June 2, 2011 at 8:41 a.m.
Perennials, Trees and Shrubs are my gardening passion and you are definitely good to go with planting them. But before you dig a hole to place anything in the ground, you'd better know just what kind of ground you're working with. Is it clay, sand, or something in between? In my Master Gardener training, our instructor said something in regards to this that has stuck with me and which I have passed along to hundreds of people. If you only have $100 to spend on a garden, spend $75 amending the soil and the other $25 on the plants. Yes, it's true that you can plant just about any plant in poor soil and it will grow....for awhile. But over just a few years, the plant will begin to decline if not die out all together. Plants need good soil that provides good drainage, aeration, and some nutrients.
Good black dirt, compost or composted manure and sphagnum peat moss are the key ingredients to amending the soil. If you have clay soil, these amendments need to be worked into the soil at a depth of 8-12inches. If you have sandy soil, work it in to a depth of 6-8 inches.
If your perennial garden is just too large to realistically amend every inch of it, then dig the whole twice as deep and twice as wide as the plant's pot. Fill the bottom of the hole with the improved mixture, place the plant, water, and finish filling the hole.
Getting a soil test done is the best first step in knowing just what's going on with the soil in which you want to garden. Soil test kits are available at the County Extension office. They include instructions on how to take samples, the cost of the test, and where and how to ship them. My experience with soil tests sent to the University of Minnesota is that they are usually done within 1-2 weeks.
Once planted, perennials, trees and shrubs will benefit from having some kind of mulch placed around them. The mulch helps keep moisture in and keeps soil temperatures even. This can be very important during times of extreme heat or drought during the summer. Most perennials, trees and shrubs will take 3-5 years to become well established. When late fall arrives, remember that your plants still need water so especially with the trees, and shrubs, water until the ground freezes if possible. Perennials should be covered with some kind of protective mulch after the ground freezes for the first two winters. Straw, hay shredded leaves, pine needles or compost work well for this. This will keep the frozen ground frozen and prevent plant crowns from heaving above the soil surface during winter thaws.
We've waited what seems like forever to put this past winter behind us and now it's time to enjoy the pleasures our gardens bring us. I'm always on the lookout for the latest plant introductions and I'm never disappointed. Yes it's definitely time to get gardening!