Planting season is here at last. The garden centres are filling with new season camellias, spring bulbs and winter annuals. While planting bulbs and annuals is fairly straightforward, a little more effort is needed with planting larger shrubs.
Firstly, you’ll want to dig a hole roughly twice the size of the pot the plant is currently in. This is especially important when planting in clay as it is a lot tougher for roots to work through. When digging, it's good to have the plant soaking in a seaweed tonic mixture as this helps protect the roots against transplant shock.
Once you are happy the hole is big enough it’s good practice to rough up the sides of the hole. Doing this gives the roots a better chance at breaking into the clay and prevents the creation of a smooth ‘bowl’ under the plants for water to fill and potentially cause root rot.
Adding compost and sheep pellets to the soil will help to feed the plant as it grows and will also improve the quality of the soil composition. Other soil improvers can also be added, for example acid loving plants such as camellias, rhododendrons and roses all benefit from having peat or aluminium sulphate added to the soil to lower the soil pH.
Mix up any soil additions with the existing soil (or planting mix) so that there is no risk of the roots being ‘burned’ by undiluted compost or other amendments. Fill the hole with this mixture ensuring the trunk of the plant is planted at the same level above ground as it was in the pot. Press the soil around the plant firmly and water in well.
If you are planting a larger shrub or tree it often pays to stake it into position. Make sure you avoid damaging the roots of the plant with the stake(s) and use soft ties and loop them in a figure 8 around the tree and the stake leaving room for the trunk to sway slightly.
Finally, make sure you water the new planting regularly until it is established. Generous, less frequent watering is better than a little water every day as it encourages strong root development and promotes drought tolerance.
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