Q: I want to move my Elaeagnus from one place in my yard to another. When is the best time to do this?
A: Elaeagnus … rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? EE-lee-AG-nus. Could be a character from “Game of Thrones,” but in this question, it’s a landscape shrub imported from Asia and now common in the southeast.
My good friend once complained, “Why does gardening happen at spring cleaning time?!” Good news: It does not! Spring fever is responsible for most plantings in our home landscape, but on the Gulf Coast, fall is the best time for planting, and that includes transplanting your Elaeagnus.
Think of fall as the season to reorganize your landscape. Leave spring for rearranging your living room. Transplanting in fall allows plants to take advantage of their natural growth cycle, giving them time to acclimate to their new home and develop healthy root systems before our stressful Gulf Coast summer. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall will have a faster growth rate than their spring-planted counterparts. Fall can be dry here, so careful watering is important. The day before you dig them, hydrate your Elaeagnus well with a soft, slow watering. Then maintain a watering regimen the first year. And that takes us to the next question.
Q:We just planted seven trees, each about 7 feet tall. Can you advise me about a watering regimen?
A: First, congratulations for planting your trees in fall and for asking one of the key questions about their success: watering. Effective watering depends on knowing how well your soil retains moisture, watching the weather each week and gauging the condition and needs of your new plants.
Water the trees thoroughly and let them drain before removing them from the pot or root ball wrap, and water them well after backfilling the planting hole to settle the soil. Beyond that initial care the advice is, not too little, not too much, but ju-u-ust right. Under most weather conditions, ju-u-ust right is one good watering, saturating the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, every five to seven days. A 50-foot hose and sprinkler will generally take about 2-1⁄2 hours to water a 1,000-square-foot area to an 8-to-10-inch depth. Too little watering encourages shallow root development. Then, if the shallow watering is neglected a day or so in sudden hot weather, plants struggle. Too much of a good thing is equally bad. Too much water leaches plant nutrients from the soil and may actually drown the plant’s immature root system.
Mulching around landscape plants and trees protects soil from direct sunlight and moving air, slowing evaporation of water from the soil. Also, rain falling on the mulch does not pack the soil surface. With less crusty soil, water penetrates to roots more easily and erosion is eliminated. When you mulch trees, remember to pull the mulch well away from the tree trunk so it does not cause insects and diseases to invade the trunk.
After that first year, your trees and shrubs are just like college kids. They get what they need without you, except in a crisis. Or in this case, more mature trees will get enough water naturally from the soil except in a drought, when you’ll need to go back to the weekly watering regimen.