Planning & preparation
- Before you start planting, be aware of the soil type of your garden, as heavy clay soil is prone to waterlogging whereas light sandy soil tends to dry out quickly. Check plant labels for specific soil and aspect requirements.
- It's a good idea to plan your planting in advance. By careful selection, plants in your garden can flower from January right through to December. Evergreen plants and trees and shrubs with decorative bark or foliage can help to keep your garden looking great all year round.
- Digging heavy soils to aid drainage, or adding an organic matter or compost to lighter soils will give plants the best start.
- Clear weeds by either hoeing or digging out with a trowel. More stubborn or deep-rooted weeds can be treated with a weed killer, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Ensure your containers or pots are frostproof if you intend to leave them out through the winter months.
- Be mindful of how the garden will be enjoyed. Some plants are poisonous so are best avoided in gardens where children or pets might play.
- It’s easy to attract wildlife, birds, bees, butterflies and other insects by choosing appropriate plants, so bear this in mind when planning.
Do it right
- If planting into pots or large containers, place a layer of drainage at the bottom of the container but ensure the holes are not blocked.
- Flowering plants tend to look their best when planted in odd numbers.
- Container-grown species should be planted in the garden at the same height as they are in the pot. Check the level is right by placing it into the hole you’ve dug before removing the plant from its container.
- Remember to allow your new plants room to grow. You can fill in gaps by adding annual flowers whilst the plants reach their height and spread.
- It’s best to wear suitable footwear and gloves when digging.
- Wear gloves when handling fertilizers, compost or soil.
- Thin gloves can be worn for most planting and delicate work, but it’s best to wear rigger gloves when handling plants with thorns.
- Deadheading will help to extend the flowering period and encourage a second bloom of many plants.
- It’s a good idea to store plant labels so you can refer to the aftercare advice at a later date.
Step by step - Container grown plants
Water the plant an hour or so before you intend to plant it so that the compost and roots are bound and easier to remove.
Making sure the area is free of weeds; use a trowel or spade to dig a hole that is twice the width and the same depth as the container the plant has been grown in.
Add some slow release fertiliser to the bottom of the hole and gently work into the soil. In heavy soils, you could also add some horticultural grit to aid drainage.
Water the bottom of the planting hole before introducing the new plant.
Carefully remove the plant from its pot. For trees and larger shrubs, it might be easier to cut the plastic pot on two sides to release it. Never try to remove a tree or shrub by pulling its trunk or stem.
If the roots look a bit pot bound, gently tease them out, before placing the plant into the hole, making sure it’s upright and the root crown is level with the garden soil.
Backfill with soil, gently pressing around the root ball to make sure there are no air pockets.
When the new plant is firmly in place, tamp down the soil. For larger plants, you can lightly use the heel of your boot to firm up the soil.
Water the plant then add mulch or decorative bark; as well as looking neat, this will help to retain moisture and warmth.
Step by step - Bare rooted trees
The roots of bare-rooted trees must be kept damp before planting, so if you’re not planting them as soon as you get them, place them into water for a few minutes if they appear to be drying out.
Clear the planting area of weeds before digging a hole. Bare rooted trees need quite a shallow planting depth, around 300mm deep and 900mm wide is ideal.
Add compost or well-rotted manure to give the plant a good start.
Backfill the hole, firmly treading in with your heel as you go. The roots need to be totally covered but be careful not to plant too deeply. The trunk should be completely clear of the soil.
To stop the root ball from moving, drive in a stake at a 45-degree angle, about 30mm from the root ball.
Secure with a tree tie. Finally, water well and apply a generous mulch.
Step by step - Bulbs
Dig a hole for your bulbs. Generally, bulbs are planted at twice their depth but be sure to follow the guidelines given on the plant label.
If your soil is prone to waterlogging, place a layer of horticultural grit at the base of the hole.
Place the bulbs into the hole and space at twice their own width apart and with the narrow, pointed ‘nose’ facing up. If you’re not sure which end is the top or bottom, plant the bulb on its side.
Backfill with soil and gently tamp down with your fingers or the back of a rake or trowel. Unless the ground is particularly dry there’s no need to water newly planted bulbs.