Plants from garden centres

Nurseries, hardware stores and shopping malls now have good stocks of plants available for your home garden.

For planting season, some basic gardening advice is helpful and time saving.

If you buy plants on a hot day, it’s best to take them home promptly and put them in a protected spot. If you decide not to plant them for a day or two, that won’t hurt them as long as they’re well watered.

Most plants should be put in the ground in the relative coolness of the early evening.

 Bedding plants are flowering plants that you use for a short and brilliant colour display. They come in flats, cell packs and a variety of small containers. Many vegetable plants also come in this fashion.

You should buy young plants that will grow quickly after they are in the ground. Plants that are crowded or straggly have been around too long and most likely will wither and die. What you want is a compact plant with good leaf colour and a healthy appearance.

Plants in large containers — one-gallon or five-gallon plastic or pulp containers — should be branched with young and healthy looking bark and foliage.

The root system should be unencumbered — not tangled or constricted by the plant’s own roots. Two signs of a root bound condition are roots protruding above the soil and roots growing through the container’s drainage holes.

Though it’s always tempting to buy the largest plant you can afford, trees and shrubs often do better if you buy them as young-looking gallon-sized specimens and let them form a root system in your garden.

Balled and burlapped plants, often simply referred to as B and B, are large shrubs and trees that are dug out of the ground with a ball of soil containing their roots. The soil ball is then wrapped in burlap and tied with twine to keep it intact.

These plants have a distinct advantage over container plants since they are never root bound.

As you move the burlap-wrapped plant from the nursery to its planting site in your garden, be careful not to break up the root ball or let it dry out. The best way to carry a small plant is with both hands under the root ball. If you can’t plant it right away, put the plant in a shady area, covering its root ball with moist organic material such as sawdust or peat moss.

When you’re ready to plant it, dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and about six-inches deep.  If your soil is light to medium and the B and B soil is heavier, incorporate peat moss, ground bark, and nitrogen fortified sawdust, or a similar organic soil — but not animal manure.

Add one shovel-full of organic soil to three shovel-full of your own garden soil you will return to the hole. It isn’t necessary to completely unwrap the burlap when planting because the burlap will rot away.  

You should normally stake up the plant because the root area is round and can shift like a ball-and-socket joint.

During the first couple of years after planting, pay close attention to watering, especially if the root ball soil is heavier than your garden soil. Keep the surrounding garden soil moist, but never continually soggy.