like this from the very beginning! Keep an eye on your new plants for the first few growing seasons to ensure they are receiving adequate water.

9. Stake all trees. Ideally, use three stakes arranged in a triangle around the tree. Secure the stakes to the tree using manufactured nylon tree straps with grommets and 14 or 16 gauge wire. Leave the stakes in place for 2-4 years or until the tree is well-established.

10. Protect the trunks of your trees from dangerous lawnmower and weed-eater damage by using Arbor-guards, pieces of flexible plastic that fit around the base of the trunk and expand as the tree matures. This kind of damage is a common cause of disease and death in trees so be sure to prevent it! Alternatively, you can leave a wide circle of mulch around your tree so you will not have to mow close to the trunk.

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