A GROWING CONCERN: Time to plant, can you dig it?

NO MATTER WHAT some varmint on Feb. 2 says, gardening is a never-ending cycle of planting and design, as things grow, are purchased, die, under-perform, get replaced or are arranged to meet each season’s needs with a colorful blast and awe.

These next few weeks are absolutely ideal to plant, move or rearrange the various aspects of your gardens. And on top of the list is the mantra of February, (and March, too) which is plant, plant, plant.

Transplanted items, whether in a pot or moving from one location in the yard to another, suffer very little shock now, as the skies are dark, day length is short and the weather here is damp and wet, with the temperatures cool or extremely mild.

Our winter elements do not work against the plant, in fact, the dampness aids the flora in rooting in.

It rains here now, and for some of you along streams or rivers, you even have experienced flooding.

Plant production

Mother Nature keeps your newly-placed botanical marvels good and wet for the next several months, and the water and labor are donated for free (or give those along flooding areas reason to plan more berms and dig more trenches).

New root production (which is vital to all plants) also occurs this time of year.

Please remember that bone meal is an outstanding nutrient for encouraging new root growth, so spread it around your new plantings with great liberation — putting it at the bottom of the hole, halfway up and then again on the surface.

Make sure as you dig your holes, that you make them large enough — preferably two times as large as the root ball, avoiding smooth-sided holes.

Making a perfectly round and smooth hole only acts as an in-ground container for the plant, which in turn causes the roots to “ball up” and not spread out. We want their roots to spread out to offset their height and girth.

Make sure when you are done digging to chop up the bottom of the hole, loosening up the soil.

If you are in particularly difficult soil, spread your task over several days to allow yourself stamina to prepare each hole accordingly. Thrust your shovel deep into the sidewalls so as to scar up the edges, creating numerous cracks and crevices for roots to expand outward from the planting pit.

As always, when you are done planting, first water-in well (unless at this time of year when it rains 2 inches over a 48 hour period) so that the water collapses air gaps in the freshly filled soil.

Next, place several inches of mulch over the top of the ground to retain summer moisture, repress weeds and regulate soil temperatures, making sure not to have mulch touch the trunk or stems of your plants.

But no matter what, if you want a new tree or vine, please plant it during February.

If you want to move things about, do it now. Out of all possible seasons, this is by far the best time.

Don’t rush! Make sure when transplanting to take your time, digging slow and deep around the entire plant before attempting to remove it from the ground.

The more ground and roots that you retain and move, the better the plant will perform in its new location.

Many times, moving a plant that has become too big for its spot saves more time and labor than countless hours and years of attempting to keep it pruned in order to fit its current location.

By planting in the next few weeks, the mess is gone.

Come this summer, all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy your winter labors, minus the water bills and worries of whether transplant stress will take a toll on your plant and pocketbook.

Happy transplanting! And stay well, all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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