Before beginning, the job seemed simple to Tom and Marilyn, but several times during the day they commented “we sure are glad we waited for Rusty.” He shared many techniques to improve the shrub planting project.
First, he encouraged them to buy fifteen “balled and burlapped” rhododendrons from a reputable nursery rather than potted look-a-likes from a giant buy-it-all store. B & B plants are locally field grown bursting with the beneficial bacterial and fungus within the soil. In contrast, the potted shrubs are trucked in from warmer states in potting soil with timed release fertilizer subduing the beneficial soil organisms. If not planted quickly, the roots grow in circles at the bottom of the plastic pot and can choke the plant.
Next, Rusty insisted they use compost in every shrub hole. The holes were dug large enough to allow three to four shovelfuls of good organic compost. From his experience, this soil amendment shows evident growth where shrubs prolifically grow and flower in comparison to plants with no added compost.
After being placed in the hole, the rhododendrons were placed best side forward with the top of the root ball at ground level. Then the burlap was unpinned and tucked below the ground. If the burlap is exposed to the air it will act as a wick and pull all the moisture from the root ball.
Rusty never recommends landscape fabric or black plastic. These materials only make a permanent non-biodegradable layer for weeds to grow on top.
Rusty then gave a good stomp packing the soil around each plant ball removing any air pockets and heaped a donut of soil, a foot from the center of the plant stem. This mound formed a well to help trap water from running off.
After thoroughly saturating the shrubs, we mulched with four inches of bark chips to retain moisture and suppress weed growth. He coached us on leveling the mulch along the brick wall to give the effect of a perfect manicure.
To complete the project Rusty guided us to cut a crisp edge separating the lawn from the new bed of mulched shrubs. Katie, his niece, accepted the unveiling job of cutting the string off the shrub branches while Danny, his nephew, and our boys shared positive encouragement.
That afternoon will yield years of blooming pleasure a reminder of a fun day when two families came together to work and play.