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Watering & Feeding


One of the big advantages of growing shrubs is the lack of mollycoddling they require.  Once they are established, shrubs rarely need watering except in cases of severe drought.  They have extensive root systems so they can tap into deep water reserves.

However you must keep an eye on newly planted shrubs in the first couple of years until they are established, especially during very dry periods.  As mentioned in the Planting section, really soak a newly planted shrub, then you will probably need to give it a drink every 7-10 days until you get some rain.  But this is not an exact science.  This will come with experience.  Get out with your plants and keep an eye on them.  If they are getting crispy they really are dry!  But soft shoots will start to wilt when they are thirsty, they’ll look a little dull.  Most plants will recover from a little thirst!  More harm can be done by plants sitting in a wet soil.  So try to choose plants more suited to wet conditions if you have a boggy soil, e.g. Salix, Cornus.  Don’t forget evergreen shrubs.  As they don’t loose their leaves in the winter they drink all year round.  So a newly planted evergreen in the autumn is quite likely to need watering in its first winter, that’s if we don’t get sufficient rain!

Plants growing next to the house or at the foot of a wall are more susceptible to drying out, as are plants growing in sandy soils and of course plants in containers need to be watered more regularly.  When putting a shrub in a container make sure that you don’t fill it up to the top with compost.  Leave a gap so you have room to put sufficient water in when watering.

When you water try and water the soil at the base of the plant and not the leaves, that way the water is more likely to get to the roots.  Don’t waste water by watering the whole garden.  Gentle watering is the name of the game, water slowly.  It is worth investing in a hose pipe with a sprinkler nozzle at the end for gentle successful watering.

Water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  Frequent light watering wastes water, doesn’t satisfy the plants requirements and leads to a shallow root system more susceptible to drought.  Drought tolerant plants still need to be watered until they are established, e.g. Salvias, Lavandulas, Genistas.  Don’t just plant them and ignore them they need a bit of looking after until they have made some new roots.

It is best to water your garden either early in the morning or late in the evening.  There is less wind and heat then so the plant is more able to take the water up.  And what could be nicer at the start or end of your day than pootling about in the garden, finding a bit of serenity!  Wherever possible install a water butt to collect and recycle rainwater.

Don’t fret too much about watering; it is really just common sense.  If the plant looks dry water it!  When looking through the Plant A-Z it will tell you if a plant has a specific water requirement.  Experience will tell you if you are getting it right.


Trees and shrubs have extensive root systems so can tap into nutrients deeper in the soil than say bedding plants, so they rarely need feeding.  Poor growth maybe due to environmental factors, such as water logging, drought or poor weather, so don’t immediately reach for the bag of fertilizer.  Your soil type will have a great bearing on nutrient levels.  Sandy and chalky soils tend to be lower in nutrients than say clay or loam soils, so you are more likely to have to feed your garden if you have one of these soil types.

We are lucky to have a fertile soil and have never fed any of our plants in the garden.  As mentioned before HGP shrubs are grown in a high quality compost with long lasting fertilizers so sufficient nutrients are provided until the plant develops a wider reaching root system.

If, however, you do think you need to feed your garden there are many methods available.  These range from high tech inorganic fertilizers such as Tomorite, Miraclegro, etc to natural organic ones such as homemade compost, well rotted manure and seaweed (there are many more of both types available).

As a general rule, feeding of shrubs is best done with a general purpose fertilizer in late winter.  Pots and containers, however, are best fed in late spring.

But on the whole shrubs planted in the soil shouldn’t need feeding!


Mop head hydrangeas are a curious breed!  You can alter their colour depending on the pH of the soil they are grown in.  The pH is the acidity or alkalinity of the soil (buy a cheap pH testing kit to ascertain the acidity/alkalinity of your soil).  As a gardener you can play God to a certain extent by changing the pH.  This is most easily achieved if the hydrangea is grown in a pot but does work to a certain extent with those grown in the garden border.

A high pH, or alkaline soil, above about 6, will result in a pink hydrangea.  To raise the pH add lime several times a year to the plant (do this with care and follow the guidelines on the product carefully) or add a high phosphate fertilizer.

A low pH, or acidic soil, around about 5.5, will result in a blue hydrangea.  To lower the pH add aluminium sulphate or coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peelings or egg shells to the base of your plant.  Good luck!

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