Fall soil conditions are perfect for planting evergreens

GARDENING

September 15, 1990|By Art Kozelka | Art Kozelka,Chicago Tribune

Once the deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves after their colorful autumn spectacle, it is the evergreens that assume a dominant role in the landscape for the otherwise barren winter months.

Just as they dominate the late fall and winter vistas with their greenery, they will be ready in spring to provide dramatic green accents and impressive backgrounds for the flowering displays.

Though evergreens can be planted at any time, the weeks ahead offer many advantages for planting or transplanting them. The earth is still warm, moist and easy to work, cooler temperatures usually prevail, and autumn rains encourage substantial root development before winter. Moreover, they have ripened their new growth and can be handled with the least risk of injury.

New plants obtained from a nurseryman or garden center are likely to be in a container or have their roots in a soil ball wrapped in burlap. The latter, called balled and burlapped specimens, as well as those in containers, usually are dug fresh from nursery rows. These are easy to manage and present no transplanting problems because roots are not disturbed.

But moving plants already established in the yard to another location is more of a challenge, especially if they have grown to an unwieldy size. Young plants a few feet tall with a small branch spread may be easy to handle, but professional help may be required for larger plants with a bigger and heavier soil ball.

Dig the hole considerably larger than the soil ball to be taken up with the plant. Mix some peat moss and organic fertilizer with soil at the bottom of the hole.

Before digging the plant to be moved, draw the branches closer to the trunk or main stem with a rope to prevent injury to them and to facilitate handling.

Use a sharp spade or shovel when lifting the plant, digging deeply all around it first, then undercutting to sever the soil ball from the earth. Raise the plant by prying and lifting it with the spade on different sides of the hole until it is out of the ground. Then ease it gently into the previously dug hole in the new location positioning it at the same depth it was before.

Heavier plants can be conveniently moved with a minimum loss of soil by placing them on a rug, canvas or blanket and pulling them to the new planting site.

When the plant has been reset in its new hole, add a mixture of soil and peat moss around the soil ball until the hole is half full. Then firm the soil around the ball and flood the hole with water. After the water has seeped away, backfill with more soil to ground level, then soak the soil for several feet around and beyond the planted area.

Use the same planting procedures when setting out new plants fromthe nursery, after removing the plants from their containers.

The balled and burlapped specimens can be planted intact, but the burlap should be loosened at the top so the roots can settle comfortably. The burlap eventually will decompose in the soil.

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Hybrid versions of Cape primroses (Streptocarpus) are winning increasing favor among indoor plant buffs who admire their colorful little trumpet blooms. They are more floriferous, more compact with fewer leaves and endure much longer than most pot plants.

Moreover, they are less temperamental than African violets -- their close kin -- and easier to grow, even from seed. Their blooms come in many bright colors as well as delicate pastel hues with varied patterns, all borne on graceful stems.

Among the newer creations is Blue Angel, a hybrid developed by Lin Saussy Wiles, plant breeder for the Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C.

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