By Nicole Slaydon
Too often in life, one-size-fits-all solutions are forced onto problems that don’t always have an easy fix. If your baseball cap doesn’t fit quite right, it won’t kill off your hair, but parenting styles, diets, and, yes, even arbor care require customized solutions to avoid permanent damage and achieve high levels of success. Plant stress levels, soil types, and environmental variables all impact root and plant health. Once you understand these variables, you will be better equipped to create a customized plant maintenance formula regardless of the situation at hand.
The challenges of urban planting
Because of the rough conditions that urban settings often present, planting in such settings requires specific tactics and solutions. Unless you have the luxury of planting in zoned green space, the area for branches to grow and roots to sprawl is usually limited. There are buildings, sidewalks and utilities — both overhead and underground to consider when choosing a space with enough room for foliage to grow. The amount of sun, shade and moisture necessary for the plant to thrive should also be considered.
The soil in which your plant will live is equally as important as the physical area in which you plant. Whether or not the landscaped area has been through the process of stripping, construction or upheaval, odds are that the soil nutrients are far from ideal. Even if the soil looks rich, don’t be too quick to assume that it contains all of the necessary nutrients to keep your plants healthy.
These challenges may seem daunting, but fortunately there are steps you can take to enhance the success of landscaping in an urban setting. Begin by considering seedlings for all or part of your landscaping needs. Seedlings have a faster growth rate and develop a strong root system, which helps maintain strength throughout the life of the plant. Mid- or full-size trees, on the other hand, often suffer from the stress of transplanting.
“We’ve found that customizing your supplement to fulfill a specific need achieves better results than merely picking a generic biological or fertilizer,” said Kristi Woods, senior research associate of Roots. “For instance, when planting seedlings, stick with fertilizers that focus on root health to support those developing roots at a critical growth stage.”
According to Woods, if your customer wants the established look of bigger trees, using a biological designed for planting, transplanting and revitalization can help ease the stress of moving and establishment. Installing mycorrhizae or fertilizer spikes afterward provides year-round nutrition.
Suburban and rural planting
Planting in suburban and rural environments presents its own set of challenges. For starters, wildlife is more prevalent in these areas, meaning landscaping is more often threatened by animals and insects looking for shelter or food. Using a pesticide or a biological before animals even begin to nibble can help fend off these predators.
Soil conditions in suburban and rural areas are prone to issues such as salty irrigation water, anaerobic qualities, and drought-like conditions — all of which negatively impact the health and growth of landscaping. The good news is that there are several ways to combat poor soil quality. Applying plenty of mulch to retain moisture in drought-type conditions or mixing sand into dense soils in order to provide more aeration are a couple suggestions to improve plant survival rates.
Including biological fertilizers or mycorrhizae in your regimen is another way to make up for poor soil conditions. Mycorrhizae are specialized fungi that form mutually beneficial relationships with plant roots. They are key to maintaining the overall health and well-being of plants and root systems and are easily administered via such methods as liquid injection, granular application and spikes.
“Granular applications can be easily applied to a larger surface area and provide ideal amounts of nutrients through gradual distribution,” said Woods. “Like spikes, granular mychorrihzae are made up of granular pellets that are time released, which provide root health for a longer period of time with fewer applications.”
Plants and stress
No matter where you plant new landscaping, proactively caring for plants from the beginning will give them the best chance of survival in rough conditions. Stunted growth and lack of color are sure signs that your plants are struggling – whether from the soil, the environment, or even a disease within the plant itself. Unfortunately, by the time you first notice signs of stress, the battle is already half lost.
Planning a care strategy ahead of time and considering location, plant size and which nutrients to use will set plants on the right path from the beginning. With proper knowledge and care, you can avoid the often “unfitting” one-size-fits-all approach in favor of truly healthy and vibrant landscaping in almost any setting.
Nicole Slaydon is senior communication coordinator for Roots Plant Care Group, a division of Novozymes Biologicals, Inc.