Plant and fertilize carefully to garden where a big
tree was removed
I'm in the planning and dreaming stage where all
gardeners are this time of year! We lost a 60 foot maple tree
in the yard. It provided shade and I will miss that. However, it
was also a messy tree and it confined my plant selection to
groundcovers and hostas.
After the debris was cleaned up and the stump ground, I
was told that I couldn't plant anything but acid loving plants for
five years. Is this true? I was hoping to plant roses and
sun-loving perennials in the area.
There are even more people in your spot than usual this year, as
we plan to replace millions of lost ash trees!
You don't have to wait or restrict your plant choices. But
planting right where a big tree was isn't like planting into fallow
Where a stump is ground down, what remains isn't soil but
sawdust, which is not a good growing medium. Better to plant to one
side but if you must plant right where the stump was, remove the
top 12 to 18 inches of soil-sawdust mix. Use what you excavate to
topdress other beds. Like woodchips, it will break down over
Fill excavated planting areas with topsoil mounded several
inches above original grade. If you're planting beyond the stump
location where it's not necessary to remove sawdust, you should
still add several inches of top soil. This extra depth of soil is
in anticipation of subsidence -- a lowering of the grade as
subterranean tree parts rot away. Watch for it over the next five
to ten years and add soil as needed between new plantings. If new
plants themselves sink, dig them out, add soil and replant.
All around where a tree was removed, mix in organic, slow
release fertilizer such as cottonseed meal and composted manure.
Use water soluble fertilizer during the first few years, throughout
spring and early summer to make up for the fact that
wood-decomposing fungi are locking up nutrients in surrounding and
underlying layers as they break down woody roots and sawdust.
Do landscape boulders encourage braking?
Rocks at the roadside may seem like a good way to fend car tires
from lawn and garden but can do more harm than good. The tire that
slides off an icy road won't stop when it hits that rock but it
will push it, so you'll have not only compacted soil but a gouge to
repair. If your street is tough for cars to navigate in winter,
burlap bags of sand can mark the road edge at least as well as
rocks and are a better bet for absorbing the impact of stray
Learn from orchardists: prune in winter.
Sharpen your pruners so you can take advantage of January and
February thaws. On days that top 40 degrees you can clean up the
framework of a shade tree, remove suckers and watersprouts from a
fruit tree, crabapple or weeping cherry, prune a hedge, clip back
roses and raspberries, and neaten foundation plantings.
Didn't get all those spring bulbs planted?
It's hard to keep tulips, daffodils and other hardy bulbs alive
in home storage all winter. Even in the best place, the crisper
drawer, some will dry out and rot.
The most successful way to store a bulb is to plant it. Here's
an easy way to do that even when the ground is frozen.
Line a milk crate with thick, overlapping sections of newspaper.
Put several inches of potting soil into the bottom of the crate.
Add a layer of big bulbs such as daffodils, tightly packed. Then
add more soil and a close-set layer of smaller bulbs such as
crocus. Finish filling the crate with soil.
Keep the crate in an unheated garage. Heft it now and then and
water it if it begins to lose weight. When the bulbs sprout, move
the crate into the light on a porch or patio. Water and fertilize
it. Enjoy the densely packed blooms, then depot the bulbs, separate
and transplant them to the garden.
Green thumbs up
to the transportational qualities of fragrance.
Clip a bit of a fragrant plant now -- bruise the cutting to inhale
a bit of spring. Keep a sprig of thyme, sage or lavender or a twig
of bayberry or blue mist spirea in your pocket. Each time you touch
it, the scent that's released will take you away from winter and
out into the garden.
Green thumbs down
to those who scoff at a gardener's bird seed
expenditures. Birds pay it back in insect control. Lure a chickadee
to a feeder each morning and it will scour the shrubbery for aphid
eggs all day. Cardinals and others live on seed in winter but
switch to insects in nesting season, just in time to stem the
spring flood of plant-eating bugs.
Originally published 1/17/04