Step 3 for Planting Success

3 - Water in and mulch.

These good rules-of-thumb keep your plant hydrated and happy

After filling in the soil around your plant, build a thin, circular wall of soil an inch or two high and just a bit wider than the hole you have dug for your new plant. Then, fill the inside of the circle with water all the way to the top, refilling a couple of times as it drains into the soil to saturate the rootball. After the water has soaked in, apply an inch or two of mulch - straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, bark, or compost - and make sure it doesn’t touch your plant. A good layer of mulch prevents water loss, reduces weeds, helps prevent erosion of soil, and protects the health of your plant by stabilizing soil temperature as the seasons change.

The rule of thumb for watering most garden plants is an inch of water a week, especially during their first year in a new location. Keep in mind that some plants don't even need this much, so consider the water needs of your plant and your climate average rainfall when determining how much to irrigate them. Remember also that plants in containers will need much more water than those in garden soil, especially during the hottest summer weather. The best time to water your garden is early in the morning, before the sun is high. If you live in a humid climate, watering at this time lets the sun evaporate the standing water from the foliage of your plants, preventing mildew. And in all climates, you will lose less water to evaporation by the sun’s rays if you apply it early in the day.

Only one thing's left - how to tell if you need to fertilize!

Knowing what kind of soil you have and what nutrients it may lack before planting is critical. Begin with a soil test from your local Cooperative Extension Service (usually listed in the "Government" section of your phone book under "Agriculture" or "Education"; or visit the USDA website online to find an office near you). This inexpensive test will tell you a lot about the native soil in your garden and offer fertilization suggestions specific to your soil and what you want to plant. If your soil test indicates you need to fertilize your plants, wait until a week or two after planting to give your plant time to settle into its new home. If you plant in fall, wait until spring to begin fertilizing to avoid encouraging tender new growth before winter. Always follow fertilizer package instructions with regard to how much and how often to fertilize.

Go to the next step "Add a 'Blanket' of Protection!"

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