HEDGES – PLANTING AND CARE
Proper preparation when installing your evergreen hedge gets plants off to a good start and helps ensure rapid growth.
Decide on the species of hedging you are going to use and investigate the mature width and height and the recommended spacing. Ensure that the planting site has adequate drainage and receives enough sunlight for growth requirements.
It is best to have your planting site ready before you bring home the plants. Use stakes and string to help align the plants in one unwavering, uniformly spaced row. Lay out an area on both sides of the “centering” string as the planting zone. Make this zone three feet wide, minimum. Clear the planting zone of all weeds and turf.
The space allowed between plants varies according to desired height of hedge.
2 to 2.5 ft. apart for a 7ft. high hedge.
1.5 to 2 ft. apart for a 6ft. high hedge.
15” to 18” apart for a 4ft. high hedge.
12” to 15” apart for a 2ft. high hedge.
6” apart for a 1ft. high hedge.
Dig individual holes or a trench. (Optional: Water the planting zone deeply prior to make this job easier.)
Break up the clods and remove any sticks and rocks larger than your fist.
Pile the soil on one side of the hole or trench. This becomes the “backfill”. Rough-sided holes are better for root penetration than smooth, glazed sided ones. Make the holes twice as wide and one and a half times as deep as the root of the plant.
Amend the backfill with organic matter. Aim for a mix that contains 25% organic fiber.
SANDY, ROCKY SOIL: Add at least one third part wet peat moss to sandy soil to help retain moisture and nutrients.
CLAY SOIL: Bark mulch added to clay soil increases drainage and air circulation while helping to prevent compaction.
Add bone meal or a transplanting fertilizer according to label directions. Mix all amendments thoroughly with existing soil.
Soak the planting holes with water if the soil is dry.
Pay attention to the drainage in the area you wish to plant the hedge. Fill one or more of the holes with water and see how long it takes to drain. If it doesn’t there is a problem. You can fix it by creating a raised bed, installing a drainage pipe, installing a drainage ditch or if it is not severe, amend with bark mulch to a depth of 2 ft.
Before planting the hedge, keep the plants well watered whether they are in containers or B&B (root is balled and burlapped) to avoid drought stress to the root.
It is a good idea to soak the plants roots with a liquid rooting hormone.
Gently place the tree in the hole. Position the roots at the same level as the original soil line. There is often a lighter or darker colour on the trunk to indicate this. Using the centering string, place the trunk of each plant against this string and check spacing with marked sticks. Make sure that the shrub is vertical; View it from all directions to check. If using B&B plants, keep the burlap on for support until they are settled in place. The burlap will disintegrate and the roots will grow through it without difficulty. Add some of the backfill firming lightly as you go. Now remove the twine and fold back the burlap. Optional: You may cut off and take away the excess folds of burlap. Add the backfill to proper levels.
If container grown plants are being used, remember to loosen or cut any roots that circle the inside of the pot.
Form a watering basin around the plants and soak well. Wait for the water to drain and soak again. Raise up any plants that may have settled too low. Firm the soil and water again. This is the time to water with a transplant solution to promote root growth if you forgot to use it earlier.
Apply a generous 4” to 6” mulch of organic matter such as bark mulch, well-aged manure, well-aged compost or a blend of these on the top of the planting zone. It is important to keep the planting zone free of weeds and lawn for two or three years. To avoid crown rot, do not let the mulch touch the stems or trunks.
Staking the plants after planting is only needed in special situations like in windy areas or if the plants are very slender and bent over.
CARE AFTER PLANTING
The watering is critical until these plants are established in one or even two years. Allow the water to soak deep into the root zone. Water them by using a trickle irrigation or soaker hose. Many automatic watering systems are designed for lawn grass roots. Most roots on B &B trees are down 12 to 18 inches in the ground and a deep watering is needed. The time between watering should vary with weather conditions, wind exposure and type of soil. As a guide, in summer weather, turning on the soaker hose for 5 to 6 hours twice a week is standard. To occasionally monitor the effectiveness of your watering schedule, pull away some mulch and gently dig down about 6” to ensure the water is going where you want it.
Pruning after planting stimulates new growth. Clip an inch or two off the top growth to encourage lower buds into producing leaf growth. Hedges look best when trimmed in a rectangular shape or with a slight taper so that they are wider at the base than at the top. Shape anytime, except in fall when plants are going into dormancy.
Fertilize your new hedge during the growing season (March to November) as most soils in our coastal area are often low in plant nutrients. We recommend a slow release, high nitrogen food with iron applied lightly and evenly down each side every 6 weeks until November. Do not over-fertilize as new roots are susceptible to fertilizer burn.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG
- The hedge will suffocate within one or two growing seasons if it is planted too deeply or with mulch or soil piled higher than the original soil level of the root ball.
- Move the shrubs gently. Never drag them by the stem. This can damage the connection with the roots at the center. Lift the root ball (get helpers) or slide it on a tarp to the planting area.
- Trees are often dead or diseased by spring if they are planted in a site with a high water table or compacted, poorly drained soil. Please do a drainage test before planting.
- Never use chemical weed killers for lawns around your hedge, they will seep down and damage the roots of the shrubs.
- Expect deer damage if they are present. They will browse or trample on newly planted hedges (even if they are deer resistant varieties). Use repellants and / or netting until established.