Planting Shrubs in Wet Heavy Soils – Family Plot


Welcome to The Family Plot. I’m Chris Cooper. Joining me today
is Joellen Diamond. Joellen is a TSU extension
agent in Tipton County. And we also have a number
of master gardeners from Shelby and Tipton
Counties here to help us out today. All right, Joellen. We got our soil tested. Let’s see what
those readings are. – Yeah. – How about that? – [Joellen]
Well, it came back with the soil pH of 7.72,
which is a little high. – [Chris]
Mmm, it’s high. – [Joellen]
And everything else seems to be somewhat okay, but
obviously we’re gonna need to fertilize the plants. – [Chris]
Sure, sure. – And we might want
to put some acid, some sulfur down at some point to try to change the pH at
the very top of the soil. – [Chris]
Right, need to lower it a little bit. – A little bit, just
to help the plants out. – [Chris]
Okay. – But we’ve got to
analyze the site before we could design it, so this was one of the
first things we did. – That’s right, ’cause we
always tell people what? Soil test. – Soil test. Always soil test. – It is that important, folks. – It is that important. And next thing we gotta do is, I’ve been told it’s
notoriously wet here. So we’ve done a
percolation test. – [Chris]
Yes. – And oh my. – [Chris]
Look at that. (laughing) The water’s just standing there. – The water’s standing,
and I guess it’s been there for a day or so,
just still standing. So we have absolutely, it doesn’t look like
there’s much percolation at all in this soil. – I would say none,
how about that? – Yeah. – That looks like it’s been
there for a little while. – It’s been there for awhile. Well, the next thing we know, we’ve got a lot of mulch here, and a lot of mulch
has been piled up onto the trunks of the trees, which we know is
not a good thing because that will end
up rotting the base of the tree and then
the tree will fall over. – [Chris]
Okay. – So we really don’t
want to do that. But just because the
soil is so compact here, let’s kind of look and
see what we can find, what’s going on,
because it would be nice to amend this soil, but we need to find out
what’s going on first, so let’s get some of
this mulch away from the tree. – [Chris]
All right. – It’s a lot back. Oh, and look here. We’re already coming
up against feeder roots from this tree which
are end up being, they’re growing not in the soil, but in this large mulch layer, which also means
that they’re above the natural grade of this tree than when it was
originally planted. The roots are not
growing into the soil as much as they are growing on the surface of the soil. – [Chris]
And those were actually some nice looking roots,
but guess what? We don’t see any
root flares, either. – No, there’s no root flares. There’s nothing. Well, this takes us
to a different level. If this means that
this tree has got a lot of its feeder roots
in this mulch layer, we, and the
percolation test shows that the soil does not drain, if we actually till this bed and incorporated
this mulch into the hardpan soil, we would end up
creating a swimming pool for the plants. I don’t think we
really want to do that. – I don’t think the plants
would enjoy that, either. – No, so we’re
going to have to find some, use some plants that can
take some wet conditions. – Okay. – And we’re going to
have to do something that I rarely do, but
in this situation, we’re going to try to plant a lot above the soil. So we’re gonna plant
some of the plants in the actual soil and
not create a trough and we will build up
the bed just around each individual plant. – Wow, okay. So the planting material
that we’re talking about actually can survive
in wet soils, but not really
thrive in wet soils? Is that what we’re saying? – Correct. – [Chris]
Okay. – And also wet soils, this isn’t a bog. – [Chris]
Right. – But yet the soil is so compact and it stays so
wet all the time, that it acts like one. But because it’s so dense, it’s not really bog
soil material because bog soil is loose
and this is not. So this is a completely
different situation. – Right, compact. (laughing) – [Joellen]
Very compact. – [Chris]
For sure. – Well, Chris, I’ve drawn
up a plan here for us for the front of this building, and what I’ve done is
given it an evergreen background behind us with using some Illicium floridanum
or Florida anise, and some Ilex vomitoria,
Shillings Dwarf, or a Dwarf Yaupon Holly. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
And then for some color in the front,
and to give some more texture, we’ve gone with some Spiraea
japonica Anthony Waterer, the Anthony Waterer spirea. And then some Stella
de Oro daylilies, ’cause daylilies can take water, wet conditions, too. And we’ve gone with an
Acorus gramineus Ogen, the Sweet Flag, and some Plumbagos, some perennials. And of course we’ve got
these wonderful cannas that have lived and done well, and cannas can stand wet feet. So we are going to take
those and divide them up and spread them out
throughout the landscape. – [Chris]
Okay. All right, well I actually
know some of those plant materials, so this
should be fun, don’t you think? – Yeah, this, I’m
hoping most homeowners that have trouble
like we have here can find these
plants very easily, ’cause these are fairly
common plants in the landscape at nurseries and out around
town in garden centers. – Right. And these are the ones
that are of course are recommended for
areas like this. – [Joellen]
Yes. – [Chris]
Okay. – Well, first thing
we’re going to do is set the plants out
according to the plan. And this is built on
a 1/8 of an inch scale equals one foot. So I have my ruler that measures out how many
feet they are in the plan. And measuring tape to
measure out the feet and we are trying
to set them out exactly how it is
laid out on the plan. The first plant
we’re gonna plant after we’ve laid out all
of our evergreen background is this Florida anise. – [Chris]
Okay. – And the Florida anise likes, can take wet soil, but
it also likes shade. And since we have these
lovely trees here. – Ah, shade. – And these, the reason why
these trees probably survived is the fact that these
are Magnolia virginiana, which is a native magnolia, but it’s also a common
name called swamp magnolia, meaning it can take wet soils. So that’s probably
why they have lived. – Which these are. – Which is what we have. So what we’re going to do
is we’ve laid these out. Now we’re gonna plant
this one Florida anise. – Okay. – And what we’re
gonna do is plant the container, the root
ball 2/3 in the soil, in the actual soil, and keep the actual
soil the same. And then we are going to
be amending the top third of the soil and making
a mound around it so it’ll have some nice
well-drained soil to grow in. – [Chris]
Okay. – We’ll scrape off our
mulch to start with. – Which there’s a lot of. – Which there is quite a bit of. – [Chris]
And there are your roots. – Then we’ve got roots of the magnolia that
we’re gonna have to contend with. And by us not
tilling this ground, we are also not gonna
disturb all of these roots. So that the tree can have
as many roots as possible to live in this terrible soil condition. Well, we’ve come to some
major roots for this tree and we don’t want
to disturb ’em. So we’re going to move
our plant slightly because the plant will
grow and fill in the area. Yeah, you see they
fertilized this already, so we don’t have to
add any fertilizer ’cause they’ve already
done it this season. And the root ball
seems to be very nice. We’ve got a few
circling roots here. We might just wanna kind of
loosen those up a little bit so it’ll stop circling. We will set this
down in the hole. And make sure it faces out nice. The nicest part faces
out towards the view. And of course the one
thing we gotta remember to do is take off
the plant tags. It’s nice for you to remember, but people forget and
leave them on there and it will girdle
this branch right here if you continue to leave it on. So we want to take it off. – And I always like to inspect the plant material
for diseased leaves or anything that’s broken,
anything like that. – We might need some soil. Let me put a little bit
at the base of this, the existing soil. So we don’t want to change that because of the percolation test. There we go, and now
we’ll add some soil. – Ready for this? – With our amendment. And we’ll build up
around the plant. Just do one around and
then we’ll incorporate some of that existing soil in. Then we will continue to add. – [Chris]
All right. – All right, let’s
see if we can put some more soil around there. Just another ring like that and that should be enough. That looks good. Yeah, you have the whole
bag and then people want to put the whole bag down, but you really don’t need to. You just need as
much as you need. So you can use that
soil for something else or another plant. But as you see, we’re not
really burying the plant. It’s about at the
same soil surface. So we’re really not burying the top
crown of the plant. We’re mixing,
incorporating the soil into the existing
soil that’s here. And we’ll put just
a little bit on top just to cover it up. Now when you come back
and you mulch this, that will seal it up nice. But you’ll see
that it’s several, a few inches above
the existing grade so it will drain, and have somewhere
nice to be in. – All right, so Joellen,
why did we choose this particular
plant for this site? – Well, this is a
Dwarf Youpan Holly. One way is it will stay short, and is a nice foundation plant. Also, it can take the
wet soils that we have and it’s a nice evergreen
background to what we’re gonna have
planted in front of it. – Okay. – But it should
do very well here. In fact, the Youpan
Holly is one of the most favorite landscape plants
for foundation plants. They just do well here
and in so many different wide varieties of
sites including the wet soil like we have. – Okay, okay. I’ll move that for you. And we’re still gonna
plant this the same way? – [Joellen]
Same way. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
Yeah, ’cause we want to see, I mean, one shovel and
I’m coming into roots. – [Chris]
Right. – [Joellen]
So that’s just what it’s gonna be like. – Okay, let me take that
over from you, Joellen. – [Joellen]
That looks good. – [Chris]
Okay. – So what we’ll do
is take the plant out of the pot, set it down, and see that we’re
2/3 in the ground. So that’s a good depth. – How does that root
system look to you? – Now this root system is
a little more compacted, so this is where
I would cut them. – Yeah, there you go. Knew you’d need those. – [Joellen]
Thank you. Yes, and a lot of times
I’ll just use these, but I’ll just make
vertical slits in the root system every few inches and just break up
those circling roots so that they’ll
start growing out instead of circling. Yeah. – [Chris]
Oh, you’re mad at it. You trimmed it. – I usually, you know, I usually try not
to use my clippers simply because they, that dulls the blade, but I always sharpen
my blades anyway, so but you can use shovels. – [Chris]
That’s a good practice. – Some people have
different pruning saws. Sometimes they’ll use
those to score it. Anything to get
the circling roots from stopping to
circle the plant. – [Chris]
Okay. – And we’ll plant this. Make sure we have the
nice side facing out. Make sure it’s level. And we’ll backfill
the bottom part with the native soil. It’s not as porous. And then we’ll put some– – [Chris]
Ready for your soil? – Amendment soil, yeah. I’ll put a ring around
it and incorporate the native soil with it. – [Chris]
Need a little more or? – I think that’s good
enough ’cause again, we don’t want to put it
over the crown of the plant. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
And we’re right up at the top of the plant right here. As you see it’s a
little raised area right around the plant. So it’ll have some good
air movement for the roots. – [Chris]
That looks good, Joellen. – Chris, the next
plant we’re gonna plant are these Anthony
Waterer spirea. And they like wet feet, too. But they will bloom nice pinkish-red flowers. – [Chris]
Nice. – [Joellen]
For the majority of the summer, so it’ll be a really
nice addition with the green background
to this landscape. – [Chris]
Okay, lovely looking plant, don’t you think? – Beautiful plant. The one thing is, they
will lose their leaves in the winter,
they are deciduous. But that’s
okay because we’ve got our green background
to take up for it in the winter. Now we can measure. You can measure with a ruler, but if you don’t have a ruler, you can always measure
with your shovel, and the bottom of
our hole is there. The top of it is here. So we’ve got enough,
it’s deep enough. So now we’ll take it out of the pot and plant it. This must be a little root bound because I’ve– – [Chris]
Is it tough to get out? – I have to squish it. There we go. And yes, you can see these roots are quite root bound, so we will have to slice them. And we’ll show them how
to do that with a shovel. – [Chris]
Okay. – It’s the same principle. Vertical slices. Insides. Especially the ones… – [Chris]
Up at the top. – [Joellen]
At the top ’cause that’s where it’s gonna take hold first. – Is that good enough? Do you want the pruners? – I might use the pruners
on this top part. It seems to be very tough. That’s why sometimes a
knife, a garden knife, it’s nice to have
a garden knife. There’s all sorts of
tools you can use. Now level off the
bottom of the hole. – [Chris]
Okay. – Set it in and we’ll make
sure it’s faced correctly. And we’ll backfill
with the existing soil that’s got poor drainage. (Chris laughing) For the bottom of the root ball. And then we’ll add
some amendments. – [Chris]
Okay. – You can use just about
any kind of amendment you want to. We’re using bags of
topsoil for this. Organic humus, your own compost, anything will work. You just have to incorporate it with the existing soil. And of course we want
to check and make sure that it doesn’t get too far over the existing soil level and smooth it out. And that will give this
plant a space to grow. – All right, Joellen,
now we have cannas. What are we gonna do with these? – Well, part of them
we’re gonna leave here. – [Chris]
Okay. – And the other half
we’re gonna move down and fill in the
next two sections. – Okay. And it’s gonna be
better for us to use the back half, do you think? – I think we’re gonna
use the back half of this ’cause
it’s kind of under, hanging under this canopy, and they like sun, so we’re gonna leave
the front half. – [Chris]
Okay, good. – I’m using a digging fork. We’ll start with that. ‘Cause we don’t want to disturb the roots too much. – [Chris]
Joellen, will this hurt the cannas, digging them
up like that? – [Joellen]
No, they can be divided. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
It might not be the most ideal time of year to divide them, but they will be fine. – [Chris]
All right, okay. – [Joellen]
Now the roots that we’ve exposed,
we need to bury again. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
It seems to be just like the tree, growing in the top
part of the mulch, so. There we go. We were never here. Now we’re gonna go
to the next section where we’re gonna plant these. – [Chris]
Okay. – Okay, now we’re
gonna have to dig a slight little hole. Not very deep because these
roots are not deep at all. Then we’ve got a
lot of roots from this tree here, too. Okay, Chris. – Okay, you ready? – Let’s set yours in. – [Chris]
How does that look? – [Joellen]
It looks good. – [Chris]
Okay. – And we don’t want to bury the tubers, just the roots. So we don’t need to
add anything to this extra than what
we’ve already got. And they look nice. – Oh, they look happy, Joellen. – Now we’re gonna lay out all of the rest of the
one gallon material. There are different
shapes and sizes of it, but it’s all one
gallon material, and we are going to
lay it out to make it look nice. We have the number of
plants that we have on our plan, but we
don’t have to measure every space that
that goes in because we will just set
it out and make it look good in real life. We’ve got them all set out. Now we’re gonna
plant the last three different types of
plants that we have in this landscape. The first is the
Stella de Oro daylily. Daylilies can stand wet feet, so that’s why we’ve picked them. And the Stella de Oro, except from the very
heat of the summer, it will probably get
two blooms out of it in the season. Earlier in the
summer and then maybe later towards fall. – [Chris]
Okay. – Then we’ve got
this blue Plumbago, so that’ll be a nice
blue against the yellow that we have here. This will spread out
and act as a groundcover and it also can
take some wet feet. – [Chris]
Okay. – The last is the Sweet Flag. The yellow. And this is just a groundcover, nice spiky plant
into all of the round leaves that we have. And will make a
nice yellow statement here year round ’cause
this is evergreen. These two, the Plumbago
and the Stella de Oro, they will die back
in the winter, but the Acorus, the Sweet Flag, that will stay that
color all year long. – How about that? That’s pretty good. – Now we’re gonna
plant these just like we did the others. – [Chris]
Okay. – We’re gonna plant
2/3 in the ground and 1/3 out of the ground, and we’ll add a little
soil amend around it for them to have
a place to grow. – Okay. All right, let’s do it. What do you think about
the root systems here? – Yeah, we’re gonna
have to tease these a little bit, try to
straighten them up just a little bit. We want to keep that
circling pattern. We want to disrupt it
so it will stop circling and anchor itself
out into the soil. And if you’ll just
give me some– – [Chris]
Some soil? – Just a little
bit of soil there to mix with this that we have. – [Chris]
Tell me when. – [Joellen]
That’s good. And mix this with
what we’ve got. Small raised area. – [Chris]
That looks good. – [Joellen]
And there’s the daylily. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
And this we’ll start. – [Chris]
Plumbago. – [Joellen]
You can scrape the mulch back just a little bit. You don’t need to
incorporate that in and we can top dress with that. Still lots of good mulch here. – How much does this spread? – [Joellen]
Two or three feet. – [Chris]
Okay. – [Joellen]
It depends on how happy it is. – [Chris]
A-ha. Got it? – [Joellen]
And those look nice. I’m not gonna disturb those. That’s a little low so I’m gonna put some more
natural dirt back in. And I don’t want air pockets. We need to break that up. And if you’ll give
me just a little bit of soil just like
you did before. That’s good. There we go. – [Chris]
Be happy. – [Joellen]
There’s the Plumbago. – [Chris]
Okay. – Okay. – What about that one? – Now this one is pretty good. Maybe just tease
it a little bit. – [Chris]
Okay. – But it’s not got
that many roots that are circling, and that will
ensure that they don’t. And of course backfill
with the original soil. And you can add some amendment. That’s good. There we go, nice mound. – [Chris]
Right. – [Joellen]
Make sure we stay out of the crown of the plant. There, we’ve got all
three of these planted. Now let’s go ahead
and plant the rest of all the plants. – All right, let’s do it. (upbeat country music) Joellen, this bed looks
much better than it did when we first
got started today. – Yes, it does. And the yellow Acorus and the Stella de Oro daylilies just really make
the landscape pop. – That looks so good. We appreciate you comin’ by, designing this for
us and you know, picking out the
right plant material that we need for this. – I can’t wait to see
it in the next year. – I can’t wait, as well.

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