Planting Your Garden
by Michael Russell
If you read the previous articles on "Planning The Basics" and "Planning The Planting", you will have planned the structural bits of your garden, e.g. the boundary, buildings, climber support and hard landscaping and you will have decided what plants you want to grow. If you have built raised beds, you now have somewhere to put your plants, otherwise, you probably have some earthy bits, with or without weeds so let's make a start.
Prepare the Ground
* Dig and turn over the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches (30 cm), preferably double that if you propose to plant small trees or shrubs, and remove weeds and grass.
* Test the soil with a kit which you can buy from any garden centre. If your soil is alkaline (i.e. has lime in it) you will not be able to grow plants of the same family as rhododendrons and heathers without adjusting the pH but in general an average acidity will support most plants. The acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions). As a rule of thumb, soils in moist climates inclines towards the acid and those in dry climates tend to be alkaline. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline. To raise the pH and make soil more alkaline, add lime and to make it more acid (lower the pH), add sulphur. Proprietary products are available to alter the soil pH. Follow the manufacturers' instructions for dosage and application carefully. If the pH is average and you don't want to grow anything special, don't try to adjust it.
* No matter what type your soil, it will need nourishment and structure so add some all-purpose fertilizer and some compost and dig it in well. If the soil is very sticky (clay content), add some bark or grit to allow drainage. If the soil is very fine and sandy, add some peat.
* Level out the ground with a rake.
* If you made a plan on paper, place your plants on the ground, still in their pots, accordingy to your plan. If you don't have a plan already, now is the time to make one.
Prepare the Planting Holes
It is best for the plants if you don't do this in the heat of the midday sun, so choose evening time or a cloudy day.
The following works for almost any plant which has already been grown on in a pot as well as rhizomes and tubers (e.g. dahlias).
* Starting at the back of a bed, dig a hole for plant number one, approximately three times the width and twice the depth of the pot.
* To the soil which you have removed, add lots of compost and peat plus a small handful of granular fertiliser. Mix the whole lot together with a spade and put enough back in the bottom of the hole such that the rim of the pot reaches the top of the hole.
* Gently remove the plant from its pot. Hold the base of the stem, turn the pot upside down and tap the bottom until you feel the plant loosening. Don't drop it!
* Tease out the ends of the roots from the root ball very carefully, unless the planting instructions specifically tell you not to disturb the roots, in which case, leave them as they are.
* Pop the plant into the centre of the hole and making sure it stays upright, shovel in more of the soil, compost, fertilizer mixture.
* With your foot, very very gently, firm down the soil around the plant until it reaches the point where the rim of the pot was.
* Water in very well. If you live in a hot climate, insert a watering drip system as you plant each item.
* Mulch around the plant with compost, bark or gravel to keep weeds down and moisture in.
Sit back and enjoy your garden!
About the Author
Your Independent guide to Gardening