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!