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The Newest Tips For Planting Fall Shrubs: Detangle Those Roots, Y'all!

A shrub in burlap for winterization
Fall is a great time to find on-sale trees and shrubs, and it's also a good time to plant while the air is cool and soil is still warm enough.

Frugal folks will enjoy the fact that, come fall, any trees and shrubs that you plan to plant are probably on sale at most garden stores and nurseries! And fall is the practical time to plant them, too, as the air is cool and the soil will stay warm enough for roots to start getting established.

The old way of doing this is dig a hole, put in the shrub, water it and be done. But his year, gardening experts have come forth with some new recommendations on how to plant your trees, including pruning the roots, to help ensure your tree or shrub lives a good, long life.

More from All Things Gardening: Cover Crops Protect Soil In Winter And Help Control Weeds

Once you have purchased your tree or shrub, take off the burlap, if there is any. Choose the location and dig a hole three times the diameter of the root ball and just about the same depth. Just put the soil you've dug off to the side — you'll be using it again in a moment.

This new way may seem odd, but: Wash off the root ball with a garden house. The point of this is to help you see the tree or shrub's root system. Sometimes, roots will grow around and around in circles and as they get older, get thicker and more tangled, literally strangling the plant. You want to loosen them and tease them out before planting.

Then, put the tree or shrub into the hole you've dug, and backfill with that same soil. No need to add fertilizer unless your soil is really bad. Keep watering as you're backfilling and create a soupy, muddy mess. That's what you want!

Keep it well-watered and add some mulch around the base. The roots will continue to grow right through November and be set for winter, and then they'll grow more in the spring!

Q: We moved in 2018 and our new backyard has mushrooms freely growing in our lawn. We never treat our lawn, but I don't know about previous owners. Not that I want to get rid of them; they're cute! But since I've seen mushroom compost for sale, I wondered if these would be a good addition to my own small home compost. — Em, in Fairport, New York

You don't want to add mushrooms to your compost. Mushrooms contain too much moisture, and adding them to compost will cause it to go anaerobic, meaning all the helpful, aerobic bacteria won't be there. This won't smell good nor be good for your plants.

Mushroom compost that is sold in garden centers is really mostly made up of manure and not mushrooms, so stick with other organic matter for your home compost.

Q: My mock orange is about 5-years-old, in full sun, looks healthy but it is not growing much and hardly blooms at all. Any suggestions to encourage growth and blossoming? — Ann, in Braintree

Perhaps you've been adding too much compost or nitrogen to the soil right around your mock orange. Or maybe you've added nitrogen to the lawn. This could leach into the soil near your mock orange and cause problems like the one you're describing. You could take a sample of the soil near mock orange and send it in for testing. Then, with this new information, you could adjust the soil for next year.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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