1. Locate underground utilities by calling Gopher State One Call. Just dial 811! They contact the relevant companies to mark locations of any underground pipes or wires. This is a free service and is a critical step in your installation.
2. Clear the planting area of debris and remove existing trees or shrubs that don’t fit into your new plan.
3. Locate the planting bed lines. If you are working from a plan, convert the measurements carefully. A garden hose works well to help you visualize the bed lines. If the bed appears too large for the plants you intend to use, do not reduce the bed size. A planting bed which is too small will overgrow quickly, causing maintenance problems in time.
4. Remove sod and, if necessary, excavate the bed deeper. This is important because most mulches need to be about 3”-4” deep and should be level with the adjacent sod after installation.
5. Rake the bed smooth, paying special attention to drainage. Slope the bed away from the house if this is a foundation planting. Create the proper drainage during this excavation. The mulch you install later will not correct drainage errors.
6. Install the edging. Many types of edging are available, including metal, wood, and vinyl. Use rot-resistant wood such as redwood or cedar. Don’t skimp on quality if you choose to use vinyl. Thin, inexpensive edging won’t stay in the ground, will break if stepped on, and will become a maintenance headache. If installed correctly, quality edging should last the lifetime of the landscaping. Install the edging so the top is at the same level as the adjacent sod. Wood can be secured with wood stakes driven into the ground inside the edging line. Vinyl commonly comes with metal or heavy plastic stakes. Do not allow the edging to become twisted as you install it. If the vinyl came in a roll, unroll it, weight it down, and let it soften in the sun before you install it - unless you enjoy wrestling!
7. Install plants. Handle the plants by the pots, not by the branches or trunks. Remove the pots carefully so the roots are disturbed as little as possible. In some cases, it may be necessary to cut the pot away. Dig a hole at least 6” bigger around than the shrub pot and at least 12” bigger for trees. Digging the hole deeper helps the roots establish, but be sure to backfill this with improved soil so you won’t end up planting too deep. Planting too deep will suffocate the roots. If the native soil is too heavy or too sandy, mix good black soil, peat moss, and/or other organic matter with the native soil to backfill around the plant’s earth ball. Incorporate a good share of the native soil back into this mixture, no matter how bad the native soil seems. The plant has to adapt to the native soil eventually - having only good soil around the root ball may discourage the roots from venturing very far afield. Do not fertilize with regular strength fertilizer or fertilizer stakes at planting time. Instead, use root stimulator, Myke’s for Trees and Shrubs, or Myke’s for Perennials. After planting is completed, water thoroughly to soak the root ball and to settle the soil. It may be necessary to add more soil later.
8. Mulch the area. Rock mulch should be 3”-4” deep. Use a weed barrier under rock. Landscape fabric is superior to plastic because it allows for water and air circulation. Lay the weed barrier over the top of the plants, cut an “X” in the fabric to accommodate the plants, and lower the barrier to the ground. Overlap edges. The barrier should not be tight up against the plants. Install the rock. Install the barrier and rock at the same time, especially if the plants are in full sun. If you install the barrier one day and the rock another day, you may come back to find your plants fried by the black barrier radiating the sun’s heat. Organic mulch, such as wood chips, should be installed without a weed barrier underneath. Instead, after the plants are installed, sprinkle a pre-emergent weed killer on the ground, and then install the mulch so that it will be at least 2” thick after it has settled. Hose off the plants leaves after the mulch is installed. Reapply the pre-emergent weed killer every spring and replenish the organic mulch as it slowly decays over time.
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