There are many ways to help plants grow. When you buy plants, you are investing in your landscaping. It may be just a few dollars, if you are buying just a few small plants, but it may also be a fair sum, if you are buying larger trees, such as pines or Japanese maples. Not to mention that you are investing time and efforts. And you want to reap the rewards of your investment; you want your lawn to look better with the addition of the new plants. This can only happen if your new plants grow well. And for this to happen, there are a few things you must do.
Location, location, location
The most important rule of all is this site’s motto: “The right plant in the place with the right conditions”. This means that you must find plants that are well adapted to the following:
- The space where they will be growing (they must be a natural fit for the physical space).
- The sun conditions (some plant will wither without enough sun, others will be damaged by too much sun, others still can adapt to more or less sun).
- The water conditions (some plants need very well drained soils, while others can grow in streams, and most do very well in moist, well drained soils).
- The soil itself in which the plants will grow (rhododendrons like acidic soils, while yews prefer alkaline soils).
So the best way to help plants grow is to introduce them in locations that fit their characteristics and needs. For more information on this, refer to our pages on Landscaping plants and Landscaping plant guides.
An inviting new home
You can consider your lawn to be your plants’ new neighbourhood, and the hole in which it will grow, its new home. Whether you buy potted plants or plants that come with bare roots, the “move” from its original home (the very spot where it was growing before) to its new home (the hole in your lawn) is a traumatic experience for every plant.
There is a number things you must do to make that new home as comfortable as possible:
- Plants must be well hydrated before the are planted.
- Water potted plants well before planting them. The soil should not be drenched, but it should be quite moist.
- Let bare-root plants soak for a few hours before planting them.
- Make the hole twice a wide but only as deep as the root ball (feeding roots tend to grow outward rather than downward).
- Make sure the plant is set neither to deep nor too high in the hole. The root ball must be completely buried, but the stem or trunk should be completely above ground.
- Also make sure the plant is correctly set (perfectly vertical, in most cases).
- Set the plant solidly in place using good, fresh soil. You may use one foot to walk on the soil around the plant. Just make sure that you aren’t putting so much weight that you are actually moving the plant or hurting its roots.
- Make a sort of saucer around the hole using some more soil.
- Water the plant thoroughly.
- Adding a good layer of mulch over the soil will reduce evaporation, which will help the roots remain hydrated longer.
Using fungi to help plants grow
What are the two most important factors that will help a plant thrive in its new home? Water and food. As we said, the “move” can be a traumatic experience for most plants. But plants that get enough water and food in their new location have far better chances of making it.
Specific fungi have a symbiotic relationship with plants, meaning that they get something from the plant and they give something back. They get sugar from the plant’s roots, and they help the roots grow, which means the plant can get more water and nutrients out of the soil. These fungi are known as mycorrhizae.
This not something new, it’s been happening naturally in the soil for ages. What is new, is that you can now buy mycorrhizae from the store and use it to pimp your plants’ roots. Mycorrhizae are commercialized by various companies, such as Premier Tech Biotechnologies™ and BioOrganics™.
Bear in mind that the fungi need sugar from the plants’ roots to survive, so if you do use mycorrhizae, make sure they come in direct contact with the roots. A good way to do this is to spread a layer of fungi directly over the damp bare roots or the plant ball.
For detailed information on how mycorrhiza can help plants grow, see the following document.
Using soil amendments
Soil amendments, such as manure and compost also greatly help plants grow. Here are a few things you should know about soil amendments:
- Compost is not a fertilizer as such. It is simply organic matter extremely rich in microorganisms. These organisms make the soil rich and alive and provide perfectly natural food that plants can assimilate very easily. Compost also enhances soil texture and helps retain moisture. Bark compost, for instance, can help clay soil plants feel right at home in clayey soils. And the good thing about compost is that it will never hurt your plants, as opposed to fertilizers, which can burn sensitive roots. For more information, see our page on compost.
- Manure is a natural fertilizer. It can be made from various animal waste. The concentrations of the three basic fertilizer components (nitrogen, phosphate and potassium) is typically quite low in manure. Still, using too much manure when introducing new plants may be enough to actually harm them. When buying a specific type of manure, ask how much you should mix in with the soil you will be using. The ratio should rarely exceed one part manure to three or four parts soil.
- There is a long list of natural fertilizers that can be used to help plants grow. Think of blood meal, bone meal, granular gypsum, etc. Each typically has its own specific use. For detailed information on natural soil amendments, see our page on green fertilizers.
- Chemical fertilizers have the highest concentrations of the basic fertilizer components. Used appropriately, they may help plants grow, but being very strong and potent, they may also hurt plants quite badly. So if you choose to use chemical fertilizers, make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. Using more than you should to give your new plants a bigger boost may end up killing them.