Billings Landscaping Services

Proper Planting Techniques

The success of your landscape depends a great deal upon how the plants were planted. On one hand it is true that anyone can stick a plant in the ground, give it water and sun it will grow. But, if you take that approach and compare results with my approach, the difference will be night and day! Herein I will share the industry secrets to professionally planting your landscape! 

Steps to professionally planting your landscape

Alright, so you have you beds prepared. All the soils is amended and shaped, fabric is down, and edging is installed. You just finished your shopping spree and now it is time to plant. Here are some steps and planting techniques to guarantee that your new plants thrive!  

Layout the plants

The first step in the process is to place the plants where they will go. In order to do this, you first need to know how large the plants will get and what are their exposure requirements. As you probably know, some plants prefer full sun, part sun, or shade depending on their species. But equally importantly, we need a good understanding of what the plant will look like when fully mature because this will determine how far apart we place the plants. Generally the size of perennials, shrubs, and trees is disclosed on the tag. The ideal sun exposure and temperature zone is also disclosed on the tag. More about plant layout can be studied on our page dedicated to landscape design.

Cut the Landscape Fabric

Take you scissors and cut a circular hole around the plant in the size that the plant will reach when fully mature. This is a very important step! A very common mistake people make is to cut the hole just large enough for the plant. The goal is NOT to keep weeds away, the goal is to provide room for the plant to grow to its full size! If you don’t provide a large enough hole it will stunt the growth of the plant and confine it to the size that you made the hole. In some cases, we do intentionally make the hole in the fabric smaller to control the size of the plant, but generally, we want to design for the plants to reach full size.

Dig the hole

Simple right? But what do you do with the dirt? The proper way to plant is to never remove dirt from the bed and never get dirt on the fabric. This is accomplished by pushing the excess dirt up under the edges of the fabric as you dig the hole. In addition, it is important to plant the right depth. You want the top of the plant flush with the top of the soil. If you plant too deep, it stunts the growth of the feeder roots that run on the surface of the soil. If you plant to high, the feeder roots will be exposed to the dry air and dye. Once the plant is in the hole at the proper elevation, simply take the excess soil that you placed under the fabric edge and use it to fill the voids. The only time you want to remove soil from the hole is when planting larger shrubs and trees. Typically, when you plant a larger shrub or tree, the roots mass is much larger and you will want to amend the soil with a good compost anyway, so removing dirt is necessary in these instances, but for perennials and small shrubs, all the dirt remains in the beds.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation is required unless you are doing a Xeriscape. It is a good idea to take down you main poly drip line so it doesn’t come up when you lay gravel or mulch. Meander the poly line in between the plants but not too close. Use spaghetti line from the poly to the plant and anchor at the base of each plant with a stake. Be sure to leave enough length in the spaghetti line because the poly will move around some when placing the bedding material. It is okay to have some S curve in the spaghetti tubing. Obviously you will need to choose the correct emitters. Drip emitters generally come in .25, .5, 1, 1.5, 2, 4, 6, and 10 gallons per hour flow rates. Which emitters you use will vary depending on the moisture needs of the plants and the run time for the drip station. I usually choose 1/2 to 1 gallon per hour emitters for most perennials in our area and 2 gallon per hour emitters for most shrubs. Then I set the run time for the drip station to either 20 or 30 minutes. I idea is to give the plant a good 1/4-1/2 gallon of water each day. Then the owner shuts off the system when it rains (or I install a rain sensor) and I usually suspend watering on weekends. This seems to work really well for Billings Montana but the needs do vary quite a bit depending upon the soil and your location.

Placing Landscaping Rock

It is best for the plants and your back if you use a 5/8″ landscaping rock. When placing rock, first try to cover the poly drip tubing so it is held in place. Then proceed to fill all the edges and place piles between the plants. Then use your hands to move the rock toward and around each plant. The goal here is to just cover the fabric! You do NOT want to place the rock next to the plant because this will stunt the growth. I usually calculate for about three inches of landscape rock. To calculate how much you need, simply take the square footage of the bed, multiply by 3/12, and divide by 27 to get how many cubic yards you will need.

Planting DON’T DO’s
  1. Don’t remove soil from the bed
  2. Don’t make the hole in the fabric too small
  3. Don’t spread rock right up next to the plant
  4. Don’t cut the spaghetti tubing too short