Nature's Natural Time for Planting | Love The Garden

Nature's Natural Time for Planting

Geoff Hodge's picture
By Geoff Hodge, Botanical Expert (BSc, MCIHort)
Penstemons

I'm currently revamping an old border, replanting it with a range of hardy shrubs and herbaceous perennials. This is a great time to plant up your garden with any hardy plants - since 'autumn is nature's natural time for planting'.

You may see signs saying this at your local garden centre or nursery - promoting autumn planting. And it's true. During the autumn the soil should be moist and still warm after the summer, both conditions promoting strong root growth. This is essential for the plants to get established quickly, ready to come into growth in spring. Garden centres and nurseries are now full of good new stock, so it's well worth visiting them to see what you can get your hands on.

Hardy planting

I purposely said hardy plants, since planting even borderline hardy plants during autumn can reduce their success rate. To me, borderline hardy plants include shrubs like lavender and other Mediterranean plants, so-called 'hardy' fuchsias, penstemons and many, many more. I find these are better planted in spring, as this gives them spring, summer and early autumn to establish before they experience their first cold and frosty weather. This longer establishment period ensures better success rates. Plants are more susceptible to damage from cold weather while they are establishing.

ABC of planting

Whenever I plant up new beds and borders, I try to follow my ABC of planting to get the best visual results.

A plants: These are larger, impact plants that provide either a focal point, backdrop or area of interest. They could be trees, larger shrubs, a rose arch, trellis, fence panel or wall planted with climbers.

B plants: These are the main infill plants, which look good or complement the A plants. These can be larger shrubs if the A plant is a tree, or shorter shrubs and herbaceous plants if the A plant is a large shrub.

C plants: These are lower growing and ground cover plants, used to fill in the rest of the border and cover the soil. In small gardens, it's a 'sin' not to cram in as many plants as possible, to make the most of every inch of planting area. Bare areas of soil not only look unattractive, but they're where weeds can get established. I also include bulbs here, which can be used for extra 'flower power' and impact.

Proper planting

Since trees, shrubs, roses, woody climbers and herbaceous plants should adorn your garden for many years, it's important to get them off to the best possible start.

The roots are the most important part of the plant - get them established quickly and properly and the rest of the plant will follow. Unfortunately, because they're 'down there' in the soil, many people completely forget about them and their importance!

Digging over the border, breaking up the soil and adding lots of bulky organic matter is important, vital in heavy clay soils like mine. If your soil is clay and you just dig a planting hole, it can act like a sump, filling up with water and causing the roots to rot.

Once the soil is prepared, I dig out the planting holes and mix more organic matter and bonemeal with the dug out soil.

Before planting, thoroughly soak the plant's rootball - I stand plants in a bucket of water for 15-20 minute - and water in well after planting.

So, it's time to get planting and create some fabulous new colour and interest in your garden - it's as easy as A, B, C!

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