Plants react to the environmental surroundings, and either they will do well, grow fairly well, or will be under a stressed condition. Briefly stated are these points to consider:
1) Know Your Plant Zone;
2) Know Your Soil;
3) Water is Life;
5) Sunlight and Planting Location;
6) Pests, Pathogens, and Animals;
7) Mulch and Weed Control;
8) Selecting Quality Trees and Plants.
Do You Know Your Plant Zone?
Different plants grow in different areas of the world, and many plants will grow do fine almost anywhere, but others can only be planted in selected areas. How do you make sense of it all?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and others, have developed a basic map to show "zones", of similar climates in the United States. Many books, such as the Sunset Garden Book, have categorized most plants into a "zone classification".
Thereby, if you simply look on the map, you will learn what climate zone you're in. Then when shopping for trees and plants, usually through books such as Sunset, then you can find out its zone classification.
The whole point of this is to match plants that suitable to your area. If you plant a tropical plant in the north east, you will find that the first cold spell will kill the plant. Knowing the zone, you can avoid most of these setbacks.
The trees our company offers, "generally" will do well throughout the country. If you ever have a question about a particular plant, and can't find any answers, do feel free to drop us a note.
Know Your Soil
In order for a tree to live, it must be able to grow its roots into the soil, where the feeder roots will absorb water and nutrients. That's pretty obvious, but understanding basic soil dynamics is critical.
Soil is composed of soil particles, water, air, and organic materials. There are many combinations of these ingredients that will make your soil "like a brick", easy to work, or be very loose. It is this soil composition that allows water to easily soak into the ground, hold water, or maybe not allow water in at all.
This is exactly why people add soil mixes or manure, or grass clippings, or other organic materials to their soil. A "good" soil is a balance of the ingredients, whereby the plant grows well, looks healthy, and flourishes.
Always keep in mind "the balance". Too much heavy soil, means there is not enough organic materials to break up the clods. The result is not enough air and water is getting inside. Too muck rock or sand, a very loose soil, suggests not enough soil particles and/or organic materials to hold enough water and nutrients. A workable soil may allow enough water and air to move through, but if it lacks organic materials, then there could be a lack of fertilizer or nutrient cycling.
The whole concept is like a wheel, well balanced and linked to the other ingredients. Tree growth will improve with a well-balanced soil. If fact, most plants prefer a "good" soil.
Water is Life
Without water, nothing lives. The extremes are very simple to understand, the desert versus the swamp. Part of the soil composition is water. How much to have in the soil is almost unanswerable. It is clear when there is enough... the plant doesn't wilt. Having too much can make a plant wilt too (rot is better word to use here). Trees use more water than bedding plants, that is clear also. The bigger the plant, the larger the roots system, therefore it uses more water. Fast-growing trees tend to use a lot of water. Either they are planted in areas that are naturally wet, or extra water is needed, such as with a sprinkler system.
Some people like to use timers on a sprinkler or drip-system, others hand water, and there are many ways to keep the trees and plants moist. Your climate is a big factor as well. The drier and southern climates will require more watering, whereas the
northern or rainy areas may not need very much extra watering. So how long to water and when, has to be decided by you looking at the plants and the ground.
Within the basic ingredients of a soil mix, the organic materials and the soil particles are basically composed of nutrients that help the plant grow well. Water will hold and transport dissolved nutrients either into the soil, or out of the soil. There are also nutrients in the air, that eventually become plant materials, such as carbon (being the most important). Remember the air we breathe is composed of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon compounds, and many other elements and particulate in addition to oxygen.
Like a good balanced soil, a "good" balance of nutrients, will result in faster growth and healthier plants. What type of fertilizer is the best? Basically, fertilizer is fertilizer. Some are granules, some powders, and some are mixed with water, some are slow release and others are fast release. Fertilizer packaging points to the amount of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K,), the major nutrients. If a fertilizer is a 10-6-4, it says there is a ratio of those three nutrients, expressed as a percentage (10%-6%-4%). The higher the number, the stronger the fertilizer. The stronger the fertilizer, the greater the chance of "burning" shallow-rooted plants.
When a nutrient is lacking, then the plant reacts to it. Most commonly, as a basic principle, when nitrogen is lacking in the soil, the plant turns yellowish. Trees that grow fast will likely run out of nitrogen before the other nutrients. Therefore, having enough organic materials in the soil, and occasionally adding fertilizer, the growth will not be hindered.
Nitrogen has to do with growth and leaves. If there is enough in the soil, the other nutrients tend to be more available. Phosphorus and potassium may be plentiful, but if nitrogen is lacking, then the other nutrients tend to become less available. Therefore, especially for fast growing trees and plants, it is most important to have enough nitrogen available.
Phosphorus has to do with flowering. Potassium has to do with root growth and water retention. There are other important nutrients called the "minor" or "trace" elements, but in general, they are abundant in the soil.
Sunlight and Planting Location
Every plant has varying tolerance to the amount of sun and shade. Too much sun, and a plant may wither or burn. Too little, it may turn yellow and not very grow much. How much light a plant gets is very much a factor of where it is planted.
As general rules, having a house in the center of a circle, the south side is full sun, the north is full shade, the east is early half-day sun, and the west is late half-day sun. What other plants or obstacles are in the area you plant, will effect the amount of light the plant receives.
Fast growing trees like full sun, as much as available. Therefore, you select planting areas that are best suited to the types of trees or plants, in this case full sun for these trees.
Location is important, because once a tree is planted, it quickly becomes difficult to move. Knowing how much light a plant needs, and knowing your yard, you can match the plants requirements for best growth.
Pests, Pathogens, and Animals
Trees and plants have some natural protections against insects and disease, and the best prevention is to keep the plants as healthy as possible. It is also normal and common for insects and disease to attack very healthy trees and plants. Without question, the advent of insects or pathogens, the growth of the trees will be hampered. The greater the attack, the slower the trees or plants will grow, even to the point where they stop growing or die.
The only thing to do is watch your trees. Are there bugs visible or pieces of leaves disappearing? Keeping a close watch will limit a problem, because you take immediate action to spray or remove the damaged or infected parts. Your local garden center can help with identifying pests.
Animals can also have a disastrous impact on trees, especially while they are small. Deer and other herbivores can devastate plants, but domestic animals like goats, horses, and cattle can also strip plants and trees. Fencing, repellents, and other
control means may be needed, at least while the trees are small. Do read the notes on Deer Control for more ideas.
Mulch and Weed Control
A thick layer of leaves, lawn clippings, bark, straw, or other materials around your trees offers many benefits. Some people say that mulch allows bugs, disease, and small critters a safe breeding ground. Yes, this can be true, but you need to monitor this and take corrective actions, just like everything else outdoors, but the benefits of mulching far outweighs the risks.
A thick layer of mulch will aide your trees in growing faster by helping to conserve the soil moisture, helps to reduce the soil from getting too warm (thereby reducing the stress on the roots), helps in nutrient cycling, as the mulch decays it improves the soil, and mulch helps to control weeds. Mulching is easy, and typically free.
Naturally, controlling weeds by hand-removal, spraying, or repeated cutting, is desirable. Weeds compete for water, sunlight, and nutrients, and often seem to do a better job than our desired plants. Keep them controlled by any means, and those resources
will remain available to the tree roots.
Selecting Quality Trees and Plants
The mass production of trees and plants by the growing industry over the past couple of decades have made landscaping affordable. Still, to do large scale projects, the cost for plant materials can be rather spendy. Therefore, it is better to buy high quality plants from reputable dealers, than to save a few pennies and have to replace them later, or not have the performance you would otherwise get.
Trees and plants are continually being hybridized, and new varieties seem to appear daily. Not that every new plant is better than the original, but overall, they have an improved performance in growth, disease resistance, or other desirable qualities.
For improving tree growth, it is worthwhile to start with quality trees.
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