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The first thing to consider when planting a juniper tree is the area in which you'll plant it. The ideal area should receive direct sunlight for most of the day, as juniper trees don't do well when planted in the shade. Be sure to also place it in soil that can drain freely and not get bogged down with water. Dry climates with little rain are considered very hospitable environments, as the trees often live in rocky or mountainous terrain. It is thought best to mix a lot of gravel or small rocks into any soil you will use to plant a juniper tree in order for its roots to never get too wet.
A juniper tree can live in acidic or alkaline soil, and its mineral content is not considered important. A hole twice as deep as the bottom of a juniper tree's roots should be dug so the the tree will stand firmly in the ground. Compost, such as rotted leaves or mulch, can be added to the bottom of the hole for extra drainage, and then the tree should be lowered in with one person to hold it steady and the other person to fill the hole with the gravel soil mixture.
A few of the juniper tree's roots should be worked into the soil before the hole is filled entirely. When the hole is filled with the soil and gravel mixture, it should be tamped down to steady the juniper tree and to release pockets of air that can introduce harmful bacteria to the roots or provide spaces for water to seep in. If the juniper tree you are planting is big, use your feet to press down on the soil. Otherwise, repeated patting of the dirt around the trunk with your hands is fine. Take care not to stamp on the soil too hard, as that may injure the newly planted roots.
Once the juniper tree is upright and firmly planted, spread mulch around its base, and then water the soil. It is thought best to water the tree about once a week, especially for the first few years, so the roots have a chance to firmly catch hold in the soil. If you are planting juniper trees small enough to be held in containers, follow the instructions as if you were planting a larger tree, but add plant food to the soil, as it may need more nutrients.
@indigomoth - I want to plant a juniper tree so that I can use the berries for making my own gin.
I have a friend who has started making his own sloe gin and I'd love to be able to contribute the gin to that so that we can go halves.
I've made a couple of different wines before, so I've not entirely clueless about the process. But, it's difficult to find a source of juniper berries.
It can also be used as a spice and apparently is good at helping to suppress appetite so I'm actually quite excited about growing it in my garden.
I'm going to try the kind that is most commonly used for cooking and flavoring gin, as well as one of the "new world" varieties as they are supposed to be sweeter.
@bythewell - I've never thought of growing my own bonsai tree before, although I could see why a juniper would be a popular choice.
They are also often used as a specimen tree in a Japanese garden. They can easily be trained into the classic shapes that are preferred for that kind of landscaping, although it does take a few years before they grow into the right form.
You also need to see what kind of juniper is going to best suit your garden before you buy it. They have different shapes and needs and some will be more suited than others.
For example, some types of junipers can host a particular rust disease that can infect apple trees. So if you have an apple tree nearby, you'd have to avoid that kind of juniper.
You can make a lovely bonsai juniper tree if you want to give that ancient art a try. If you look at pictures of juniper trees online they are often very haggard looking in their natural environment, with lots of exposed and weathered wood and twisted forms, and that is the kind of look most people are going for with a bonsai, although admittedly with an artistic shape.
They are quite easy to grow as bonsai, since they are such a hardy tree and they do quite well outdoors.
But you have to be very careful not to over water them as this is the most common mistake new growers make. Junipers are already adverse to being given too much water and a juniper bonsai tree will like it even less as there is less space for the water to drain away.
It's an engrossing hobby that I recommend to anyone.
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