The majority of shrubs available today have been produced in containers at a nearby nursery. Container production replaced field grown production many years ago because of the tremendous advantages to the grower, the garden centres and the gardener. Containers are much easier to handle by all concerned. Trees are now commonly grown in containers as growers perfect this production technique.
Trees and shrubs produced in containers are grown in a soil mixture which contains very little, if any, soil. This “growing medium” is mostly comprised of peat, vermiculite, bark, sand, compost and other ingredients which are available and have proven to be reliable for growing plants. The grower has learned over years of experience which mixture works the best and is the most economical for their nursery operation. Container grown trees and shrubs are fertilized more than field grown shrubs due to the lack of soil nutrients in the growing medium.
Before selecting the trees and shrubs for your garden, investigate which types of plants are suitable for your conditions by talking to your garden centre. Consider the soil type, the amount of sun or shade and whether the site is wet or dry. Selecting the most suitable plant for the environment is half the battle!
Before planting container grown trees and shrubs, water thoroughly so that water is flowing out the bottom of the container. The soil or growing media is very high in organic matter content and will tend to dry out quickly.
Prepare the planting spot by digging a hole about twice the diameter of the container and slightly deeper. Loosen the sides and bottom of the hole by scraping the surfaces with your spade. Mix compost, manure and bonemeal with the soil you have removed and place some in the bottom of the hole. Peat moss can also be used but make sure the peat has been well moistened or it will take moisture from the soil forever.
Remove the plant from the container by turning the pot upside down while securing the base of the plant with your palm. Tap the sides of the container until the root ball slides out. For larger containers place the container on its side, tap the sides and slide the plant out. Place the tree or shrub into the hole and snug it into the amended soil mixture. Refill the planting hole with the mixture of soil, manure, bonemeal, compost or peat. Tamp the soil mix down with your foot as you progress towards the surface. It is important not to have any large air pockets in the planting hole.
Plant your tree or shrub so that the level of the medium in the container is the same as the ground level. Planting deeper than this could result in drowning the plant. This is especially true if planting in heavy soils because the clay soil will drain poorly and act as a basin which collects water. In these situations the depth should be slightly higher than the existing soil line with new soil mounded around the base of the plant.
Water the plant after planting and observe the speed in which water disappears from the surface. This will give you an indication of how often you will need to water. After the first thorough watering, mix a water soluble starter fertilizer, 10-52-10, in your watering can and feed the plant. After two or three weeks the tree or shrub should begin to show signs of its happiness in its new home. Feed with a granular fertilizer such as 14-4-8 every three or four weeks. Field grown shrubs and trees are available balled and burlapped. These plants are heavier to handle and have a larger root ball. The biggest danger with these plants is the possibility of damaging the roots due to large chunks of soil breaking away from the ball. Keep the burlap in place to avoid losing soil. Make a shallow cut in the sides and bottom of the root ball so that roots can easily move into the new soil in your garden.