How to take care of your newly-planted garden

The care you give a new garden in its first year, particularly in the first few weeks after planting, can be critical for setting up your young plants for long-term success.

What to Do Just After Planting

Seeds and seedlings are the most vulnerable to drying out quickly, but all young plants should be watched carefully in the first weeks after planting.

“Plants need to be nursed to acclimate,” says Donald Pell, principal designer at Donald Pell Gardens in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

“Gardens need to be monitored routinely early on to help catch stress that can occur in the acclimation period. Often I see overwatering and equally underwatering.”

Water consistently

All plants will need to be watered well just after planting and then consistently for the first few weeks of growth. Afterward, water needs vary by plant; some prefer moister or drier soil.

Ask your landscape professional for a care schedule for the first few weeks.

If you’ve planted a new bed in summer, consistent watering is even more critical.

“If we plant after late June, I ask the landscapers to install a temporary irrigation system on timers and slow-release watering bags [for] trees,” says landscape architect Mariane Wheatley-Miller of  Miller Landscape Architecture.

She says these tactics increase the success rate of new plants for her clients.

Monitor plants carefully and often.

To catch any issues early on, keep a close watch on all newly planted areas of the garden.

Note any signs of stress in plants (such as wilting, yellowing leaves, leaf drop or leaf burn) and any issues with irrigation (such as wet areas of soil or dry spots caused by clogged irrigation emitters).

Check irrigation systems daily for the first few weeks after planting.

Seeds and seedlings need an even closer eye as they grow. Plan to water them once or twice a day for the first week or two. Protect seeds and seedling from birds with a cover or netting.

Protect young plants from extreme weather.

Keep in mind that young plants may need extra protection from inclement weather, such as frost or a heat wave. Be ready to provide protection in the form of frost blankets or shade cloths.

Watering

Once plants pass the critical first few weeks after planting, they’ll be less susceptible to drying out quickly.

You can begin tapering off the frequency of irrigation. Your watering schedule will depend on your climate, soil and plant type, so it’s best to ask a landscape professional for advice.

Even if you have an automatic irrigation system set up by a pro, keep a close eye on how your plants are doing to see if anything is getting over- or underwatered.

Automated irrigation systems “give people a false sense of security.

If you’re using an automatic system, set the timer but plan to monitor the system every time it runs until the plants become established (about two to three months).

Weeding

Newly planted gardens can be more susceptible to weed spikes for a few reasons. First, gaps left between plants that have been properly spaced, combined with frequent irrigation, makes for a cultivation area for weeds. Second, if you’ve dug into ground that has been compacted or hasn’t been turned over in some time, you might have unearthed weed seeds that were lying dormant.

Mulching

Adding a layer of mulch on top of planting beds can have a number of advantages in young gardens. Mulch helps suppress weeds in the gaps between young plants as they grow in, keeps the soil cool while plants fill in and prevents water loss from evaporation.

Cover bare spots when plants are establishing. “During a garden’s establishment period, we advocate the use of a shredded wood mulch for most of our gardens. The only exception might be if the garden were in a severely high-fire-risk area,” says Scott,.

Shredded bark mulch breaks down much more easily than larger wood chips, benefiting the soil more readily.

Once plants fill in, there’s less need for mulch. “My planting schemes tend to be on the fuller side, where plants cover the ground and provide shade for roots [so there’s less need for mulch]. But if there are bare spots, I make sure they are mulched with bark chips or gravel.” – houzz.com

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