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The two fundamental contributors to the downfall of a beautiful conifer garden, hedge or screen, is either too much or not enough water. Both of these conditions will cause your plants to stress.


Nearly 90% of all enquires received at the Laurels can be traced back to these two factors. Conifers like every other living thing need water to grow and thrive.


Most ‘ornamental’ conifers (as grown and sold through the Laurels) have a fine but profuse root system, this root system anchors the tree to the ground and supplies it with the nutrient rich moisture it needs to grow. These roots usually grow within the top soil (with some penetration into the subsoil) of your garden.


(Ornamentals should not be confused with the larger pine species. These larger trees have a quite large and obtrusive root system that is required to anchor such larger trees in the ground.)


If you water your lawn regularly and could peel back the layer of grass to expose the soil underneath you would find most of the fine root system of an established conifer growing and feeding underneath. Conifers like a moist soil but not saturated. They will grow in almost any soil, with the exception of heavy clay soils, but generally prefer the more open loams with good drainage. Do not despair if you have a heavy soil in your yard, you can overcome this problem.


Most gardeners or landscapers these days provide automatic watering systems for garden watering. Good systems provide a broad even coverage, lesser systems provide water in a given or more restricted area. As your tree or shrub grows and water is constantly provided in one position, so the root system of that plant will congregate and grow in that one position. Larger trees with lopsided or smaller root growth can become unstable in windy conditions. As your garden grows check that your system is still supplying water where the roots are, not where they were when you first planted.


If you have a heavy soil with a lot of clay and you dig a hole in it to plant a tree, imagine that hole as a bucket!. When you water, the hole fills up and either takes a long time to drain or not at all. The tree in it slowly drowns (or at least remains stunted for many years). You can try many things to break down the clay, but these methods take time. An easier way is to rip or break open the heavy soil, and then build a decent mound of loam or quality garden soil on top. If you plant your conifers in the mound of good topsoil, the roots will quickly grow throughout the mound. In time, as the plant grows the root system will begin penetrating the heavier soil underneath. Good mulch will assist water retention in hotter months.


As most ornamental conifers, especially the Thujas (or book leafs) grow very thick and dense by nature, very little light or air can get to the inner foliage. This naturally creates fungus and browning off problems inside the tree. Do not exacerbate the problem by constantly watering the foliage. Wet the soil not the foliage. If you cannot do this because of your watering system design, water in the mornings, not in the evenings. If you water at night the plant stays wet throughout the night, encouraging fungi to take hold. By watering in the morning the plant has all day to dry out.


The lack of, or too much water causes conifers to STRESS.