Kennedy’s Nursery PlantINg Guide

Kennedy’s Planting Instructions

Select the right plant:  We at Kennedy’s pride ourselves in helping you select the right plant for the right place.  Many factors affect the short and long term success of your plants.  Sunlight, moisture, temperature, wind, soil conditions, weather, and other specific site conditions all affect how happy and healthy your plant will be.  Be sure to consult a Kennedy’s Nursery Specialist before making an investment in your landscape.

Dig the hole:  Dig the hole at least twice as wide as the root ball.  The more soil you dig width wise the easier it is for the roots to grow. Most roots grow horizontally within the top 12-18” of soil. Do not did the hole any deeper than the height of the root ball.  One of the worst things you can do to a new plant is to plant it too deep.  Kennedy’s recommends that you dig the planting hole no deeper than the root ball as measured from the trunk flare or top of the root ball to the bottom.  There is no need soften the soil below the root ball or to put any special soil at the bottom of the hole.  Holes dug deeper than the root ball can cause settling of the plant to a point where the trunk ends up below ground and that is bad for the plant long term.  Make sure the top of the roots are level with the existing grade or even a ½ inch above the soil surface.

Set the plant in the hole:  Make sure the plant is standing up straight.  Before backfilling be sure to angle the plant so the best side is facing the direction you want it to face.  Make sure the trunk flare is at least one inch above the existing grade to ensure long-term success.

For plants in pots:  Be sure to remove the pot.  It is a good practice to loosen the roots.  In some instances where the plant is very “root bound,” it is okay to make 3 or 4 vertical slices with a knife.  Consult us for details.  This practice helps ensure the roots do not circle or “girdle” the plant and cause problems later on.  Set the top of the root ball level or even a ½ inch above the grade.

For plants with burlap root balls:  Once the plant is in the hole, cut all ropes around the root ball.  Kennedy’s recommends pulling the burlap and wire 1/3 to 1/2 of the way down around the root ball.  It is very important that the root ball stay intact during the planting process.  Most burlap today biodegrades shortly after planting, but if your burlap is plastic it must be carefully removed.  Set the plant so that the top of the roots is at grade or slightly above.

Backfill the hole:  Mix equal parts of existing native soil that you removed to dig the hole and Fafard’s Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix or a good compost. Do not remove all the native soil and replace it with new soil.  The mix should be about 50/50.  Your original soil and amendments should be mixed thoroughly before backfilling, avoiding clumps and layers of different types of soils.  Lightly tamp or step on the backfilled soil to remove large air pockets.  Do not pack the soil so firmly as to drive all the fine air spaces out of the soil.  The roots of the plant need to breathe.

Build a berm:  In many instances, especially when planting on slopes, it is beneficial to build a berm around the edge of the planting hole.  A berm of soil helps collect and keep valuable surface water from running away.  On a slope, build the berm on the lower side of the slope in order to capture the water.

Watering:  Fill a watering can with water and mix in a tablespoon of Organic Plant Magic.  Soak the root ball with at least one watering can full of this solution.  Larger plants may need several water cans, enough to saturate the roots.  The combination of water, plant food, and beneficial microorganisms will give your new planting the best chance of surviving and thriving.  The next time you water place a slow running hose near the base of your plant and saturate the entire planting area to the depth of the hole.  Repeat this every two days for one week, then continue one to three times a week depending on weather.  If you have added Fafard’s Planting Mix and Plant Magic, your new plant will have everything it needs to get off to a great start!  No need to fertilize your new plant again until next spring.  See us in the spring for a recommended fertilizer.

Mulch:  Add a 2-3” layer of bark mulch over the planting circle. We recommend Coast of Maine Enriching Mulch  Mulch has many benefits to newly planted plants.  Mulch helps retain soil moisture, moderates soil temperature, reduces weeds, and adds to the aesthetics of the new planting.  It is important not to pile mulch around the trunk.  Too much mulch can cause the trunk to rot or the roots to suffocate. If you ever see the roots or root ball exposed, especially in times of dry or cold weather it is important to cover them with a light layer of mulch.

Stake your tree:  Staking is recommended for tall, top heavy trees or trees that are planted in windy locations, especially when planted in the fall when they have less time to “root in” before winter.  Stakes should be removed after one growing season.  See a Kennedy’s staff member for more details on tree staking.

Maintenance Instructions

Watering:  Deeply water all newly installed plants every other day for the first week.  Water one to three times a week thereafter through their first summer and fall.  Most plants prefer at least 1” of water per week, including natural rainfall.  Frequency of watering depends on weather and soil conditions.  Water as often as every other day in hot, dry, windy conditions.  In cooler or rainy periods, watering may only be necessary once a week if at all.  Check your soil for moisture before watering.  It is possible to over water, so if the soil is damp, leave it alone and check it the next day. After the plants have established a strong root system and have gone through one full summer they depend less on you for water.  However, even after the plants are established, especially in the first 3 years, try to never let them go more than a week without water.

Fertilizing:  Kennedy’s recommends fertilizing established trees and shrubs and all plants in the ground once a year in the spring with an application of Plant Magic, Plant Tone, or similar.

Pruning:  The general rule with flowering trees and shrubs is to prune (only when needed to control size or shape) within 2-3 weeks after the plant has flowered.  This helps ensure you are not cutting off the next season’s flower buds.  Summer and fall flowering plant can often be pruned in early spring, because they produce buds in mid to late spring.  Most evergreens and non-flowering trees and shrubs can be pruned March through July.  Try to avoid late summer/early fall pruning, as any new growth might not have time to “harden off” before the cold of winter.  Pruning evergreens in late fall or winter can be okay; the plants are dormant, so new growth will not be an issue, but they are also less able to heal the wounds that pruning causes.

Insects and disease:  Notify Kennedy’s of anything that does not appear normal.  Bring in a sample in a zip lock bag and/or photographs and we will help you diagnose any problems with your plants.  Many insects and some diseases are easy to control.  Please come see us as soon as you see a sign of a problem.  For Kennedy’s to honor our nursery guarantee, we need to be notified of any problems with your plants at their first appearance.

Kennedy’s Nursery Plant Guarantee

Kennedy’s confidence in our nursery stock is backed by a one year guarantee on hardy trees and shrubs.  For K Club members who follow our instructions and purchase both of our recipe for success ingredients, this guarantee is extended to three years.  Kennedy’s agrees to furnish true-to-name nursery plants in top quality condition, and to re-supply ONCE, at no charge to the customer, and at no more than the original purchase value, any hardy to Zone 6a tree, shrub, or evergreen that fails to survive through the 12 months (36 months for K Club Members) from the date of purchase provided you:

  1. Purchased the plant from Kennedy’s at full price.
  2. Install the plant in the ground and follow our proper planting, & maintenance procedures as outlined in this brochure.
  3. Report any problem with your plant to Kennedy’s at first sign of same. This guarantee will be nullified if we are not given an opportunity to suggest corrective measures in a timely fashion.
  4. Provide us your contact info at the time of purchase so we can track & associate your purchase information and history with your name. Otherwise you are responsible to show proof of purchase of any guaranteed plant materials in order to get a replacement.
  5. Return the failed plant or show us pictures including far back and close-ups of the leaves, stems, and roots of any failed plants in their existing condition. We would like to try and determine the cause of your problems to ensure success with your next plant. Call us before digging up plants to be returned to make sure they did not survive since digging up a plant can cause further stress.  Do not throw away plants before we see proof of it’s failure.

Kennedy’s liability in no way will exceed the original purchase value.  The replacement plant will not exceed the price paid for the original plant.  Only if a sufficient replacement plant cannot be located, Kennedy’s may offer a store credit.
In the spirit of good business practice, we try to be fair to customers who do not follow all of the above steps.  However, if you do not follow the above steps, we reserve the right to decline your guarantee.

Excluded from our guarantee are trees and shrubs that are not hardy to Zone 6a, annuals, tropicals, perennials, grasses, roses, and ground covers.  Also excluded are plants not planted in the ground, plants damaged by mechanical damage, plants lost to abnormal weather conditions such as drought, flooding, extreme cold, plants subjected to over-watering, under-watering, or insufficient care, and plants where signs of insect damage or disease were neglected.  Additional circumstances beyond our control may void this guarantee.

If you have any questions about your new plants, or for more information about watering and maintenance, please stop by, call us, or visit our website at:


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