Prairie State Tree Farm
5020 N. Charter Oak Lane
Peoria, Illinois

Preparing a $100.00 Hole

Don't dig any deeper than the original nursery container or the root ball, but always make the hole about twice as wide. (Digging deeper could cause settling and create major problems.) Mix in enough organic matter with your native soil until you obtain a 50-50 mix. If the plant is in a plastic container, gently but firmly grasp it at the soil line and remove it. Peat pots or other plantable containers should have the lip around the top cut or torn off and be scored down the sides in two or three places. On B&B material, Balled & Burlapped, it is not necessary to remove the burlap. Instead position the plant, level it, and backfill a bit to stabilize it. Cut the strings, remove the nails and with your hands or a shovel scrunch the burlap down around the ball. The burlap rots and roots grow through it but if any burlap is left exposed to the atmosphere after planting it can act as wick on hot, windy days and pull moisture away from the root system. By the way, some larger plants are contained in a wire basket. Don't remove it. Just bend the top 'ears' back flush with the rootball. Set the plant so that ground level is the same as in the container or the root ball. Backfill with the amended soil and water well with Root Stimulator. Some settling will probably occur around the edge, add more soil and firm it in. (Don't pack it!) Use the remaining soil to form a shallow bowl around the perimeter of the hole and fill the basin with plain water.

What is Organic Matter?

Peat, humus, Mushroom Compost, garden compost and manures are all organic matter, the one property all our soils are deficient in. Which one is the best? It usually depends upon which gardener you're talking to. They all have their proponents, they all function as soil amendments and here's why amendments are so important.Our plants are grown under the best conditions we can apply, whether in a container or in the field. When installed into a typical urban landscape where soils are less than ideal, the plants often go through a period of shock if not initial decline. Amendments ease the transition from our condition to yours'. Later, when the roots grow beyond the amended pocket they are used to the new soil and continue to thrive.

Root Stimulator

There are three primary nutrients for plant growth and they are always listed in the same order on any fertilizer product. N, Nitrogen, is used by plants for vegetative growth, leaf growth. P, Phosphorus, is the counterpoint of Nitrogen. It promotes root, flower and fruit development. K,Potassium, the final figure in all fertilizer ratios, acts as a balance for the other two and provides disease resistance and winter hardiness. Root Stimulator is, as you would expect, high in Phosphorus. How Do I Use Root Stimulator? Follow specific label instructions, but , typically they are: Diluted at 3½ tablespoons per gallon of water, apply at planting and two more times at ten day intervals. Always water it in well.

How Much Root Stimulator Do I Apply?

Use 1 pint per application for perennials, annuals, mums and groundcovers; 3 pints for #2 to #5 container plants and roses; 1 to 2 gallons for 4-foot tall plants and 2-3 gallons for 24" or greater diameter rootballs.

Landscape Fabric

Landscape Fabric saves time, money and promotes vigorous plant growth because, while suppressing weeds, it allows water, air and nutrients to pass through. Excess moisture and wastes produced by growing roots can evaporate, too. You'll also save money on mulch. A 1" or so layer, just enough to cover the fabric, is all that's needed.Use landscape fabric around trees and shrubs, but we don't generally recommend it in your perennial beds. Perennials increase in size much differently than woody plants and the fabric will inhibit that growth.

A Little About Mulch

Mulch conserves moisture, maintains the soil at an even temperature, reduces weed competition and protects the plants from maintenance damage, also known as 'mower blight.' We recommend organic mulches such as cypress, cedar, redwood and shredded hardwood bark. They are inexpensive, readily available, and easily applied. Maintain the mulch layer at 2" to 3" deep if you're not using fabric.Do not mulch up to the bark of the plant. It can hold far too much moisture in an area Nature did not intend to be constantly wet. Leaving an open space also helps to deter burrowing rodents from using your plant's bark as dinner. Decorative rock mulches are fine, too, but don't use CA6, a road building gravel. It packs too much.


More plants die from too much water as from too little. Know your soil. Because heavy clay soils hold water; less frequent watering is required. By contrast loose, sandy soil drains readily and more water may be necessary to ensure plant establishment. Observe your plants. If the leaves wilt and respond to water, water more often. If wilt occurs and/or the leaves turn lighter green to yellow and do not recover after watering, then you are overwatering. Cut back and let the soil dry down. Ol' Time Rule of Thumb: Thoroughly water once each week if you have less than two inches of rain. Of course, hot, windy weather dries out plants and soil; more frequent soakings may be needed.
Caution: When watering new lawn areas, make sure not to overwater new shrubs, trees or perennials. Daily watering of such material can kill them.

Critter Control & Wrapping

Expect deer and rabbit damage no matter where you live. The best protection outside of a 10' high double mesh fence is Ferti-lome “This 1 Works” for discouraging deer and Ropel for deterring deer, rabbits and many other nuisance animals. These products do not hurt the critters but they do ruin their day by leaving an atrocious taste in their mouths.
Wrapping the lower trunk of newly planted trees in the fall is a good idea to discourage rabbits and other small gnawing critters. Tree wrap also lessens the effect of fluctuating winter temperatures on the smooth, young bark of your trees. Tree wrap is available as a 'wrap' or as easily applied plastic tubes.


No fertilization is required the first season after planting especially if you use an amendment containing manure or humus. The best time to fertilize established trees and shrubs is late winter or early spring just as the natural growth cycle is beginning. A granular fertilizer such as Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Food is inexpensive, easy to apply and formulated to produce maximum results. Follow the directions and water well after applying.


Newly planted trees and shrubs generally require no pruning; the plant needs all the reserves in its branches to establish quickly in your landscape. Of course, broken or damaged limbs should be removed and minor shaping is fine.The ideal pruning time varies with the plant. As a rule don't prune from August through mid-October. Late summer pruning can induce new growth that won't have time to harden off before winter. Another Ol' Time Rule of Thumb: The best time to prune is when your shears are sharp. The point is that most people under prune. But the ideal time to prune flowering shrubs is after the show is over, when the flowers are no longer ornamental. So prune spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Flowering Almond Viburnum, etc., after the spring show. Prune summer flowering shrubs such as the Dwarf Pink Spirea group, Potentilla, Rose of Sharon, Smokebush, etc., in the spring or after the show, just don't prune too late in the year.

Should I Stake My Trees?

Usually, no. Wind is part of Nature's wondrous design. The gentle swaying of trees stimulates the demand for calcium and strengthens the plant. However if yours is a particularly windy location or the tree you installed is disproportionately top-heavy in relation to the ball, a couple of loosely fitted supports (loose enough to allow some movement but firm enough to keep the tree in the ground and upright) on the windward sides are often enough.




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