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North Metro Companies PlantCare Guidelines
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North Metro Companies, LLC
2402 Hwy 55
Medina, MN 55340
Phone: 763.682.6008
Fax: 763.684.8067
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Basic Plant Care

Water

Water  is the most critical element for your plants survival. Your new plants have limited root development and since they use their roots to reach into the soil and gather the water that they need, it is extremely important during the establishment period to keep the soil consistently moist.


How much water & how frequently you will need to provide water to your new plants will vary depending on a few factors: the type of plant, the site conditions, the soil conditions, and the weather and wind conditions.

 

Basic Watering Guidelines

As far as your plants are concerned, they need water applied slowly. For almost all plants, a deep, thorough soaking followed by enough time for the soil to dry out slightly is ideal. Frequent light watering is not good for plants. It encourages shallow root growth.

General Watering Guide for the 1st month depending on Weather & Soil Conditions

Weather Conditions Daytime Temps Light/Sandy Soil Heavy/Clay Soil
Wet Not Applicable Avoid Watering Avoid Watering
Cool Under 60 degrees F Every 3rd day Every 5th day
Warm Between 60-80 degrees F Every other day Every 3rd day
Hot Above 80 degrees F Every day Every other day

General Guideline to Follow

In average soil, newly planted trees and shrubs need an inch of water every week, ideally split between 2 waterings. Once established, trees and shrubs need an inch of slow rain every 2 to 3 weeks. The amount of water that falls in a given area can be measured with a straight-sided container or a rain gauge.


The outward signs of too much water are wilting and yellowing leaves, especially those in the inner areas of the plant. Signs of too little water are very similar so you must check under the top 4” of soil to determine the cause. The foliage on many plants will start to look "ashy" if they are too dry even before they wilt.
After the Establishment Period, your plants should start to establish their root systems and you will be able to cut back on your watering.

 

Establishment Periods

  • Trees & Shrubs – the first growing season
  • Perennial Plants – Usually a month or two
  • Annuals & Vegetables – Usually the first 2 or 3 weeks

This is a general guide and you should always check the soil moisture 4 to 6” below the surface to determine if water is needed. Feel the soil – it should never be soggy and should dry to just slightly damp before watering. Don’t be deceived if the surface is dry; always dig down under the surface to check.


If possible, plants should be watered early in the day. Since plants use the most water during the warmest part of the day, you will avoid losing the water directly to evaporation. Watering early in the day allows the plant foliage time to dry out before evening, minimizing problems with fungal diseases.

Tips to Conserve Water

Try taking a few steps to minimize your need for water:

  • Use methods and tools that apply the water exactly where it is needed and in the most efficient manner: slowly and directly over the root zone. (Soaker Hoses/Drip Irrigation)
  • Use a water timer on hoses and sprinklers.
  • Use of organic mulch will help in several ways: Mulching slows down evaporation from the soil surface, keeps the surface loose and cool and slows down water loss due to run off. Mulch inhibits weeds that would otherwise take some of the water you are providing your plants. It also encourages good root growth which allows the plants to do a better job at gathering the water they need.
  • Xeriscape: choose plants that have low water requirements, such as native plants.
  • Hydrozone: Group plants that need more water together.
  • Try collecting rain from your downspouts in barrels for watering your plants.
  • Plant a Rain Garden in your yard and direct the runoff water from your roof to it.

 

Fertilizers

Fertilizers can be used to provide nutrients needed for plant growth, but it is not actually plant food as some may think. Plants produce their own food using water, carbon dioxide, nutrients from the soil, and energy from the sun. Fertilizers are added to the soil to provide nutrients that plants need in modest or small amounts that may be missing in the soil. The best way to determine this is to have your soil tested.  The macronutrients that are used in relatively large amounts and are most likely to limit plant growth if deficient are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. (N-P-K).

  • Nitrogen (N) is responsible for increasing plant growth
  • Phosphorus (P) promotes early root formation and growth and the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds
  • Potassium (K) is vital to photosynthesis and helps regulate water levels in plants, which helps plants overcome drought stress, increases disease resistance, and improves winter hardiness.

Basic Fertilizer Guidelines

  • It is best to avoid fertilizing when trees and shrubs are newly planted (their 1st growing season)
  • Once established, an annual application of a quality, dry fertilizer for flowering trees & shrubs (10-20-10) and for non-flowering plants (10-10-10) is best applied early in the Spring.
  • Trees planted in the lawn will most likely get enough nutrients if you are fertilizing your lawn.
  • Avoid fertilizing trees and shrubs in the late summer (the last 6 weeks of the growing season) since it may stimulate new growth that fails to harden off before frost. 
  • Perennials can be fed after the first month following planting. Apply 10-20-10 dry fertilizer once in the early Spring when the plants have first started growing and once again a month later.
  • Annual Flowers & Vegetables can be fertilized with 10-20-10 after the first two or three weeks of planting and applied monthly thereafter.
  • In dry weather, water the plants the day before fertilizing but make sure the foliage is dry when you apply the dry fertilizer to avoid burning the foliage.
  • Water lightly after applying dry fertilizer. It will move quickly through the mulch so there is no need to move it. Make sure to spread the fertilizer evenly under the branches.
  • Water-soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro are easy to use, but are used up quickly. Be sure to apply water-soluble fertilizers more regularly (every 2-3 weeks during the growing season). These types are best used on annuals. They can be used as a supplement the first season for trees and shrubs applied at a low rate but are not very effective once they are established.
  • Over fertilizing is the most common mistake!  Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

 

Pruning

Pruning correctly during formative years for a tree or shrub is really the best preventive maintenance a young plant can receive. Too many young trees are pruned improperly or not pruned at all for several years. By then it may become a major operation to remove bigger branches, and trees may become deformed. Shrubs can become overgrown and misshapen over the years.

At planting, remove only diseased, dead, or broken branches.

  • Begin training a plant during the dormant season following planting.
  • Keeping tools well-maintained and sharp will improve their performance.
  • Prune to shape young trees, but don’t cut back the leader.
  • Remove crossing branches and branches that grow back towards the center of the tree.
  • As young trees grow, remove lower branches gradually to raise the crown, and remove branches that are too closely spaced on the trunk.
  • Remove multiple leaders on evergreens and other trees where a single leader is desirable
  • Renewal Pruning for Shrubs: Every year remove up to one-third of the oldest, thickest stems or trunks, taking them right down to the ground. This will encourage the growth of new stems from the roots.
  • Generally, most Overstory & Ornamental Deciduous Trees & Shrubs should be pruned in winter/early spring, just before spring growth starts, (December through April) to avoid disease & insect infestations. Otherwise use the following guidelines:

Shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year's growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming.

 

Azalea Forsythia Magnolia Serviceberry
Chokeberry Flowering Plum Peashrub

Spirea (Snow Mound & Bridalwreath)

Chokecherry Honeysuckle Privet Viburnum
Deutzia Lilac Rhodedendron Weigela (late summer)

 

Shrubs grown primarily for their foliage effect or that bloom new growth should be pruned in spring, before growth begins.

 

Alpine Currant Dogwood Mockorange Smokebush
Barberry Euonymus Ninebark Snowberry/Winterberry
Buffaloberry Falsespirea Potentilla Spirea (all others)
Coralberry Hydrangea Shrub Roses  
  • Hardier shrubs such as late blooming Spireas, Potentillas, and Smooth (Snowball) Hydrangeas can be pruned all the way back to the first pair of buds above the ground in early spring.
  • Arborvitae, Junipers, Yews, and Hemlocks grow continuously throughout the growing season. They can be pruned any time through the middle of summer. Even though these plants will tolerate heavy shearing, their natural form is usually most desirable, so prune only to correct growth defects.
  • Spruces, Firs and Douglas-Firs don’t grow continuously, but can be pruned any time because they have lateral (side) buds that will sprout if the terminal (tip) buds are removed. It’s probably best to prune them in late winter, before growth begins. Some spring pruning, however, is not harmful.
  • Pines only put on a single flush of tip growth each spring and then stop growing. Prune before these “candles” of new needles become mature. Pines do not have lateral buds, so removing terminal buds will take away new growing points for that branch. Eventually, this will leave dead stubs.
  • Pines seldom need pruning, but if you want to promote more dense growth, remove up to two-thirds of the length of newly expanded candles. Don’t prune further back than the current year’s growth.

Proper Branch Pruning

  • To shorten a branch or twig, cut it back to a side branch or make the cut about 1/4 inch above the bud.
  • Always prune above a bud facing the outside of a plant to force the new branch to grow in that direction.

 

Pruning Large Branches

  • To remove large branches, three or four cuts will be necessary to avoid tearing the bark. Make the first cut on the underside of the branch about 18 inches from the trunk. Undercut one-third to one-half way through the branch. Make the second cut an inch further out on the branch; cut until the branch breaks free.
  • Before making the final cut severing a branch from the main stem, identify the branch collar. The branch collar grows from the stem tissue around the base of the branch. Make pruning cuts so that only branch tissue (wood on the branch side of the collar) is removed. Be careful to prune just beyond the branch collar, but DON’T leave a stub. If the branch collar is left intact after pruning, the wound will seal more effectively and stem tissue probably will not decay.
  • The third cut may be made by cutting down through the branch, severing it. If, during removal, there is a possibility of tearing the bark on the branch underside, make an undercut first and then saw through the branch.
  • Research has shown wound dressing is not normally needed on pruning cuts. However, if wounds need to be covered to prevent insect transmission of certain diseases such as oak wilt, use latex rather than oil-based paint.

 

Protecting

Protecting smooth-barked trees from sunscald will require wrapping the trunk with tree wrap before the snow flies and removing it as soon as the snow is gone. You can also use plastic tubing. Rodents can be kept from gnawing on trees by encircling the base of the trunk with ¼” gauge hardware cloth or screen wire or you can try using repellents such as Tree Guard, Ropel or Hinder.