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Rooting out the problem(TNS)—April showers bring May flowers and a month for the best planting time ever.

If you are putting in new plants, use these best-practice planting tips from Dan Nortman, Virginia Cooperative Extension horticultural agent in Yorktown, Va., and other gardening experts.

Honestly assess your space for new plants. A well-organized landscape with fewer plants looks nicer and is easier to maintain than an overcrowded, overplanted landscape.

Right plant, right place. Make sure that what you plant has the space, sun and soil that it needs to be healthy and vigorous. Also, make sure that plants with spines or poisonous plants are not in places where pets and kids can interact with them.

Buy plants that look healthiest. Struggling plants may be cheaper, but they usually continue to struggle in your yard. Look for plants that are free of disease or pests, and have healthy root systems.

Look to see if roots are coming out of the bottom of the pot, or try to poke your finger into the soil; if you can’t because roots are in the way, let someone else struggle with these plants.

Read plant labels. They tell you what conditions the plant type prefers and the horticultural zone that plant likes to grow in.

Variety adds spice to life. A diversity of plants makes your landscape more interesting, and helps make your yard resist diseases and bugs. If a disease destroys one type of plant, such as boxwood, and that’s all you have planted, then you lose all plants. Think diversity in flowering perennial beds, foundation plantings and screen plantings.

Get creative. When you tire of the typical plantings of foundation plants, trees, shrubs and perennials, think how you can use plants in different ways. Some plants like drought-tolerant sedum can be used in artsy ways, such as wall art or to make green roof tops on garden sheds. For edibles, consider straw bale gardening for tomatoes and cucumbers and pretty trellises or arbors for vining crops like string beans and ornamental gourds.

Think native. Plants that are native to your climate and growing conditions will fare better because they can adapt to whatever comes their way. They will also help support the ecosystem around you, attracting and benefiting pollinators and wildlife.

Plant everything right. When you plant anything — tree, shrubs, perennials, annuals, edibles — first soak the plant and remove the root ball from the pot. If the roots are growing in a tight circle, use a sharp knife to make three to four cuts around the root ball and then use your hands to gently tease the roots outward to they will grow into the soil and not continue to grow in a circle, which will ultimately strangle the plant as it tries to survive. Place your plant in a spacious planting hole and water well, then mulch. Water when dry throughout the first year, and then the plant should be able to survive on its own, unless a prolonged drought hits.

Mulch out, not up. Thin mulch, away from the base of the plant, is great for weed control and tying the landscape together. Too much mulch suffocates tree and gives voles a place to hide while they destroy plants.

Don’t over fertilize! Fertilizer tends to make perennials grow faster. Once established, many perennials need only occasional supplemental fertilizer. Soil testing is the way to determine the true nutritional needs of plants.

©2015 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.