Myths About Planting

Myths About Planting

There are hundreds of myths about plants and gardens, but at this time of year it’s appropriate to address a few misunderstandings about planting.

1. “Is it too late to plant?” aka “Don’t plants have to be installed by the end of May?”  No matter what you’re putting into your yard and garden, there is no expiration date on planting. You can continue to plant annuals, vegetables, perennials, shrubs and trees all through the growing season in this area. Those who live in the south where the temperatures soar in the summer might not be planting in July and August, but on the Cape plants don’t suffer from extreme heat. And have no fear about those annuals and vegetables that you’re putting in the garden in June; they will catch up in growth by the end of July. Additionally, as you harvest early veggies you can put seeds for carrots, kale, lettuce, chard and other greens in the garden for harvest fall into winter.

2. “I have to loosen the roots, right?” This is a myth that took a good idea to an extreme so that it actually becomes more harmful. We’re illustrating with photos but the bottom line is that if a plant is extremely root bound the roots should be pulled out from the ball or cut…but if the roots are not wound around and around in the bottom of the pot, don’t touch them. You’ll do more harm than good by pulling at tender, young roots.

These roots are very congested at the bottom of the pot. In this case, gently pulling those roots to loosen them can help the plant get established faster. If you’re planting a shrub or tree, loosening roots that circle around and around as these do can prevent the plant from strangling itself as the roots grow larger.

This geranium isn’t root bound – the roots don’t circle very much in the bottom of the pot so there is no need to disturb them. Just place a rootball that looks like this directly into soil.

This tomato plant came out of a six-pack. You can see the fine root hairs here and it’s best not to disturb them. Place such a plant directly into the ground or pot without pulling at the roots.

3. “I can leave the burlap on the tree I’m planting, right?”  Wrong. Most burlap doesn’t break down quickly enough when it’s under the soil and the roots of the shrub or tree won’t be able to break through. Additionally, the twine that holds the burlap against the trunk or stem can strangle the plant in future years, and wire baskets can also kill plants as they cut into the growing roots and trunks. If you need to leave the burlap and/or basket on to get the tree in place, do so. But once it’s in the hole clip the wire off and cut away the burlap…if you need to leave a small piece at the bottom under the ball, that’s fine.

Be sure to remove the wire basket, all twine, and burlap before filling the hole with soil. Additionally, current research on planting shows that the native soil is best to fill the hole with, and all improvements should be applied from the top down, as nature does it. So spreading an inch or two of composted manure on the top of the soil well beyond the drip-line of these trees is the best way to improve sandy soils. An inch of mulch can be put right over that amendment.

4. “I should put fertilizer in the hole, right?” The answer to this depends on what type of fertilizer you’re using. If you’re using a synthetic product such as a 10-10-10, that can burn new roots as they begin to grow. So avoid putting a synthetic product down when you plant. But an organic fertilizer such Bio-tone won’t burn roots, so this is safe and effective. Toss a handful in the hole, and around the area under the drip-line once the roots are covered.

If you’re interested in reading about more common garden myths, come into the store for a copy of Coffee for Roses, an entertaining book that debunks 70 common myths about plants and backyard gardening.



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