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Planting Seedlings for Arbor Day

Update to our seedling giveaway event:

Thank you for your participation in our 2018 Arbor Day seedling giveaway! The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We encourage you to send us photos of your planting projects at photos@mgcmail.com!

As a garden center, Arbor Day is one of our favorite holidays. Each year we celebrate by encouraging our friends, family and customers to cultivate and care for our environment by planting trees in their gardens.

This year, we are excited to take this celebration a step further by actually giving away native white dogwood seedlings for families to plant! Take on a planting project with your children, your family, or your friends this year to celebrate the environment and add a beautiful new plant to your home and garden. As the white dogwood seedlings grow, they will improve the air quality of our region, create habitats for local wildlife, and serve as a food source for birds, pollinators and other animals.

How to Plant a Seedling

Seedlings can be planted in the ground or in a container. It is best to plant them within 24 hours of bringing it home, but if you cannot do so, keep the roots of your tree moist. Wrap your seedling in plastic and store it in a cool, dark spot between 40 degrees and 60 degrees, then plant your seedling as soon as possible.

Container Planting

Supplies:

  • Container (At least 1 gallon in size and 6-7 inches deep)
  • Water soluble or slow release fertilizer
  • Merrifield Potting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a container with a drainage hole that is slightly larger than the root system in depth and width (a one-gallon pot that is 6-7 in. deep is generally enough to maintain the growth of the seedling for one year)
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Top soil and garden soil are generally too heavy for seedlings. Use Merrifield Potting Mix to get your seedling off to a strong start.
  4. Place the seedling in the container, and fill with Merrifield Potting Mix to the top of the point where the roots begin.
  5. If your potting mix does not contain a slow release fertilizer, apply a slow release fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants. Re-apply once per month.
  6. Water your container thoroughly. Test the soil for moisture regularly and water as needed when the soil is dry.
  7. You can keep your tree in a one-gallon container in a spot with full sun to part shade for approximately one year before transferring it to the ground.

Planting in the ground

Supplies:

  • Shovel
  • Bucket or bowl
  • Mulch
  • Garden hose
  • Watering Wand
  • Merrifield Planting Mix

Steps:

  1. Select a location for your tree. Ideally, it should be sheltered from weather, wildlife and lawn mowers for the first few years, then transplanted to another location. If you will be planting it in the spot you intend to be its permanent location, place a fence around the tree to protect it from lawn mowers and foraging wildlife.
  2. Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
  3. Dig a hole as deep as the depth of the roots for your seedling, allowing plenty of room around it for the roots to grow and spread out.
  4. Place your seedling in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is at the level of the soil line.
  5. Mix your existing soil with Merrifield Planting Mix or other soil conditioner and use this mixture to backfill the hole.
  6. Apply a water-soluble fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants once per month.
  7. Water thoroughly and deeply with your watering wand, saturating the root zone. Water deeply whenever the soil is dry to encourage deep roots.
  8. After planting, mulch 2-3 inches deep around the seedling to retain soil temperature and moisture. Leave unmulched soil around the trunk.

Celebrating Arbor Day

Looking to celebrate Arbor Day with a planting project, but prefer to plant a tree larger than a seedling?

Visit our post on trees and shrubs that grow well in our region.

Gardens for Play

Mary Kirk Menefee, Merrifield Landscape Designer

Even before I became a mom, I was fascinated by how children play and their special connection with the outdoors. Maybe it goes back to my own childhood of romping in the woods, where slate ledges covered in moss were grand staircases and the creek was the exploration route of daring explorers. Maybe it has to do with how I found a grown-up way to never stop playing outside. Whatever the reason, now that I have a little one to guide through the world, his experience playing outdoors is top of mind.

Need for Outdoor Play Spaces

Like many parents, I am struck by how much has changed since my own childhood. Study after study pops up on my Twitter feed regarding the damage that an overly organized, scheduled and indoor childhood can do.  It turns out that outdoor free play is one of the essential ingredients for happy, healthy children.  And, since imagining and creating outdoor spaces is what I do, I decided to dig into what makes the best outdoor space for kids given the ways we live today.

The best places to play respond to how children think and view the world at every stage of their development. For instance:

  • Toddlers use all of their senses to explore and learn about the world.
  • Toddlers don’t draw lines between play, work and learning.
  • Young children love to take control of and manipulate their environment.
  • Young children apply imagination to even the most mundane places and objects.
  • Older children begin to see the outdoors as a place to be social.

Suggested Elements

Unfortunately, most traditional play equipment doesn’t take these ideas into account.  It is generally static with a prescribed purpose and distinctly separate from the surrounding environment. Once a child has mastered its challenges, it becomes boring. On the other hand, open-ended places that are connected to their surroundings require imagination and can be reinvented each day for renewed fun.  These open-ended places have a few key ingredients:

  • Natural materials—boulders, logs, plants, etc., provide a strong connection to nature and blend a place into the surroundings.
  • Sand or mud—kids needs a place for digging, construction, etc.
  • Access to running water—kids are fascinated by water for its own sake and for mixing with the above sand and mud.
  • Things to climb and balance on—it doesn’t take much for a small child to double their height and completely change what they see, so boulders, hills and logs are all fun.
  • Places to hide—kids love cozy places, especially when they feel like they are out of adult’s view.
  • Things to move—loose parts and props are the linchpin of creative play.
  • Things for sound—wind chimes, drums, etc., bring a musical element to a space.
  • Wildlife—even very young children delight in seeing birds, bugs and other animals.
  • Plants—no garden is complete without them. For children, those that can be touched, smelled and even tasted are best.

When thinking about how to blend all of these elements to construct such a place, it is helpful to remember two tried and true adages: less is more and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, the best spaces don’t always look like much. A sand pit, a pile of rocks, a messy herb garden—all of these can be magical to a child. But, as a designer and a homeowner, I would probably not be satisfied to look out my window at a pile of sand and rocks no matter how beloved it is—perhaps there is a way to meet in the middle.