Before you get started

Stand on soil as little as possible or you will compact it. To give plants a headstart, gently tease out roots at the edge of the root ball when the compost is moist. Newly-planted shrubs, trees and plants need to be fed with an all-purpose feed for foliage and roots every week in the summer.Save money by buying smaller plants that will grow quickly once they are planted. You may not get instant impact, but young trees especially will establish more quickly than mature specimens. Plant container-grown plants at any time of the year unless the ground is waterlogged, frozen or drought-stricken.

Before you plant, try to eliminate persistent weeds such as couch grass, ground elder and bindweed by digging, forking or hoeing. If you use a selective weed killer, be careful not to damage any plants that are growing nearby. Be accurate with application. Soil does not need to be very rich for most plants to thrive, but it should be well drained and contain enough organic matter to stop it from drying out and to encourage natural organisms.

In a new garden, it is best to delay the planting of herbaceous borders for at least a year, and to use the ground for vegetables and annuals during the first season. In this way the ground can be dug twice and will be in much better condition when it is permanently planted in the second season. Choose plants suitable for your soil. For example, plants such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons prefer acid soil conditions. Others, such as silver-leaved plants, prefer hot, dry, sunny positions.

Plant labels always offer guidance. Check your soil with a soil tester. Initial soil preparation should be as thorough as possible. Once planted, most borders will not be disturbed for years and it will only be possible to carry out superficial cultivation and feeding.

Generally, it is most effective to plant irregular groups of three or five plants. Tall plants should go at the back of the border and shorter varieties at the front, although it can be effective to bring groups of taller plants forward as a screen or to break up a scheme. Choose plants that have a long flowering season so that your planting is interesting and offers an impressive visual impact throughout the season. Consider mixed plantings of small trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs and annuals, in soil where all types of plant are suitable, to create a pleasing, complementary display.


Planting is similar for most plants. It is important to avoid bad planting conditions, when the soil is very wet or very dry.


Make the planting hole wide and deep enough to allow the roots to spread. Use a trowel for small to medium-sized plants, and for larger plants, a spade.


Good soil preparation before you plant is important. Add nutrient-rich planting compost to feed and improve the texture of the soil.


Once the plant is planted only superficial cultivation will be possible, so consider adding a slow-release concentrated fertiliser before you plant.


Carefully remove the pot and place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is at the same level as the surrounding ground.


Make sure that the root ball is securely planted. Loose soil will quickly dry out and the plant will not grow well. Firmly but carefully press down all around the plant.


If a plant has been grafted, ensure that the graft is well above soil level. Grafting is a technique used to propagate choice shrubs and trees onto robust root stock.


For trees, firm staking is needed to encourage strong root development. Position the stake so that the prevailing wind will push the tree from it.


Secure the stake to the tree with a tree tie. Make sure that it is not pulled too tightly, or it could cause damage to the bark.


Backfill with soil and compost and firm it thoroughly around the roots after planting. Use your feet rather than your hands for larger plants.


Once planted, many shrubs and trees make roots close to the surface. Cover the area with bark to conserve moisture, reduce weeds and enhance growth.


Water thoroughly. Keep plants well watered, with around 25 litres a week per shrub and 50 litres a week per tree, as they take many months to establish.