Bill Benoit of Chatham’s Safe Harbor Planting and Design, says poor soil can lead to inadequate root development, especially when trees and shrubs are planted in the fall. “The soil on the Cape is often sandy, which is really good for drainage—but plants also need compost to introduce microroganisms that activate soil breakdown, providing nutrients to the roots and the plant,” says Benoit, a former operations manager at Crocker Nurseries in Brewster. “We like to use either manure, leaf, or vegetable compost, applied in three equal parts with some sand as well as the hole’s existing soil.”
Benoit says his company’s customer base ranges from large estates to small homeowner plots as well as commercial properties. “Proper planting techniques are really important in the fall,” says Benoit. “The right width and depth of each plant’s hole and correct soil amendments need to be considered. Also, each plant’s chosen environment needs to be taken into account—what are the light conditions, how much wind is present, and the plant’s exposure to water are also critical considerations.
“It is challenging because every area is different, even on the Cape,” Benoit goes on to explain. “Even though most of the Cape is sandy, some places have a lot of clay, which can be really bad—or good—for plants. My rule is if the soil feels damp, don’t water it. If it feels dry, then water well. But all these horticultural considerations are important—especially when planting in the fall.”
Regardless of whether your soil is as sandy as a Cape Cod beach or one of those places where clay is a surprise, consider giving your gardens a boost this fall with the addition of properly selected and planted trees, shrubs, and perennials. When the forsythia bursts into bloom next spring, you can sit back and relax and wait for a season of healthy new beauty and variety in your landscape.