Gardening Frequently Asked Questions
We get asked lots of gardening questions (most of which we hope to have answered within the pages of this site!) but some we get asked a lot more often than others, and so in recognition of these, we have included our top 10 below!
If you can’t find the answer to your gardening or plant questions in the pages of this website, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help you!
1. Is there a general rule for how to plant / how big to dig the hole for the plant?
- Generally you should dig a hole in the soil twice the size of the pot or root ball.
- Next, dig over the subsoil left in the hole and mix in any available compost.
- Add a small handful of slow release fertilizer, such as Trevena Cross General Fertiliser and then turn over the soil again. (If you place the plant straight on top of the fertilizer its roots will soon burn out if the plant becomes dry.)
- Place the plant in the hole and back-fill with the remaining soil.
- Water well and continue to water well for the duration of the season of planting.
TOP TIP: We generally advise customers to treat a newly planted plant as if it were still technically in its pot for another 6-12mths. Tender loving care is required until it is established!
2. Which compost should I use for which plants when planting in pots?
We recommend John Innes soil based no 3 compost (and a slow release fertilizer) for permanent planting (e.g. shrubs and trees) as it doesn’t dry out like regular peat based composts, and is therefore easier to keep moist.
Ordinary peat based composts (and a slow release fertilizer) are suitable for impermanent planting of annual bedding like geraniums and petunias in the spring and summer.
Ericaceous composts must be used for acid loving plants like camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.
3. I planted my shrub within the last year and it is looking spindly and sad rather than bushy and healthy – what’s wrong with it?
There could of course be a multitude of reasons why a plant isn’t looking its best but for a particularly spindly shrub or bush it is likely that it hasn’t been pruned enough to encourage new, bushy growth. We get asked a lot of questions like this in relation to hedging in particular.
It is extremely important to prune the tips and encourage new growth, as well as to keep the area around the plant base weed free to avoid competition for water and nutrients. Mulching with bark around the base for example, is often a good idea so that it is not competing with grass or other well established trees and shrubs.
4. Do I need to water everything in the garden all year round?
In the drier seasons, spring and summer; if water conservation is an issue, concentrate on watering anything newly planted that year – these plants should take priority over anything already established in the garden that will be better at taking care of itself. Of course during hot, dry periods it would be ideal to ensure everything other than the most drought tolerant, is kept watered. During wetter seasons the watering often takes care of itself – although make sure you do not take this for granted – keep an eye on the frequency of rain!
5. I really want to grow this particular shrub in my garden but I don’t think my soil is suitable for it – is it worth just risking it?
Like people, plants are all different, and like living in different conditions. Our advice is always to pay close attention to what your garden is like and “go with the soil”. If your garden has poor, sandy, free draining soil there is little point in trying to grow acid loving plants like azaleas and camellias. There are of course ways to change the pH of your soil, e.g. adding pine needles to increase acidity, or lime to increase alkalinity, but in reality you’re better off selecting plants based on your natural garden and soil type, as these will always thrive the best in the long term.
Pots and containers are great ways of growing plants that you ‘must have’ but cannot grow ordinarily in your garden!
6. What should I be doing on my veg plot now?
Now is a great time for mulching - empty any rotted down compost from your heap (leaving the unrotten on the heap) and put a layer over your veg beds. Then watch the worms take it all down into the subsoil - they will do a fantastic job at breaking the matter down, aerating and improving the quality of the soil, leaving your bed ready and prepared for next spring.
When you grow your own, you’re really a keeper of soil, which you grow plants on. I really don’t believe in digging over your veg plot – there is absolutely no need if you do as mentioned above.
7. I’m looking to re-design my rockery or border but do not know where to start. What should I do?
It may sound obvious but it is very important to take note of the optimum height and spread of each plant you have to fill the border. It is a good idea to first place your plants on the soil where you imagine them going, and then drawing a circle in the soil around the plant to indicate the spread, and help you visualise where it will end up. You do not want to lose plants behind others just because you did not account for height or spread.
Consider the colours you’re bringing into the border too when positioning – it is always nice to contrast as well as complement, in order to retain year round interest – something which evergreen plants will also reliably add when factored in. Once you are happy with the positioning of all plants in theory, you can then begin planting in practise.
8. How do I keep slugs and snails under control?
Slugs and snails are some of the most common pests we have to contend with in the garden. It may sound gruesome but I’ve found one of the best ways to control the slugs in my own garden is to slice them in half. If you can kill the great big ones, you will prevent eggs spawning and the smaller slugs becoming a problem. I also believe wool pellets, which we sell, to be one of the best slug control methods on the market, as well as coffee granules - which you may be able to come across for free!
9. When is best time to plant container or pot grown plants?
It is a common misconception that container/pot grown plants can only be planted in the spring or summer. This is incorrect. Container plants can be planted all year round.
10. In my garden I have bright red tulips in flower, roses coming out, fuchsia's and geraniums still in flower - and I'm worried, at this rate they will all be exhausted by the time spring and summer arrive. What can I do to slow them down? Or should I not worry and just enjoy them?
Due to the incredibly mild, even warm, winter we have had so far, plants are behaving out of normal seasonal character. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to slow down the tulips in your garden. As they have a fairly short flowering period, I would just enjoy them while you can. The fuchsias and geraniums should flower 2-3 more times this year - giving them a prune in spring will also help them stay bushy and promote more flowerheads. Lets just hope it stays warm and we don't get frost, as unfortunately that would spell the end of these early flowerers!
Should a cold spell hit - be patient with your plants once it's passed. Often a recovering plant can be mistaken for a dead plant. I have two great big phoenix palms myself which did not look good last year until August when they suddenly put on a growth spurt. They did not see a new leaf until at least July! Plants adapt to their climate and environment, and sometimes just require time to come back to form.