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Enjoy the answer from Lesson 29 of Pat's Landscape Lessons: An Inspirational and Practical Primer for the Southern Soil and Soul.


Created and published in-house, it's a seasonal gardening publication that has been winning accolades since 1994. It is filled with useful information about plants and ornamental landscaping as well as fun and fanciful facts and inspirational words. The Kid's Kolumn includes a thematic word search.
Below are links to PDFs of two Leaflets.

The Leaflet, Spring 2006

The Leaflet, Spring 2005 

Landscape Lessons book

Note: We are in northeast Georgia (Athens area). We are in the Piedmont region, USDA Zone 8a (officially changed in 2012 from Zone 7b), but very close to both Zone 6 (in the Western North Carolina mountains) and Zone 8 (Augusta and on to the coast).  These tips are based upon our location.
Soil and Fertilizing
More than most any other factor, the soil you put your plants in will determine the health and growth rate of that plant. Ideally, the soil is fertile, well drained, fairly high in organic matter, deep, and crumbles easily. However, insect infestation, weeds, and drought conditions may limit the productivity of an otherwise fertile soil.
    If your soil has good physical properties but has inadequate fertility, you can make it more productive by adding organic matter and fertilizer and adjusting the pH to the proper level. The addition of organic matter requires time for decay. And the addition of lime to adjust a pH level upward should be done at least 2–3 months prior to planting. During the spring, you can make the most immediate adjustment with fertilizer.
    Fertilizers are sold by their grade, such as 6-12-12. The numbers, in order, refer to the respective percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A fifty-pound bag of fertilizer with a grade of 6-12-12 has 3 pounds of nitrogen, 6 pounds of phosphorus, and 6 pounds of potassium. Thus, there are 15 pounds of nutrients, with the remaining weight being filler and conditioner. Some fertilizers contain micronutrients also.
    At Pinebush we use a custom blended fertilizer for the production of our plants. It has a grade of 14-7-7 and includes a slow-release nitrogen and a substantial micronutrient package. Application of this type of fertilizer twice a year throughout your garden beds assures the presence of trace elements needed for proper plant growth and flowering. We have had great success with this unique blend for many years.
    It's best to fertilize your plants while they are actively growing rather than when they are dormant. So, for most plants, you should fertilize in the spring after bud break and again in mid-Summer.

Hint: For gardening information specifically for Georgia (and the region), check out Georgia Gardening Magazine. You can visit their Web site at
Leave Those Leaves
Fall brings a flurry of leaves. They can be gold in your landscape if you approach them as something to gather and use, not as something to be cleaned up and disposed of. To confront fall leaves:
•    Keep your leaves and eliminate the tedium of bagging them, dragging them, and otherwise messing with disposing of them.
•    Rake them first into piles for the kids to play in, being sure not to leave them for more than a few days since they will cause the underlying grass to rot.
•    Add the leaves to your compost pile to create a rich, dark humus by next spring.
•    If you don’t have kids to enjoy the leaves, avoid the raking by mowing over the leaves and catching them with the mower bag.
•    Or, rake the leaves into small rows about 1-foot high by 2-feet wide and run a mower over them a few times. Put a tarp to the side to catch the shredded leaves for transport to your beds.
•    Use shredded leaves as a mulch around your trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials. You may be able to over-winter (perennialize) some annuals by covering them with about six inches of leaf protection.
•    Use your leaves—shredded or otherwise—under the pine straw or bark mulch in your beds. Their less-than-attractive appearance will be hidden, and they will reduce your mulching costs by extending the life of the cover.
•    If you can’t stand the idea of keeping your leaves, ask a neighbor if she wants them. Then rake them onto a large, old sheet, pull the corners together, and laboriously drag them next door (or down the street) and thank your neighbor for putting them to good use.

Plant Native
Plants that are native to a particular soil and climate need less water, fertilizer, and chemical pesticides than nonnative plants. Allan Armitage, in his book, Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens, says “many of our natives have evolved large taproots for survival or small leaves to conserve water. Overwatering may be a problem with plants that are drought-tolerant, as many of our natives are. . . .They do not want or need great handfuls of fertilizer, and they benefit from vigorous pruning when they begin to look weedy.” Native plants also may support 15–50 times more species of wildlife.

On Plant Shopping
Plants are not like towels, games, tools, or garments sitting on a store shelf. They change each day—growing into a different product. Most are not sold by brand name, and they do not have set sizes. Yes, a plant may come in a 5-gallon container. But how tall is that 5-gallon plant? How wide is it? How full is it? How is the foliage—lustrous green or sickly yellow? How is the root system—rotting brown or healthy white, strangled or firmly established? Where is the plant from? Has it been grown locally? Or is it recently imported from distant and different climates—Florida, Texas, or Oregon, for instance?
    Buying closest to the plant's source—buying direct from a local grower or nursery—is the best. This way you can be assured that the plant is acclimated to your locale, giving it a better chance of survival. Garden centers that sell everything from plants to patio furniture buy most of their ready-to-sell plants from someone else, hoping to sell them quickly and not intending to grow them out. Some garden centers buy lots of their stock from local nurseries; some buy lots from far away places. Mass-merchandisers and discount stores with garden centers usually buy their plants from wherever they can get them the cheapest; local growers are generally not their source. Because these retailers don’t grow the plants out either, plant care at the facilities is minimal at best, and often abusive—black pots sitting on black asphalt, soaking up the heat and damaging the roots, for instance.
    Buying plants requires looking at them. You can call plant dealers all day long and do "comparison pricing." But, in the plant world, comparison pricing is not the same as "comparison shopping." You have to literally shop, in person, to see the plants. At least it’s a pleasant way to shop—outside in the fresh air.
    Be aware that some plants just don't do real well in containers, so they may not look particularly good when you see them in a nursery. They're just aching to get out of the confinement and be placed in some roomy soil. If you see a plant that you like but that looks somewhat dreary, ask the nursery professional about the vitality of that particular species growing in containers. Also ask her to assist you in checking the roots. If they are healthy looking—with white or light-colored ends in most cases—and don’t smell rotten, you’ve probably got a winner.
    One final note: Be prepared for transporting your plants home. Try not to cram them into the car, breaking stems and injuring them. Enlist a larger vehicle if possible. If you have an open vehicle like a pickup truck, lay the plants down (unless they are Japanese maples, which can’t endure the stress on their outstretched fine branches) and cover them with a tarp before going down the road. Windburn and leaf removal can be devastating to a plant just as the stress of excessive wind in your hair results in unhealthy split-ends and fall-out. It’s worth the extra expense to protect them. Be sure you have a means of getting heavy plants out of your vehicle. Don’t drop them to the ground or otherwise jar them severely since the stress can cause irreparable damage. Have some help planned, in the form of human muscles or machinery. If you can’t manage these tasks, pay to have the nursery deliver the plants to you; hire someone to get them to your house and unloaded; or engage a landscaper to do the job.
You should have a planting plan before walks, walls, edging, and other hardscaping is done. Pre-planning will prevent the all too common problem of beds too small for proper planting.
Plant entire beds
Although you can plant different parts of your landscape at different times as your budget allows, you should plant an entire bed at one time. Do not plant a portion of a bed and come back later to finish it. If budget is a problem, use smaller plants, but plant the entire bed so your plants will mature at an equal rate and you will not have to purchase larger, more costly plant material later to match your earlier plantings.
PLANTING PLANTS PROPERLY - There are two ways to plant: in beds or in single holes. Bed planting is the preferred method.
Bed Planting:Create islands of plantings: Foundation areas around your house; peninsulas or islands in the midst of you lawn; borders along walkways, driveways, and boundary lines; or any other creation claiming space exclusively for non-turf type plantings. The trick is to prepare the entire bed before planting by tilling and pulverizing the soil as much as possible in the well-defined area surrounding your plantings. For small beds use a shovel and wide-toothed rake to break up soil as finely and deeply as possible. For larger beds use a tiller or plow. Cross-plow or till to a depth of 10-12 inches. Pulverize the soil. Add compost or soil conditioner on top a depth of 3-6 inches and then till it in until there’s a uniform mixture. (For annual beds, you may want to add other amendments.) Also, mix in fertilizer and lime to adjust for nutrient deficiencies or to correct pH levels. Your bed will be higher, but working in it usually packs it sufficiently. If not, lightly roll it.
NOW-plant. It should be easy since the soil is so loose and fine.
Gently nudge containerized plants out of the container. You can cut any roots dangling from the pot’s drainage holes. Break up the soil around the roots (gently, just enough to loosen the mass). Dig a hole slightly larger than the root mass and place plant in it. Be sure the top of the root mass is level or higher (but not lower) than the surface of the bed. When planting balled and burlapped trees or shrubs, cut the burlap in several places along the sides and bottom of the root ball to allow the roots to grow through with more ease. Do not take real burlap off the root ball since it holds the soil around the roots while you’re planting. If your plant has a burlap substitute (plastic, for instance), take it off completely before planting since it will not decompose. Gently place the plant in the hole, again being sure that the top of the root ball is level with, or slightly higher than the surface of the bed. Loosen, cut, or unwrap the twine or rope from around the trunk of the plant after it is in the hole but before filling the hole with loose soil. Or, better yet, leave the strapping in place (except right around the trunk) and, in one year, come back, cut it, and pull it out. (This method will help keep the root ball intact better, and, if you have properly prepared your bed, you should not have any trouble pulling the strapping out.)<BR>
Single-hole planting: If you have to plant something in a single hole, dig an irregularly shaped hole that is deeper than the plant’s root mass and at least twice it’s width. Take your shovel and gouge the sides of the hole as much as possible to break up the natural clay barrier and prevent roots from simply circling the hole rather than breaking out. Chop up the dirt you took out of the hole and push some of the crumbs back in until it is at a level to support your plant at the proper height. Put your plant in the hole and shovel in the remaining soil, compacting it to fill the hole.
Water new plantings thoroughly and deeply. Lay mulch (2-4 inches deep) in the beds or around the single plants to retain moisture. Be sure the mulch does not ride up on the plants; leave some space around their bases.

To get a smooth curve when planting annuals or bulbs, prepare the soil. Then dig a trench rather than individual holes. This also allows you to better visualize the shape of the planting.
Hint: If you don't prepare your soil to the point that it's crumbly and choose instead to dig individual holes for your plants, take a few extra measures to help the root development. Don't make a hole act like a flower pot, holding water that will cause root rot. If you use a shovel to dig, use the pointed part of the shovel and jab the sides of the hole to eliminate the smooth surfaces. If you use a post hole drill to plant, don't drill a single hole. Drill a number of holes in an irregular pattern.
Hint: Consider tending your garden in an organic manner. Be environmentally friendly. To learn more about the only non-profit organization in Georgia that educates farmers, gardeners, and consumers about organic growing and sustainable agriculture, and to learn of their programs, visit
Hint: Use aged organic material as a soil amendment. It can come from your compost pile, or you can purchase it in bagged or bulk form. Peat moss alone as a soil amendment is not recommended. The soils in our area hold moisture, and amendments are usually needed to increase drainage rather than increase water holding capabilities. Also, the harvesting of peat can cause environmental problems, and since we have such an abundance of substitutes available to us in Northeast Georgia, we discourage its use.
Compare plants, not just prices.
Do You Know?
Indoor plants help cleanse your air and delight your senses during the cooler months. They are easy - really
Do You Know?
When you plant, be sure to use mulch around the plantings.
1 yard spread 2" deep covers 160 square feet
1 yard spread 3" deep covers 100 square feet
1 yard spread 4" deep covers 80 square feet

Pinebush Farm and Nurseries, Inc. • 3332 Hwy. 106 S • Hull, GA 30646
© Pinebush Farm and Nurseries, Inc. and Pat Dunleavy 2000–2016. All photos and text © Pat Dunleavy 2000–2016 and are not to be reproduced except with express permission.
Last Revised 4/19/16