Welcome

Frequently Asked Questions

Plants
1. How deep should I bury the rootball?
2. How much should I water my plants?
3. How often should I water my plants?
4. When should I fertilize?
5. How much fertilizer should I use?
6. What kind of fertilizer should I use?

Pests
1. What kind of damage can insects cause?
2. How should I deal with scale?
3. What should I do about Mites?
4. How can I get rid of caterpillars?
5. What can I do about slugs and snails?
6. What is leaf miner?

How deep should I bury the rootball?

To avoid suffocation (or a drowning) of the plant’s roots, the top of the root ball should be approximately ½ to 1 inch above the ground. Prevent air pockets around the roots by alternatively packing the soil gently around the root ball and watering the soil as you fill the hole.

How much should I water my plants?
New Plantings
Sandy Soils
Clay Soils
Under-watering
Over-watering

Water is essential for the nutrients found in the soil to be able to be carried to and absorbed by the plant’s roots. NOTE: New plants require frequent waters, however your objective is to work towards deep, infrequent watering to promote strong root systems and plants less susceptible to stress and drought. Shallow, frequent watering, over time will lead to shallow, weak root structures. Water Intervals: Once new plants show growth, begin working toward a deep, infrequent water schedule. Decrease the frequency of your watering, NOT the length of watering. For example, if you are watering 4 times a week, decrease to 3 times, then 2 times, but do not decrease the length of time you are watering. Maintain the length of time to ensure depth of water saturation is met.

New Plantings: A newly placed plant requires that the soil be saturated several feet below the ground. This is best accomplished by hand-watering with a hose and rain wand attachment. Gently watering will allow you to better judge the amount of water the plant receives. NOTE: Sprinkler systems are designed to water 3-6 inches deep for your lawn and will not provide the needed water for new plants.

For Single Plantings of trees or larger shrubs:

  1. Ensuring that the top of the root area is slightly above ground (see How deep should I bury the rootball?) build a dirt mound around the root system to form a basin to capture the water around the plant.
  2. With a hose and rain wand attachment, slowly fill the basin with water and allow the water to soak into the soil. Repeat this step 2-3 times until the soil is thoroughly saturated and not taking in the water as quickly.
  3. Each day check the top few inches of soil. If soil is dry, continue watering with the method outlined in step #2 and ensure the plant is not stressed between watering. If soil is not dry, wait a day, check the soil again, and if dry, water again. Continue extra watering for at least the first month, but after normal growth has resumed, reduce your watering intervals by slowly cutting back on the extra watering.

For Large Areas of shrubs, flowers or groundcovers:

  1. For larger areas, or multiple plantings, hand watering may be an inefficient option, therefore a sprinkler should be considered. However, depending on whether the soil is sandy or clay will determine the length of watering time to ensure proper watering depth.

Sandy Soils:

  1. Continue watering until the water stands or pools on the soil surface, then allow the water to soak into the soil. Repeat several times.
  2. Daily, check the top inch of soil in several areas of the bed to ensure the soil is dry. If the soil is moist or wet, then wait until later in the day to check again, or check the next day. When soil is dry, continue to water, following step #1.
  3. After 1-3 weeks, and new growth develops, begin to cut back watering intervals.

Clay Soils:

  1. Clay soil absorbs water at a slow rate. Continue to water until the water stands or pools on the surface and begin to run-off. Allow the water to soak into the soil. Repeat 2-3 times to ensure proper water saturation.
  2. Daily, check the top inch of soil in several areas of the bed to ensure the soil is dry. If the soil is moist or wet, then wait until later in the day to check again, or check the next day. When soil is dry, continue to water, following step #1.
  3. After 1-3 weeks, and new growth develops, begin to cut back watering intervals.

Watering Concerns:

Under-watering:
Plants not receiving enough water will begin to show signs of stress. To avoid this stress, ensure that you are watering for a correct length of time to ensure the soil is thoroughly saturated. If the soil is dry each time you test before watering, increase the length of time that you water. Within 30 minutes, a stressed plant should show signs of revival, however, for neglected plants, several weeks of care should provide signs of re-growth.

Over-watering:
A plant stressed from over-watering may have the same appearance as a plant that is under-watered. Note the importance of checking the soil before watering, especially during the plant’s establishment and initial root growth.

A wilted plant, with drooping, olive-green leaves, may be able to recover. Pull the mulch back away from the plant and allow the soil to dry out. Do not water again until the top inch of soil is dry.

A wilted plant that has progressed to dark, chocolate brown leaves needs desperate help. A plant at this stage has a rotted root system and is often beyond repair. To attempt to save this plant, remove the plant from the water logged area, to allow root area to dry, and wait to see if the leaves stay on the branches or fall off. If the leaves stick to the branches, check the stems for flexibility. If the stem bends without breaking, the stem is alive and may eventually grow new leaves. If the stem is brittle and breaks easily, it is dead. If there are live stems, the plant may begin to re-grow leaves within 3 to 12 months. Finally, if after you removed the plant from the water-logged soil, and if the leaves began to fall off the branches within a few days of the soil drying out, then the plant can be replanted in better draining soil (or sandy soil above the wet soils during heavy rain) and with care can recover.

How often should I water my plants?

Pull the mulch back from around the plant, and test the top inch of soil for moisture. If the top inch of soil is dry, water immediately. If the soil is moist, then wait until the next day, test the top inch and water if dry.

A plant’s watering requirements vary based on the following plant elements:

  1. Plant’s specific needs – Be aware of the plant’s needs when you purchase it. Most plants will indicate if they need full sun/low sun, well-drained soil/damp soil, acidic fertilizer or not, etc. Consider these needs when selecting where you will place your plants.
  2. Soil – Sandy soils will require more frequent watering. In sandy soils, even drought resistant plants will need daily water while establishing. Clay soil will hold more water and will need to be monitored carefully to avoid an over-watering issue. The soil must be allowed to dry out before watering again.
  3. Weather – Remember water evaporates faster during extreme heat and/or high winds. Consider environmental elements such as the sun exposure, heat index, cloud cover and winds when determining how often to water.
  4. Rainfall –Rainfall can be helpful in contributing to the water needed for plants. For plants trying to be established, too much rainfall, especially in clay soil, can lead to over-water damage.

When should I fertilize?

If plants begin to yellow, lose color or become less responsive to watering, then they probably need to be fertilized. Depending on the fertilizer, plants should only be fertilized every 6-9 months, unless your variety requires more. Specialized fertilizers for specific plants, such as azaleas, camellias and roses are available, but generally a basic 10-10-10 will provide what is needed.

How much fertilizer should I use?

Determine the type of fertilizer used – a powdered or quick-release fertilizer requires a lighter application than a granular, slow-release fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer to determine the amount and correct coverage. It is safer to under-fertilize a plant because over-fertilization can lead to burning the plant’s root system and possibly kill the entire plant.

What kind of fertilizer should I use?

Most fertilizers come pre-mixed, often for particular varieties of plants. Many plants respond well to a generic 10-10-10 mix, while others respond better to a customized blend. Check with your nursery for what your particular plant variety may need.

What kind of damage can insects cause?

The damage inflicted depends on the type of insect. Remember that only 1% of insects are pests, some insects are helpful and needed in our landscape. So consider this before spraying and ensure you are killing the pests and not those that are beneficial.

How should I deal with scale?

Scale is a type of insect that attacks many plants and essentially “suck” the juices out of the plant’s leaves and can lead to the plant’s death if left untreated. Visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG005 for a comprehensive list and explanation of the chemicals and products available to treat scale.

What should I do about Mites?

Spider Mites are tiny insects that will cause small, white or yellow spots on a plant’s leaves and will lead to the premature dropping of the leaves. To treat for mites, you can spray down the plant to simulate a heavy rainfall, which usually knocks off the small insects. Or look for “Neem Oil” at your local home products store. Mixed in small quantities, because it only works for a day, it should be applied to the effected plant for 2-4 days over a 4 week period to ensure adult, as well as newly hatched mites, are all treated.

How can I get rid of caterpillars?

CaterpillarAlthough the caterpillar is a pest, they will evolve into a beautiful butterfly. Consider planting milkweed, or other popular caterpillar plants, to provide an option for the caterpillar other than your ornamental plants.

If you still desire to rid your garden of caterpillars, an affordable insect spray will usually work in one, well-applied dose. Note – only 1% of insects are pests, so take care when applying a multi-insect spray. To research further treatments and to identify the common caterpillars that feed on trees and shrubs visit the NC Cooperative Extension article.

What can I do about slugs and snails?

SlugA safe option is to purchase slug traps (although a pie pan will work) and fill the trap with a syrup-like, generic slug poison. The syrup attracts the slugs, then drowns or poisons them. Further information can be found here.

What is leaf miner?

Leaf minerA leaf miner is an insect that enters a leaf through the side and essentially hollows out or “mines” the inside of the leaf. The tiny maze-like pattern can be viewed from the top or bottom of the leaf. If left untreated, this mining will contribute to the death of the plant through starvation. Effective treatments for leaf miner include Neem Oil, beneficial predators, and insecticide sprays. Further information can be found here.

Source
Photos courtesy of Jim Baker, NC Extension Cooperation
North Carolina Extension Cooperation
University of Florida IFAS Extension