Monday, February 6, 2017

Proper Planting

As the weather warms in central Florida, people get excited to work outside.  Are you putting in new plants?  Did you get a tree for Arbor Day that you are ready to install?  Brush up on proper planting techniques--things may have 
changed since you were taught how to plant.  

Select a good quality plant.  Remove it from the container and take a look at the roots.  Are they healthy? Do you see any insects? Are the roots spilling out of the container?  Choose a plant with white, pest-free roots (and shoots) that are not tightly packed into the container.

Make sure the root ball is moist before planting.  Loosen roots, or, shave the periphery of the entire root ball prior to planting.  This is not necessary if you are planting bedding plants, but with shrubs and trees it will help them establish properly.  You do not want any circling roots to hinder plant growth.  

Dig your planting hole twice as wide as the root ball and the depth should allow the root ball to be even with the soil surface or slightly higher.  Avoid planting too deep.  If you dig the hole too deep, remove the plant, add soil to the hole and then re-position the plant.  Fill the area around the root ball with the soil that you removed.  It is not necessary to add organic amendments such as compost or topsoil.  

The top-most roots should be level, or just above the surface of the soil.  Notice how there is no soil on top of the root ball.  

Finally, you are ready to mulch.  Mulch around the plant 2-3 inches deep.  Do not place any mulch on top of the root ball.  By leaving the root ball exposed, irrigation and rain water are more readily absorbed into the plant.  

If you have any questions on proper planting, contact us at the Plant Clinic (863) 519-1057 or download this helpful fact sheet.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to take a soil sample

When was the last time you had your soil tested?  Are you planting a vegetable garden? Revamping a garden bed?  You may want to get your soil tested prior to all of your springtime planting.  The Polk County Master Gardeners test soil pH for $3 per sample.  

How should you collect your sample?  Follow these directions:
  1. Identify the area(s) to be sampled. Turf areas, vegetable gardens and ornamental beds should all be sampled separately.
  2. Using a shovel, trowel, or soil probe, remove soil from several spots in the sampling area. Select several plugs at random, place in a container, and mix together. Remove any plant material or mulch. Avoid adding plugs that show different characteristics. These may need a separate test.
  3. Soil should be removed from 2-4 inches below the surface for lawn areas and 6-8 inches below the surface for vegetable gardens and landscape beds.
  4. Remove approximately 1-2 cups (1 pint) of soil and spread it out on newspaper or a paper grocery bag. Allow the soil to air dry thoroughly.
  5. Remove 1 cup of soil and place it into a bag or jar to submit for testing at the Extension Office. The soil will be tested for pH.
  6. After pH testing is complete, the results will be sent to you.  Remember to select plants based on the soil type in your yard following the Right Plant, Right Place principle of Florida-Friendly Landscaping.  We can provide you with a list of plants that will work in your pH.