Doing things right and “with care” always seems to involve more time and better materials.
But wait. Aren’t you suppose to keep costs down and get as much work done as quickly as possible?
There you have it – the conflict.
Well, it’s a conflict only if you’re confused about what your standards are and those of the market you’re trying to serve. But if you’re an owner/operator who does not compromise on quality and wants the reputation and customer-type that goes with that, there is no conflict.
When you install plants with care:
- You have less replacements and call-backs.
- Your plantings look and grow better.
- Customers appreciate the care you take and the results they get.
But can you be both productive and caring with your planting work?
Yes, of course.
In previous lessons we’ve looked at the steps leading up to planting. And with each one we’ve talked about the right way of doing things, but with efficiency, productivity and profit in mind.
Like with everything we do as owner/operators, planting is just another opportunity to be smarter and better – it’s what sets us apart.
How to Install Plants to Benefit Your Business (oh, and the Plants too)
So we’ve listed some of the benefits of planting “with care”, but what exactly does that mean? What are the things you need to be thinking about and doing to get not just a high rate of survival, but healthy, more self-sustaining landscapes?
Check the soil quality.
If you were thorough in the “plant selection” phase, you took note of the soil quality when you were on the property. Remember too that you can actually select plants that are tolerant of certain soil types.
But soil quality can vary on a property. It can go from fairly decent to lousy and you should be watching for that during the planting process.
There are steps you can take to work with poor soil quality, and you want to implement them right then and there. Not doing so hurts the plants, but your business too.
Check grades and elevations.
There comes a point working in this trade where grades and elevations become second nature. It’s one of the first things you notice when you walk on a property. And that’s good. Grades and elevations affect everything in the landscape – not just hardscapes, but plantings too.
Generally speaking you always want pitch on an area, including the gardens. Areas that are level (or worse yet, low), cause surface water to not move and drain properly. This can be deadly for plantings.
Poor grading can often times be corrected by re-grading. This could mean just reworking the existing ground, removing some of what’s there, or adding additional soil.
Raised planting areas, like earth berms and gardens on top of walls, need special consideration too. Not only is the soil type often a different makeup, but being “raised” creates a different irrigation and drainage condition (compared to the ground-level plantings).
Be aware of existing plants and trees.
For spacing your new plants among existing ones be aware of what the existing plants are, and most importantly what their future growth will be. Maybe they’re nearing mature size so spacing is less of a concern.
Root interference and competition should also be a consideration. This is another condition to scope out when you first walk the property.
Again, there are plants you can select that are more adaptable to root competition, and that would certainly be the smartest way to deal with it.
Trying to solve the problem by cutting out the existing roots where the new plant goes, or raising the area with extra soil can be just temporary solutions.
Be realistic with all your strategies and solutions, and think long-term. You don’t want poor results to come back to you in the way of call-backs and replacements.
Prepare the planting hole as if the plant’s life depended on it.
Rather than repeat what’s in the LCF ebook, check out planting guidelines starting on page 11 of the ebook.
Once you know the fundamental steps of planting B&B, container plants and ground covers, you can modify and adapt those principles to fit different situations.
- You’ll have circumstances like planting “running” bamboo where you’ll need to contain its invasiveness.
- You’ll have closely spaced hedges and groupings where trenches and other open excavations are used.
- You’ll be planting close to (and maybe on top of) utilities and other sensitive things where the digging process takes extra time and planning.
Remove burlap and ties that can adversely affect the plant.
Nylon and other synthetic ties and burlap should be removed at the time of planting. Sometimes, however, you’ll want to leave natural burlap and sisal cord on a transplant to help stabilize it – or on a nursery plant that might be getting loose where the stem meets the root ball.
Make note of those projects where “burlap & ties were left on” so that you can return to remove them before problems occur. Calendar software like Google Calendar or in MS Outlook are excellent for scheduling dates to check on things like this.
Follow through with care when final grading, mulching and irrigating.
Attention to detail doesn’t stop once the plants are in the ground. “Finish-rake” and restore the grades you initially created so the planting beds drain properly.
Mulching is the plant’s insulation that moderates temperatures and moisture levels. Mulch will return dividends big time when installed and maintained correctly. We’re going to take a much closer look at mulching in future articles. It’s that important.
Irrigation is another topic we’re going to talk about. It’s not only a matter of life and death for your plantings, but also how well they’ll do. A planting may just survive due to “under or over-waterings,” but to have it healthy and beautiful – that takes thoughtful irrigation management. If you need irrigation guidance now, refer to “Irrigation” on page 30 of the LCF ebook.
Planting properly and with care is just another distinguishing aspect of your work. Be committed to the right procedures and you’ll see many ways your business will benefit. Also, remember to point out to your customers (and prospects) the care, skill and knowledge you practice. They’ll be amazed and so glad you’re looking out for them.