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So many of us are guilty of only gardening when the weather is nice, we want to spend time outside when it is pleasant.  This tends to be when we notice plants that need replacing, gaps that need filling.  Now this might only occur in the summer if we are having poor weather.  But the summer is not really a great time to go planting.

We supposedly don’t get so much rain in the summer months so unless you want to go watering every evening don’t go planting at this time of year.  The autumn is really the best time.  The soil is warm from all those hot sunny summer days.  The rain is more predictable so you won’t have to do so much watering.  The temperatures are dropping so plants will become less stressed.

A short history lesson!  In the olden days plants used to be grown in the ground in fields, much like farming.  In the autumn after we’d had some rain and cold weather, so the deciduous plants lost their leaves, these plants were then dug up and sold in nurseries to be replanted in your garden.  Then sometime around 40 years ago this all changed and some bright nurseryman thought if we grow the plants in containers we won’t have to dig them up (hard work!) and they can be sold at any time of year.  Eureka!  Container grown production began.

So in theory you can plant at any time of year.  But we really should not try to cheat nature.  It would be daft to do so and create an awful lot of work for yourself.  Digging a hole when the soil is baked hard and dry; endless watering instead of nature’s rain.  Hot temperatures to stress your new addition.  Autumn is really the best time.  In the autumn a plant’s root system will carry on growing even when the leaves are dormant.  In the spring the soil temperature is lower as it has just endured the winter.  The best planting times are just after we have had a few days of rain but the soil has stopped being sticky.

There are exceptions to this rule.  Plants which are more tender and delicate are best planted in the spring rather than the autumn.  This gives them 6 months to get settled and established before the frosts arrive.  You will just have to keep an eye on them for watering, a little bit more TLC required.

We have a tendency to plant things that are flowering at that time.  An impulse buy.  But if you never garden in the summer you don’t plant any summer flowering shrubs, or if you don’t plant in the autumn you don’t think about planting for autumn colour.  So it is essential to keep a list of plants that you desire and then buy them at the appropriate planting time.

Before planting make sure that you water the plant thoroughly.  Then dig a hole slightly bigger than the existing root ball, i.e. the pot.  Because HGP shrubs are grown in decent high quality compost you shouldn’t need to add fertiliser to the planting hole.  Place the plant in the hole and backfill with the soil previously dug out.  Firm down gently, do not stamp!  The plant won’t blow away and you will just compact the soil making watering very difficult.  Water in thoroughly, i.e. a whole watering can at least per plant.

We don’t go in for massive planting holes with loads of added compost, unless your soil is really dreadful.  Our plants are grown in a compost with loam added (soil) so they are used to growing in a normal soil; they haven’t been grown in an artificial pure peat or coir (coco fibre) compost.  Plants have got to get used to growing in real soil, not a synthetic pit of soft fluffy compost.

Don’t plant too deep (apart from in a few exceptional circumstances found in the detail of the Plant A-Z).  The root ball should be just below the surface of the soil.

If planting a specimen in a lawn it will grow so much better if you dig a bed out, i.e. remove a circle/square of the lawn and dig it over and put the shrub in the centre.  If the grass is left in situ it will severely stunt the plant’s growth.

It is a good idea to mulch a plant after planting.  This helps to keep the bed weed free and keep moisture in.  A mulch is a thin layer of a material spread over the soil.  The mulch will help to reduce rain run off from the soil.  It also looks great and can offset the planting well.  Typical mulches include:

Leaves ~ free!  Don’t rake up leaves and throw them away, either compost them and put them where they are needed (maybe raked up from the lawn) or just spread them where they fall on the beds.  I love the fact that our garden, which is only 15 years old from a green field site, makes its own leaf mould.  This type of mulch is also ideal for adding extra protection for young roots in winter (see over wintering section).

Bark ~ looks fantastic but is more costly.

Gravel ~ more appropriate in some styles of gardens e.g. coastal, exotic, Japanese.

Things to be careful about using include:

Manure ~ must be well rotted, but also take care; we have used well rotted horse manure before and imported a massive weed problem with germinating nettles cropping up everywhere!

Grass clippings ~ these should be composted down with more bulky vegetation.  If laid straight on the beds it forms a thick slimy mat that will damage your plants.

Go to your local nursery, look online, look at gardening books, look at other people’s gardens, but get planting!

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