A GROWING CONCERN: Some crucial issues to consider for right plant, right spot

Mature plant size is a major consideration when picking a plant, particularly since our weather is ideal for growing.

LAST WEEK, WE began a discussion on making sure that anything you plant is sited size-wise for the area it will consume upon full maturity.

I mentioned how 100-foot tall trees that grow 8 feet wide and are spaced 20 feet from each other in an 8-foot strip under power lines are not the right plants in the right spot by any means (although not that unusual, sadly).

But nor is a 6-foot bush in front of a 4-foot window, so mature plant size is always the overriding tenet.

With that said, let’s start a two-week discussion on exactly what factors and conditions, along with your desires and lifestyle, ultimately determine what qualifies as having put the “right plant in the right spot.”

Let’s begin with the “Big 3” of conditions with the most impact on your plant’s ability to grow and thrive:

1. The soil: The medium in which your plant grows will greatly improve or impair your plant’s health; in fact, no matter how great a plant you bought, how good of a person placed it in the ground, how well you water it or how perfect the selection is for the area available, it is all for naught if your soil is wrong for the plant.

Does it require sandy soil, acidic alkaline, nutrient-poor or rich in food? This can be very dependent on soil structure or texture.

What about organic material or mulch requirements?

So the first thing you should do is get your soil tested.

In Clallam County, go to your conservation district office, located at 228 W. First St. and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, or call 360-775-3747 for more details.

In Jefferson County, go to the conservation district office at 205 W. Patison St., Port Hadlock, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, or call 360-385-4105.

Make sure to denote what it is you are going to grow (deciduous trees are different than conifers).

Then your results will include what to do with your soil to make it ideal for growing.

If your soil is not right, your plant will never be, and soil is something you can amend, haul in or change.

2. Moisture: We have all read the labels: “prefers well-drained soil,” “likes wet conditions,” “handles dry conditions,” “does not like its roots wet,” “soil moisture is critical for great plant production,” etc.

So when selecting a plant for a spot, consider whether the location is wet, dry, drains well, is soggy in the winter or is very windy and sunny.

Then either select plants ideal for that spot or “change” that spot.

Sometimes I (and the client) really want a certain plant for an area with proper moisture conditions for optimum growth, so we alter the spot.

Dig a French drain in very wet soil, plant on a mound for better drainage, install water lines or add a lot of organic material for water retention and then add mulch.

Always have the soil moisture be perfect for what the plant requires, and again, you can arrange or change that.

3. Light: Always determine not only the light conditions of the spot now but how it will be in the future. Trees grow tall, houses get built right next to you and new bushes do not stay small.

Full sun means full sun.

Is it dark shade or dappled light, filtered light or light shade?

How will the plants you plant now, so cute in their little pots, be in 10 years, 15 or 20, and will that affect the sunlight then?

And this, too, you can change by thinning surrounding branches or by thinning or cutting down existing trees.

You can also plant a grove for shade.

So consider first the big 3 — soil, moisture and light — and either select the most well-suited plants or alter one or more of these for optimum effect.

Next week: more.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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