Planting and Watering

 

PLANTING

Once you get your tree home, it is time to plant. The hole should be dug slightly larger than the container of the tree or shrub being planted.  If the soil is very rocky, try to break up the surrounding soil so the roots have somewhere to grow. The main thing to remember when planting is to plant the tree at the proper level.  The roots of the tree should all be under ground and the trunk should be above ground.  Placing a trunk below the soil line can cause the trunk to rot or severe nutrient deficiencies and general poor growth.  Usually planting the tree at the same depth it was in the container will suffice, but always check to make sure it wasn’t planted too low or too high in the container.

Amending South Florida soil is unnecessary.  Any amount of peat or potting soil placed within the planting hole of your newly planted tree can result in problems difficult to diagnose and correct.  Amended soil will also have a different drying rate from the native soil around it.  It is often the case that the amended hole will be dry when the surrounding ground is wet.  Furthermore, if your new tree is healthy, its roots will quickly grow away from the original planting hole and any amended soil. Fertilizing at the time of planting should also be avoided.  When a tree is planted in the ground, its roots are not ready to absorb soil applied nutrients.  The tree should be established for a month or more or should have produced one to two flushes of new growth before any fertilizer is added.  Fertilizing newly planted trees is a major cause of root burn and must be avoided.

WATERING

Watering a new planting is crucial.  The tree should be watered immediately after it is planted.  This watering should be thorough, causing any air pockets in the soil to collapse.  The soil should be tamped down gently at this time to further insure the removal of air pockets.  Be careful not to water your plant too often.  Over-watering a tree can be just as deadly as not watering a tree at all.  The best way to judge if a new planting needs water is to check the soil to see if it is dry.  After the first few days of watering, the watering schedule should begin to decrease at steady increments.  Switch to watering every other day, then every three days and finally once a week until the tree is no longer dependent on your watering.  Decreasing your watering will force the plant’s roots to store more water as well as extend out further from the base of the tree.  Planting during the rainy season (June-August) is by far the best way to easily establish new plantings.  If you time your plantings to be completed by the first of June, you will significantly decrease your hand watering because rain will take care of most of your plant’s water needs and will decrease the amount of time needed to establish your plants.  Smaller trees will require significantly less time to establish than larger trees and will require less hand watering over time.  Most small plantings are established within three to six months from time of planting.

Irrigation systems are not a necessary component of the South Florida garden and are used primarily for keeping lawns lush in the dry winter months.  It is best to conserve water and let lawns go brown in the winter and spring months.  Lawns will again turn green in the wet summer months.  A wide variety of tropical fruits require a dry season to flower and fruit prolifically and are actually harmed by irrigation systems.