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blog post - planting



Last week, we discussed proper pruning to prevent poor plant performance but there is another ‘P’ that is even more important to get right - planting.
You’re probably thinking (and rightly so) correct planting is not rocket science and many plants may ‘come away’ just fine after shucking it into the border without a care in the world but its worth taking a little extra time and effort with each new planting to ensure you give the plant the best start to life in your garden. Trust me.

First things first - place. The plant and its required growing conditions will dictate where (if anywhere) in your garden it will thrive. Try to resist the ‘will it survive’ lottery of forcing a sun loving plant you fell in love with at the garden centre into the only (dark) space you've got in the garden, or vice versa. It’s difficult to show restraint when choosing plants for the garden when there are so many beautiful species on offer but before you buy something, read the label and decide if you’ve got suitable space to accommodate this plant in your garden and if not, it may be a case of out with something old to make space for something new. Think of your garden like your house - if you bought every knick knack or piece of furniture that caught your eye, you wouldn’t be able to move in it. You get rid of the old sofas before the new ones arrive. Planting is the same. You only have so much space after all.

Good soil preparation is key. The depth of the planting hole should be the same as the height of the rootball to ensure the surrounding soil is level with the nursery line (the mark just above the roots that shows where the soil was in the nursery or container). Planting too deep may cause plants to rot off and planting too proud (too shallow) may cause the roots to dry out. The width of the hole should be at least twice the diameter of the rootball. This ensures that as the new roots venture out they do so into well cultivated, free draining soil. Incorporate organic matter into the backfill, such as good garden compost or leaf mould, to improve soil fertility and structure. You don't need to add fertiliser at the time of planting as most plants will have been spoiled rotten in the nursery. Give plants a good soaking before planting. We are getting out of tree planting season now but for future reference, trees should be planting in square holes. The walls of a circular planting hole have no weaknesses unlike a square whose corners are weaker. This will encourage the anchor roots to break out into the surrounding soil at these weaker points instead of circling round in the hole. If you're soil is heavy and the walls and base of the planting hole are solid, pierce them lightly with a digging fork or hand fork to loosen them slightly, making it easier for the roots to find their way. Add the back fill to the planting hole firming soil in around the roots as you go. Firm enough to ensure the plant is stable but be gentle to prevent soil compaction (you actually want to keep some air in the soil). Water well and mulch on completion. Remember to water well during dry spells over the season (up to 3-5 seasons for trees and shrubs) and keep the area around the crown of the plant weed free.

I'm sure our clients must silently wonder why we go to so much bother adding tons of compost before planting, cultivating the soil, watering, mulching and watering again when most people just chuck the plants in the ground. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Or in this case, the proof is in the planting - the result is a well thought out garden full of thriving plants. Try a little tenderness - it’s worth it in the end!

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