GETTING THE SOIL READY FOR FLOWER GARDENING

DOUBLE DIGGING is recommended to aerate the topsoil and break up the subsoil. The first step is to dig out a trench 18 in. wide and 12 in. deep at one side of the bed or border and transport the soil to the other. Fork over the bottom of the trench to the full length of the prongs, working in garden compost, well-rotted manure, leaf mould or peat. Turn strip A into the trench. Fork over the trench left by the removal of A, again incorporating compost or peat. Turn over strip B and so on, until a final trench is formed which is then filled with the soil from the first one. Do not remove small stones, as they are beneficial in a dry season. Roots of perennial weeds should be removed during digging. To add major plant nutrients, fork 4 oz Growmore per sq. yd into the topsoil, and then let the ground settle for at least 6 weeks before planting.

THE PLANTING OPERATION

The soil condition should be your indicators to planting time. The ground must be neither frozen nor waterlogged. Squeeze a handful of soil – it should be wet enough to form a ball but dry enough to shatter when dropped on a hard surface. In well-drained gardens September and October are the best months for planting perennials – with hollow-stemmed plants and in heavy soil areas it is advisable to wait until March or April.

Bedding Plants

In order to induce bushiness, pinch out the growing tips about 10 days before planting. Provided the recommended time has arrived, get on with the job as quickly as possible. These recommended times are April or May for hardy annuals which have been raised indoors, late May or early June for half hardy annuals and September or October for biennials. Water the trays several hours before planting is due to begin, and whilst you are waiting lightly rake over the bed and then firm by gentle treading. Do not add any more fertilizer. Take the tray outdoors and cover with a sheet of paper – dig a hole with a trowel which will be deep enough and wide enough to house the roots without having to bend them. The top of the soil ball should be just below ground level after planting – let that be your guide to the correct depth of the hole. Lift out a plant from the tray by gently prising it up with the trowel and place the young plant into the hole in one operation. Do not lift a clump of plants and leave them by your side to dry out. Return the soil removed from the hole and firm with your fingers. Water in and the job is done. A simple job, but you must learn to do it quickly and you must lift plants by the soil ball or by the leaves-never handle the stem. If your bedding plants are shop-bought and have not been stopped, pinch out the tips about 10 days after planting.

Planting Mixture

Use a planting mixture instead of ordinary soil for filling up the spaces around the new plants. Make up the mixture in a wheelbarrow on a day when the soil is reasonably dry and friable – 1 part topsoil, 1 part moist peat and 3 handf uls of Bone Meal per barrow load. Keep this mixture in a shed until you are ready to start plantinc

Autumn is the usual season for planting bulbs but there are exceptions, so check the A-Z guide for the recommended time. Buy your bulbs when you can get on with planting straight away – many bulbs cannot stand being out of the soil for a long period. If you have a large area to plant, dig out the soil to the required depth and cover the base of this planting area with sand. Space out the bulbs to the required distance and press them firmly into the sand. Return the earth and tread down lightly to ensure that no air pockets have been created. It is more usual to plant bulbs individually, and with large bulbs the presence of air pockets is a common cause of failure. Dig a hole with a trowel or bulb planter – make sure that this hole is deeper than the recommended depth. Add sand to the hole and set the bulb firmly on this bed – in this way you can avoid creating an air pocket. Return the soil and press down firmly. Water in after planting.

Pre-packaged Plants

Lifted Plants with large roots beyond the soil ball If the roots of pre-packaged perennials are dry, stand them in a bucket of water for about 2 hours. Water lifted plants the day before planting. The first step is to mark out the planting stations with canes to make sure that the plants will be spaced out as planned. The next task is to dig a hole for each specimen, and the commonest mistake is to make it too deep or too narrow. For depth use the soil mark on the stem as your guide – for width take the span of the largest roots and then add a few extra inches. With lifted plants do not remove the soil which may be present but do stretch out the roots which stick out from beyond the soil ball. When planting keep all the specimens covered to protect them from drying winds.

The old soil mark on the stem or stems should be level with the bottom of the board The hole should be deep enough to allow the old soil mark to be at or just below the soil surface at planting The hole should be wide enough to allow the roots to be spread evenly ©

Work a couple of trowelfuls of the planting mixture around the roots. Shake the plant gently up and down – add a little more planting mixture. Firm this around the roots with the fists. Do not press too hard

When.planting is finished . build a shallow ring ol soil around the planting ‘ hole. This will form a water-retaining basin

Half-fill the hole with more planting mixture and firm it down. Depending on the size of the plant, do this by gentle treading or by pressing with the fists. On no account should you tread heavily – this would destroy the soil structure. Start firming at the outer edge of the planting hole, working gradually towards the centre

Add more planting mixture until the hole is full. Firm once again and then loosen the surface. Spread a little soil around the stem so that the surface forms a low dome

Container-grown Plants

Pot-grown Plants

Lifted Plants with compact soil ball Never regard container-grown and pot-grown plants as an easy way to plant perennials. If the environment around the soil ball is not right then the roots will not grow out into the garden soil. This means that it is not enough to dig a hole, take off the container, drop in the plant and replace the earth. Begin by watering the specimens the day before planting.

Cut down the side of the container or polythene bag when it is stood on the base of the hole. Remove the cover carefully

The hole should be deep enough to ensure that the lop ol the soil ball will be 0.5-1 in. below the soil surface after planting

Dig a planting hole which is large enough and deep enough for the soil ball to be surrounded by a 2-4 in. layer of planting material – the thickness of this layer is related to the size of the container

Examine the exposed surface of the soil ball Very gently cut away circling roots but never break up the soil ball

After planting, a shallow. Water-retaining basin should remain @ Fill the space between the soil ball and the sides of the hole with planting mixture. Do not use ordinary soil – roots may not move from a peat-based compost into mineral soil. Firm down the planting mixture with your fists – do not press too hard.

Weeds are a threat to every flower garden and must be kept at bay. They are, of course, unsightly and give a ragged look to the bed or border. With small plants such as rockery perennials, bedding plants and newly-planted border perennials there is an added problem – weeds compete for space, food, water, etc and can harm or even swamp the garden flowers.

There is no single miracle cure for the weed problem – there are a number of interlinked tasks you will have to carry out. At soil preparation time remove all the roots of perennial weeds that you can find. This is especially important if you are going to plant a border which will have to stay undisturbed for several years. If the site is a sea of couch grass then you have a real problem.

However thoroughly you have removed weeds during soil preparation, additional weeds will appear among the growing plants. Hoeing is the basic technique to keep the problem under control – it must be carried out at regular intervals in order to keep annual weeds in constant check and to starve out the underground parts of perennial weeds. Hoeing can do more harm than good in careless hands – keep away from the stems and do not go deeper than an inch below the surface. Do not bother to hoe as a way of conserving moisture – the old idea of creating a ‘dust mulch’ is of little value. Wherever possible hand pull or dig out thistles, nettles, docks, bindweed, ground elder and perennial grasses.

Chemicals have a part to play, but must be used with care as they cannot distinguish between friend and foe. Use Weedol to quickly burn off weed growth between plants – paint leaves of perennial weeds with glyphosate. Always read the instructions and precautions before use and label the watering can ‘Weedkiller’. Use it for no other purpose. One day there may be a complete chemical answer to the weed problem, but until then the mainstays of weed control must remain hoeing, mulching and hand pulling.

During the first few weeks of bedding out annuals and the first year of planting perennials it is essential that watering takes place if there is a dry spell in spring or summer. Once plants are established, regular watering will not often be required but drought conditions call for special measures.

A plant should never be left to show visible signs of distress during a prolonged period of drought. Wilting means that you have left it too late – the time to water is when the soil at a few inches depth is dry and the foliage appears dull.

Once you decide to water then water thoroughly – a light sprinkling will do more harm than good. As a rough guide you will need 2-4 gallons per square yard – a watering can is often used but a hose pipe is a much better idea unless your garden is very small. Remember to water slowly close to the base of the plant. If you do spray over the foliage then avoid watering in hot sunshine.

How often you will need to water depends upon the soil type – a sandy soil will dry out much more quickly than a loamy one. Low-humus soilsalsodryoutquickly. Nevertryto keep the land constantly soaked – there must be a period of drying-out between waterings.

Trickle irrigation through a perforated hose laid close to the plants is perhaps the best method of watering. A quick and easy technique popular in America is to build a ridge of soil around the base of a large perennial and then fill the basin with a hose.

Cutting flowers and decorative leaves to take indoors for arranging is, of course, one of the pleasures of gardening. This form of spring or summer pruning generally does no harm but there are pitfalls. Obviously the garden display is diminished and in the case of newly-planted perennials the loss of stems and green leaves can harm next year’s growth. If you have the space and are a keen flower arranger it is worthwhile having a separate bed where plants for cutting can be grown.

The removal of dead flowers has several advantages – it helps to give the bed or border a well-maintained appearance, it prolongs the floral display and in several cases (Lupin, Delphinium, etc) it induces a second flush of flowers later in the season. Use shears, secateurs, finger tips or a sharp knife, depending on the variety and care should be taken not to remove too much stem. Obviously dead-heading is not a practical proposition in all cases and with plants grown for their seed pods (Honesty, Chinese Lantern, etc) it must be avoided.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.