English laurel

Asked January 30, 2019, 12:19 PM EST

We planted our English Laurel hedge in Feb, 2018. They were rootballs, 6-7 feet tall, 210 linear feet, planted roughly 4 feet apart. The soil is fair to poor (loamy in some parts and sandy/gravel in other parts). We added compost to the planting holes (but probably not enough in some places where the soil is very rocky and hard). We watered them dutifully through the summer and haven’t lost a single plant, although they thinned out a bit from the transplanting shock. The plants in harder/rockier soil seem to be doing as well as the plants with better soil. We mulched around every plant, made a water well, and filled at least once a week, then usually a 2nd watering once absorbed. The summers are also very hot and they get full sun. Some leaves were sunburned. At this writing (Jan 30, 2019), All plants are perky, dark green, and seem to be ready for Spring leafing. I’d like to fertilize the hedge, but am unsure about whether to use 10-10-10 or 16-16-16? Something else? They seem ready for food. It’s also a very dry climate (av 13-15” annually) on the east side of Mt Hood, Oregon, so I’m thinking we need to start watering now. Would love advice, thank you!

Wasco County Oregon

5 Responses

Thank you for your question. I am wondering what you're seeing in your plants that makes you think they need fertilizer, since they are looking so well. You started them out on the right track by adding compost, and that is actually the most efficient and inexpensive way to get nutrients to them. (Just like in the forest!) Well composted organic materials are the first "time release" method, and, as they break down due to the work of the trillions of microbes in the soil, your soil texture actually improves. Compost also helps to 'mulch' the plants, protecting the roots from wide swings in heat and cold, and helps retain moisture in the soil. You'll still probably need to water them during dry seasons, and, so long as the soil is well draining, you may be able to avoid their getting soil fungal diseases. Don't put the compost/mulch right next to the stems (the 'volcano' method), since that is an invitation for microbes to invade plant tissue. Water when the soil an inch below the surface is dry, which you can measure by poking your finger in, or getting a probe that measures it. The 'rotting' organic material will supply all of the nutrients (the 10-10-10 of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), as well as many of the micronutrients (boron to zinc) that plants need.

Hope this is helpful. Good luck!

Wonderful response - so helpful. Thank you so much!

So, at what point (if ever) should I fertilize? My concern is that the very hard soil (almost like concrete) will need a well-fed plant and moderately watered/softened soil conditions to make way for new roots?

If I get a chance, I'll post a photo. All the plants seem hardy, although several have far fewer leaves due to the stress of 1st year transplanting and blazing sun (on the south end of the hedge).

thank you again!

No chemical fertilizer will change the texture of the soil. And, if it is particularly compacted soil, it may take decades to change it. ‘Softening’ soil is only adding other organics that open pores (air pockets and ‘trails’) that let water flow through and bring nutrients to the roots. Here is an article that explains it better than can I: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ec1561 Adding composted material IS fertilizing! Magic!

Downloaded the article and will read with interest. Thank you again!

You’re welcome. Nature is magical!