The right way to plant in 10 easy seps

Douglas Hunt
by Douglas Hunt
You’ve been waiting and waiting through this endless winter to get back in the garden and start planting, and that time is almost at hand. But there’s nothing worse than finally getting to do so and then having a dead plant two weeks later. Happy, healthy plants start with good planting practices. In my experience the biggest reasons for PPD (premature plant death) are improper planting depth and improper watering. Follow my 10 easy steps below to give your plants a good start, and ensure a long season of beauty in your garden.
1. Successful planting starts with picking the right plant. It’s just as important to look below the soil as above. Your local garden center may not like this, but I recommend stealthily unpotting a plant before you buy. Try to slip the plant out of the pot so you can take a look at the root structure. The roots should be fleshy and creamy-white colored, and there should be enough of them to hold the soil together, but not so many as to have the plant pot-bound. Ideally, they should like like those in the photo above, not the one below.
2. Plant as soon as you can after you get home, but if it’s full-on sun, and you’re expecting clouds, or even better, rain, in the next couple of days, wait, tucking your plant away in a shady spot and keeping it watered. If a sunny day is unavoidable, keep your plant out of the sun as much as possible during the planting process.

3. Amend as large an area as you can around the plant, working organic material in the soil. The hole for the plant itself should ideally be twice as wide as the plant, but no deeper than the pot.
4. While you are digging, soak the plant in a pail of water. This is one of the best ways I know to minimize transplant shock, and has the added benefit of killing any unwanted pests that may have traveled along with the pot.
5. Set the plant in the pot in the hole to check for depth. The soil level in the pot should be the same as the soil level of the ground you are planting in. It is better to err on the side of planting too high than too deep.
6. Slip off the pot, and, if the plant is pot-pound, prise apart the roots so they look like those above, using a cultivator if necessary.
7. Set the plant back in the hole, again checking the level, and backfill with soil, distributing it well with your hands and tamping it down so that there are no air pockets.
8. Water thoroughly.

9. Mulch around the plant, but make sure the mulch does not touch the base of the plant itself.

10. Plan on keeping the soil moist, but not wet, for at least two weeks. In my sandy soil, that means watering every day if it’s sunny. Under other conditions, you may need to water only every two or three days. Gradually extend the time between watering to encourage your plant’s roots to grow out into the surrounding soil.
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5 of 7 comments
  • Teri Teri on Apr 09, 2014
    Love following you your always so helpful.Thank you!

  • great advice about checking the roots!

    • See 1 previous
    • @Douglas Hunt I have been 'caught' doing this and showing people what to check when they are looking at the big box store. When asked, I simply say to them that this is checking the viability of the root system and they shrug and look at me with deer in headlight look and walk I am on a first name basis at one of those stores where they just let me be and teach other people how to look for plants. LOL