You’ll often hear that spring and fall are the ideal times to plant in our climate, and that’s generally true. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t — or shouldn’t — plant in the summertime. After all, the best time to plant is anytime you bring home a new find from the Nursery! As a member of our elite planting team, Ty knows his way around summer planting, and as he shares in the video below, the secret to success is water. With a little care at planting time and supplemental water throughout the hottest months, your plants will thrive no matter when you put them in the ground.
There are plenty of benefits to adding new plants to your garden this time of year. Because plants are fully leafed out and many have exploded into flower, this an ideal time to shop around at the Nursery because so much of the design guesswork is eliminated. As visual people, gardeners often appreciate the ability to create bloom and foliage combinations right in their carts because they can be sure that they will look equally great when they bring the plants home. Similarly, this time allows you to easily identify the spots in your garden where you might need a bit of extra punch this time of year. That's why we chose to plant the golden-leaf Caryopteris 'Lil' Miss Sushine' featured in this video. It really helps to fill in this area of our display beds while tying together the design as a whole, picking up on the beautiful golden foliage accents nearby and carrying blue flowers into another area of the garden.
1) Pre-soak your plant.
Water is the secret to success when it comes to summer planting, and it starts before your plant even goes in the ground! Sinking your nursery pot into a tub of water for a couple of hours will give your plant ample time to absorb as much water as it wants, so it will be well-hydrated going into the ground.
2) Prepare your planting hole and fill it with water.
As with any time of year, you want to dig a hole that is wider than the nursery pot your new plant is currently growing in, and just barely deeper. This will not only help prevent your plant from sinking over time, but encourage it to send out roots into the amended soil you will place back in the hole. But before you begin this process, the hole you've just dug presents the perfect opportunity to deliver a bit of water directly into the soil where your new plant will live. By filling the hole with water and letting it drain, you are allowing that moisture to percolate deep into the soil rather than simply run off the surface.
3) Get to planting.
Once that moisture has permeated into the ground, take your plant out of its pot. As Ty explains, it's good to rough up the plant's roots if it looks pot-bound, and the simplest way to do this is with a few scores of a knife. This root disturbance will help stimulate root growth into the new soil.
Then, set your plant down in the hole and back-fill with native soil that you've amended with 30% - 50% planting compost. This organic material will help your soil to retain moisture, as well as provide some aeration, which is especially important if your soil is particularly clay-heavy, as is the case for many gardeners in our area.
When your hole is halfway filled, it's always a good idea to add a couple of handfuls of Sure Start organic fertilizer from E.B. Stone. It contains natural mycorrhizae that help to promote root growth and reduce transplant shock. Plus, it will help to feed your plant throughout its first summer in the ground!
4) Create a "moat" around your plant.
After you have finished filling in around your plant with soil, it's time to build a "moat!" By creating a mounded ring of soil around your plant, you can create a small basin that will help to trap the water you give your plant and allow it to filter into the ground, much as it did when we first filled the hole with water. (This is an especially great tip for gardeners working on a sloped site.)
5) Water in your plants (and keep them watered!)
After you've gotten everything planted, water your plants again by filling the "moat" you just created and allowing it to drain a couple of times. It may seem like a lot of water, but if the soil is dry, these steps will help to mitigate any transplant shock by keeping the surrounding soil from robbing too much moisture from your plant's root zone, leaving it to potentially wilt.
You want to water your plants regularly during the summer months to help them get established. And watering deeply will help to encourage your plants to grow deep root systems to sustain themselves through fluctuations in temperature and precipitation. When we aren't receiving rainfall, look to provide your new plants with water two to three times a week. For perennials, this supplemental water may only be necessary for the first year in our climate, but for trees and shrubs, they will appreciate two or three years of this treatment.
We have plenty of products here at the Farm to help you water well this summer. The Dramm adjustable watering wand Ty uses in this video is the same model we use every day here around the Farm, and it’s great for delivering water to a few plants you’ve popped into the landscape. We also offer watering bags for a gradual release of water around the base of newly planted trees and large shrubs. You can just fill them up once per week and forget them. For areas with extensive new plantings, you can run a sprinkler or a soaker hose for an hour or two.
As long as you stay on top of watering when planting in the summer, your garden will reward you with beauty for years to come!