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Living Lightly column

Planting tips and tricks

By Jonathon Howard

It is great time to be getting things into the ground. Especially local natives because they create a garden that not only survives but thrives. But planting is not as simple as digging a hole. The process begins with the plants you select at a nursery Here are some tips and tricks you might consider when buying your young plants.

First, when it comes to native plants- size does matter. You may be tempted to purchase a plant with a lot of height to give you a head start, but if it’s in a small pot, it might be root bound.  Select from plants that are no more than twice the height of the pot that it is in.

When it comes to trees choose, the ones with one main leader. A seedling that has two leaders may look like a bushier plant now, but double leader trees can split as they mature.

Squeeze the pot to see if it does squeeze. Squeezing the pot gives you an idea of what’s happening in the root zone. If there’s too much resistance, it may be crowded with roots.

Check the base to see if the roots are just emerging. If roots are forming well, you may see new roots just poking out, this means the roots have developed well and it’s ready for planting.

Plants in tube stock about 10cm long are the best as there is often greater variety. Studies show that after two to three years in the ground tube stock will equal the size of larger plants and at five years, they will exceed them in growth.

Local plants for local places. While part of the fun of visiting a nursery is checking out varieties on sale, you might be creating a lot of long-term burden if you try to grow a plants ‘out of place’. Selecting indigenous plants means they will already be adapted to local soils and conditions. They also provide the right food and shelter for native birds.

Finally, select for diversity. Simplified garden structure may seem convenient, but a variety of protective thickets, rambling climbers, small bushes and groundcovers provide diversity of flowers throughout the year. Fast growing plants can give you an instant gardening hit, but those slow growing ones will provide the constant framework you can work with over the longer term.