Now is a great time to transplant shrubs

If transplanted now, shrubs can take advantage of warm soil and cool days. Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I have six azalea bushes which I need to transplant. What time of year is best to move azaleas? Dale Lyman, email

A: In my experience, October and November are the very best months to move shrubs of any kind. The ground is still warm enough to promote root growth, but there are no high air temperatures to stress the plant for water. The key to successful transplanting is to get a big root system to go along with the shrub to its new home. Roots usually fan out under a shrub like a pancake; they won’t be very deep. Be sure to water thoroughly the day before to keep roots hydrated.

Q: I saw a video of you extolling the virtues of mixing sand, clay, organic matter, bone meal, etc., when preparing a spot for daphne. But I’ve heard that clay mixed with sand equals concrete. How about perlite instead? Jackson Ellis, Chattanooga

A: There is some debate these days on whether it is ever necessary to amend soil before planting. In my view, as long as the hole is as wide as the mature root system of a shrub, amending the soil in that spot gives the shrub a lot of advantages. Shrubs like daphne, Japanese azalea, most boxwoods, etc., grow fine when the soil is amended as I described. With larger shrubs like Burford holly, arborvitae, cleyera, etc., it’s not practical to dig a wide hole for each one. In those cases, you’re better off simply loosening the soil around the planting spot as widely as you can and omitting amendments. But to your question, coarse, gritty sand is always my preference, never play sand. Perlite is problematic because it floats on the soil surface during a rain and blows around afterward.

Q: I purchased elephant garlic from an organic grocery and hope to plant it in late October. How should I store it until I plant it? Irenea Seufert, Atlanta

A: Simply keep the garlic cloves dry and cool. There is no need to refrigerate. They should be planted in the sunniest part of your garden. It won’t hurt to put a little organic fertilizer over them after planting. Don’t worry if leaves grow a bit in fall and then meet freezing weather. Elephant garlic leaves survive winter cold just fine. The plant will really grow quickly next year; 3 to 6 feet tall is not unusual. Clip off any flowers that form. When the leaves turn yellow and start to fall over in late summer next year, it’s time to harvest. Use the largest bulbs in your kitchen but keep the small bulbs that have formed around the base and plant them next fall just as you did this year.

Listen to Walter Reeves' segments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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