Preparing the Ground for Planting Shrubs

Work over the soil thoroughly to one spade’s depth, removing perennial weeds such as dandelion. Fork bone meal into the top soil at the rate of 130g per sq metre; allow the soil to settle for about two and a half weeks. Thread the soil down firmly before planting in the prepared garden bed.

Decide where the shrubs are to be planted and mark out the positions by sticks. Make sure that the space between two shrubs is sufficient to allow for spread of growth. The width of the space should be 50% of the anticipated total width of the two shrubs.

The next thing to do is to remove one of the markers and dig a hole as deep as the shrub’s container or root ball. It should also be slightly wider than the container or root ball. Above all, it mustn’t be too deep or too narrow.

Using a container or wheelbarrow, make up a soil mixture by mixing the soil from the hole with well-rotted organic material either from your garden compost or manure. A mixture of two parts soil to one part organic material should do the job. Before you start the planting, you should thoroughly water any container grown plants.

Make sure that the depth of the hole is correct by inserting the container or root ball. With a container shrub, the surface of the compost should be level with that of the surrounding soil, or just below it. With a balled-root or bare-root shrub the mark indicating the soil level on the stem should be level with the surface of the surrounding soil; set a board or cane across the top of the hole to gauge the correct planting depth. Check that the hole is wide enough to allow the roots to spread out evenly. Break up the soil at the base of the hole with a fork, then add 7.5-10cm of the prepared soil mixture.

Check the plant for damaged or diseased top growth. Trim back any such stems, cutting just above a bud with secateurs.

Take away the container or rapping from the shrub and check the root system, taking care not to break up the soil ball. If the container-grown shrub has a poor root system, return it to the seller; if the roots are tangled or encircle the soil, carefully cut them away, but do not break up the soil ball. With bare root shrub, cut back any damaged or diseased roots with secateurs to health growth.

Clutch the plant by the base of its stem and put it into the hole. With a ball-root or container shrub, fill in the hole with the prepared soil mixture. Tread it in firmly, top up with more, and tread again. After planting, leave a shallow basin round the plant for water retention. Thoroughly water the soil around the new plant. In summer, water generously during dry weather, to prevent the roots from drying out.

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