Success with summer plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials is highly likely when you follow a few simple steps that fulfill the basic needs of the plant materials. If you follow these steps to fulfill the needs of the landscape plants, you will succeed no matter whether you plant in spring, summer or fall. If you fail to follow these steps, the degree of failure is much greater, no matter the season.
Landscape plants and our children have certain needs in common. Both need a safe place to life, enough nutrition to grow vigorously, and enough, but not too much hydration to maintain healthy metabolic processes.
For landscape plants a safe place to live constitutes soil free from compaction, with proper drainage, reasonable organic matter content in the soil, and acceptable soil pH for the variety of plant. The plant, like a child, must have enough, but not too much food and water. Landscape plantings often suffer when too much water and fertilizer are applied. Fertilizer and water for plants are best when they are available in amounts that are just enough, and never too much. Moderation and consistency of availability of food and water are keys to success. Over watering and over fertilizing can easily kill plants.
Apply modest and measured amounts of water on a regular schedule helps avoid over-watering. See our easy to follow watering chart for details.
Fertilization is most safely addressed by applying a timed released fertilizer like Osmocote at the beginning of the growing season, or at planting time. These fertilizers slowly release nutrients over several months, greatly reducing the danger of burning plant roots with excessive amounts. Another safe way to fertilize is regular applications of a water soluble, low dose fertilizer like Miracle Grow. I prefer the slow release Osmocote because I only need to apply it once – either in the spring, or incorporated into the backfill soil at planting time.
Soil compaction can be corrected by deep digging an extra wide area to physically break through the hardpan of compacted soil. Best results happen when soil is fairly dry, but still slightly moist at digging time.
Soil pH can be determined by soil tests. Once you have the pH levels identified, choose plants that will thrive in those pH levels rather than trying to change the pH with soil amendments. The advice of an experienced and knowledgeable nursery professional may be very help when choosing plants that are a good fit for your soil.
Summer planting projects can be very successful when you provide enough, but not too much water and fertilizer, and pick plants well suited to your soil type. Happy planting!