How To Plant - Digging Improving And Preparing The Soil

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Prior to planting your plant, whether it be a potted plant or a bare root plant, always try and improve the soil in some way prior to planting. This can be achieved by digging and adding soil conditioner, such as compost, and on heavier soils, grit or sand.

The planting hole is usually 2 to 3 times the size of the potted plant when planting into reasonable quality topsoil. This involves excavating a decent planting pit and Vacuum Bellows piling soil to one side of the pit, where it can be improved by adding a decent amount of well rooted compost and maybe a sprinkle of granular fertilizer such as growmore; ideally you should be aiming for half and half compost and soil mix to back around the plant. I will also usually fork the bottom of the planting hole to help drainage bellow the planting pit, thus reducing possible winter water logging and encouraging the establishing plant to root down that bit deeper. Digging sand or grit into the base of the planting pit will further improve drainage, especially on heavier clay soils.

Forking in compost, topsoil or grit into the bottom of the planting pit will help further to open up the soil to root penetration as well as improve the quality of soil, allowing roots to access an extra reservoir of soil moisture and nutrients. This is especially useful when planting into shallow topsoil’s, over subsoil or chalk, or, as is often the case with new build gardens – subsoil mixed with building waste such as rubble. In which case you will need to put create a substantial pit to plant into.

Pit Planting If it is the case that you are planting a tree or a shrub into really dreadful soil such as shallow topsoil over compacted clay, or rubble, then make the planting pit deeper and wider and fork in plenty of compost / topsoil to create a decent sized pocket of good soil that the plant can feed from. You might also need to use a mix of imported compost and topsoil to backfill around the planted shrub. And you might need to create a pit 4 –5 times the size of the potted plant in order to give the chance a fighting chance when it gets to maturity. This is often overlooked as a young plant will flourish in a relatively small pocket of good soil, but how will it fare when it reaches maturity?

Back Filling and Staking When planting any pretty any plant the golden rule is that the back fill should be pulled back around the roots of the plant to a depth just slightly above the existing compost level of the pot. When planting think about just covering the compost without burying the roots to low. The idea is to avoid exposing the existing roots by covering them with a shallow layer of topsoil and compost without drowning the roots by positioning them to deeply. This is important, as plants are very sensitive to planting depth. Once backfill is in place you should firm the new plant either by firming backfill around the plant with your hands (this is usually adequate for flowering plants and ground cover), or for bigger plants such as shrubs tread lightly 3 to 4 times around the plant with the heal of your boot.

If your planting larger shrubs or small trees then you might need to use staking and ties to stop the root system being rocked by winter winds. On smaller plants a light stake positioned at a 45 degree and tied towards the base of the stem should surface. Always avoiding staking into the heart of the root system as that can damage essential roots; that are why an angled stake is good.

Planting Bedding and Herbaceous Plants Both bedding and herbaceous plants are usually planted in smaller containers ranging from half to three litres in volume. These smaller plants are often planted directly into the soil surface in masses or drifts using a trowel or small border fork. In such situations the surface should be improved ‘on mass’ prior to planting as opposed to using a pit planting technique. This is usually achieved by rotovating or digging over the soil with a spade or fork to loosen up the soil. A well rotted compost may be incorporated during digging and all surface weeds and any roots removed during digging. If you are spring planting a sprinkling of a granular fertilizer will also help provide a quick nutriet boost for young establishing plants. Ideally if perennial weeds such as dock or bind weed are a problem the area should have been sprayed off with a translocated herbicide such as round up two to three weeks prior to planting.

Bulb Planting Bulbs can be planted as and when needed, whether into beds, under trees or into turf areas. Bulbs are best planted using a trowel or a bulb planter and as a rule of thumb should be planted as deep again as the size of the bulb, but be aware that this rule can change for some so consult the planting packet! Planting holes can be back filled with topsoil and grit, especially if you have very wet soil or you are planting sensitive or rot prone bulbs such as alliums or imperial lilies.

Finishing the Job Off with Mulch Mulching is an ideal way to finish off a planting job, providing a clean finish to the planting surface as well as protecting and feeding establishing plants. Yet mulch remains a mystery to many less experienced gardeners, so best start with a definition.

A mulch is a shallow protective layer spread over the soil surface - usually to a depth of 7 to 10cm - to help protect and feed the establishing plant. Ideally a well rooted clean compost such as leaf mould and garden compost or mushroom compost is best for flowering perennial plants and annuals, however shrubs and trees are often mulched with bark chip, which is less nutritious but far better at suppressing weeds and locking in soil moisture.

Mulching will provide extra protection to roots of young plants from winter frosts and provide a nutrient boost as they rot away over the following summer season. By applying new compost mulch every few years the soil can be greatly improved in the long term as it rots down to form humus, which is the dark matter content that we associate with decent topsoil. Ideally on perennial beds this should happen every 2 to 4 years.

Finally, if you want some help with plant choice - finding out what plants will suit the particular conditions of your garden best - have a look at website a plant database that allows you to select the ideal plant for your garden conditions.

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