Unlike soil in many of our big cities, our soil is a very dense glacial till, a mix of clay and silt with rocks for added fun. Basically it lacks organic matter and pores in the soil for water and air to infiltrate the ground. Black soil or topsoil is too rich for most of the native plants that can do well here; our local plants are adapted to the soils of pioneering habitats such as ours, which are very dense but can be fertile, if given a chance. All they need is organic matter such as compost, a loosening up of the top 3”, and, after planting, spread 3” of mulch covering the planting area.
Watering to establish good roots is also necessary, but weekenders and seasonal cottagers who can’t be around to water their plants when needed should arrange for friendly neighbour to water when things are very dry. Small seedlings from our supplier will establish roots in our somewhat dense clay glacial till soils, and grow up used to our conditions rather than single, large plants.
Plant Extra for Success
Our supplier, Pineneedle Farms, is a well-established grower of seedlings that are 6-17” high with a 3” root bundle.
For every tree desired, I recommend planting 3 or 4 tree seedlings spaced 8” apart.
For each shrub wanted, plant 7 or 8 seedlings 5” apart. Set the tree and shrubs in clusters 5 to 8’ from each other.
Planting several seedlings in each spot will also help you prepare for the challenges of deer, mice and rabbits. In autumn, stake the clusters and cover with chicken wire to discourage deer and rabbit grazing. Also pull the mulch away from each plant to make a frozen barren zone that will reduce mouse nibbling. I am advocating success with numbers because not everything will survive.