Finally Exposed! Five Fool Proof Tips to Plant Like the Pros!

Thanks once again for checking back in with me. It warms my heart to see how many readers from as many as 5 different countries read my postings. It’s been a while but I’m back! Here’s what I have been up to…

A few months back, I was approached by an online publishing company who asked me to whip up 20 pages on the topic of my choice. I was flattered, overwhelmed, awestruck and a bunch of other fancy words. Nonetheless, they liked my work and now I have the opportunity to become a published author and share my wealth of knowledge with the world! It’s kinda hard to wrap my head around but I am going to make the most of it! The plan is to publish books on a series of topics, then package them all together to make a complete set which will include video instruction, tool kits and all kinds of cool stuff. Our plan is to hit the readers with hard core facts but present everything in a “fun, laid back” kinda way. Stay tuned, it only gets better from here!

Todays topic includes my personal five step routine for planting trees and shrubs. These simple tips and techniques work for just about every type of plant material in just about every location.

Always, always  call for an underground utility markout whenever digging.  Pick up any phone, call 811 and provide the operator with the desired information.  It generally takes 5-7 days for all utilities to be marked.  Rupturing underground utilities can be extremely dangerous, not to mention costly!  CALL BEFORE YOU DIG.

Step 1. Pick Healthy Plants. Take a few seconds while at the nursery to really look over the available plant material. Know your planting zone and stay with plants that have been proven to thrive in your specific zone. When in doubt, leave it out! If it’s a tree, start at the base of the trunk and inspect for deep gouges, cracking, splitting or any type of irregular bark. Make sure all branches are thriving and avoid buying trees with dead wood on the tips. If shopping during the winter, scrape the bark off on the highest limb that you can reach. A healthy tree will have healthy green tissue just below the bark. Shop for shrubs the same way, closely inspecting the entire plant. Look for any signs of dead or wilting branches, especially on the interior of the shrub. If the shrub appears to be losing leaves on the inside, has a green or black moss, or is root bound(a root bound shrub will easily lift out of it’s container) select another shrub or move to a different plant altogether. If signs of disease exist at the nursery, where the plants are professionally maintained on a daily basis, imagine what can happen in your yard.

Step 2. Select the perfect spot. It’s very important to plant your investment where it is best suited to thrive. Thoroughly read the label that came with your plant to determine light requirements(sun/shade), soil preferences as well as tolerance to wind and harsh elements. Plants that require shade will not survive in a location that gets hot, beating sun and vice versa. Keep a close eye on preferred soil conditions as a plant that likes well draining soil will not do well in a low corner of the yard where the ground is always moist.   One final thought is always plant with the best side facing the area where it will be viewed the most. This will require a few step backs, but well worth the extra few minutes.

Step 3. Dig a huge hole! My rule of thumb is to make the planting hole twice as wide as the container and 1 1/2 times the depth. Some situations will require a larger hole but for 95% of homeowners, my theorem works just fine. As you dig and excavate the soil, keep the extracted dirt in a neat pile. If you are particularly concerned about ruining the lawn around the area, use either a tarp or wheel barrow to manage the dirt. Either way, clean up and the mixing process(step 4) is much easier. Once the desired depth and width is reached break up another 2-3 inches of soil and leave it in place. Lightly mist inside of the the planting hole to remove any pockets of air.

Step 4. Create a healthy planting mix. I use the following recipe to create the ideal soil to surround your little bundle of joy. Taking a few extra minutes and spending a few extra dollars in the beginning will insure a long healthy life with many years of enjoyment, shade, flowers or fruit.

My planting mix consists of 5 parts.
2 parts native excavated soil
1 part compost- adds beneficial nutrients to the soil
1 part sand- promotes proper drainage
1 part peat moss- stores water for future use

It’s not necessary to spend all afternoon weighing and measuring exact proportions. These are just guidelines… If your recipe is off or slightly heavy in one or two parts, it’s not that big of a deal. Sprinkle a handful or two of a starter fertilizer on top of the pile and begin mixing. The planting recipe is complete when color is consistent.

Step 5. Planting. Container Trees- a container tree is a tree that is grown in a container. Generally smaller than 8 feet tall, container grown trees are much easier to handle and are grown for and by homeowners nationwide. Some container trees will slide right out and others will need the plastic surgically removed using a utility knife or sharp shovel. Once the roots are exposed, take a few minutes to make sure that all root tips are in a position to grow out away from the tree instead of back into the tree. Don’t be afraid to use tough love at this point. Some roots will need to but cut, pulled or yanked so that they can extend and create a healthy root system. At this point, place the tree in the hole and position to your liking. Using your newly created planting mix, begin back filling evenly around the roots until the hole is half way full. Compact the soil around the tree and double check that everything is still in it’s exact place. Fill the hole with a few inches of water, let the water work its way through, then repeat. This fills any voids and eliminates air pockets. Once the water has drained the second time, fill in the remainder of the hole. Pack the soil into place and make sure the tree is straight and in it’s exact place. Use the top 2 inches of the soil to create a hand formed ring of dirt around the perimeter of the planting hole. This ring will create a bowl-like effect and allow a significant amount of water to be retained. Cover the planting area in a 2-3 inch layer of mulch. I recommend a healthy watering 3-4 times per day. By healthy, I mean completely filling the bowl with water, let the water drain through then repeat. Do not worry about over watering a newly planted tree. This is a stressful time for new trees and water is it’s best friend.

Balled and Burlap Trees- simply stated, b&b trees are dug from a field, wrapped in burlap and placed in a wire basket. Planting a b&b tree or shrub is very similar to planting a container tree or shrub. B&b’s general don’t need to have the roots teased out. Plant the entire wire basket and burlap. Once the root ball is in the ground, some professionals like to cut the entire basket away. I simply cut the wire, burlap and rope back to the top of the basket. These components are all biodegradable and are usually gone within the first year or so. At this point we use the same back filling method as mentioned above.

One final option is staking. I am not a firm believer in staking. My professional opinion is to let mother nature do her thing. A tree will sense heavy winds and environmental conditions. tree is then forced to set roots faster or strengthen the trunk. My plantings are closely monitored for the first 3 months. If any swaying or leaning is observed, stakes are immediately installed. If environmental factors force me to stake a tree or shrub, I carefully study the wind direction and strategically place 2-4 stakes around the base of the tree opposite the wind direction. I pound the largest stakes that I can fine into the ground and either wrap nursery ties or wire straps around the tree. The ties are installed loosely so to catch the tree as opposed to holding it in place.

Thanks again for reading and be sure to check back soon. WordPress is kind enough to offer the option of automatically receiving my blog postings as they are released. If you have a question or comment, post it below so I can respond as soon as possible.

As always, if you have a landscaping or gardening need, contact me in any of the following ways…

Rob Lundholm
Lundholm Landscaping
P.O. Box 1066
Cape May, NJ 08204
Office 609-898-9136
Cell/text 609-722-1814

P.S. Areas of expertise include


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3 Responses to Finally Exposed! Five Fool Proof Tips to Plant Like the Pros!

  1. Now I’m even more appreciative of your comment…
    This is perfect timimng as we are getting ready to plant a few trees, but then that probably wasn’t a coincidence. The garden center I mentioned (with the very knowledgable owner) recommended Bayer 12 mth feed and insect control granuals for our dogwoods, spruces (blue and norway), oaks, beeches, birches, hollies, hemlocks, black walnuts, tulip poplars, maples (Japanese, Sugar, and otherwise), redbuds and etc. Thoughts?

    • BTW – we just moved to VA from NJ last year and are big Cape May fans.

      • Such a small world. We are fortunate enough to take a family vacation a few times a year. No matter where we go, we always see someone from Cape May and just about everyone we meet has either heard of or been to Cape May.

        As far as your planting is concerned, I am in a mode of trying to completely eliminate the use of pesticides and chemicals in treating insects, fungus or weeds. I would never recommend a pesticide or chemical as a preventative maintenance application. Having never planted or worked in Virginia, it’s hard for me to say. Ask the nurseryman if he has an all natural, systemic recommendation.

        On a separate note, I am in the process of polishing off a blog about plant shopping in the fall. I am hoping to have it posted early tomorrow morning.

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