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How to plant

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In the same way that different varieties of plants need to be looked after in their own specific way, how you go about actually getting them into the soil can differ depending on what type of plant it is you’re dealing with. In this guide, we’ll help you find out how to plant some of the most popular types of plants so you can get them growing beautifully in your garden in no time at all.

How to plant a shrub

Container-grown shrubs can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged. However, autumn is the ideal time for planting because the soil is still warm enough to encourage some root growth before winter.

1. To get started, dig a hole at least twice as wide as the shrub’s container and just as deep, as the shrub needs to be planted at the same depth as it was in the pot. Mix the soil you've removed with some compost and leave it to one side.

2. Water the shrub thoroughly and allow the pot to drain. Then, gently lay it on its side and with one hand supporting the shrub, ease the rootball out of the pot.

3. Carefully pull out any roots that are circling around the bottom or sides of the pot, so they grow away from the rootball and into the surrounding soil. Position the shrub in the centre of the hole, then fill in the soil around the sides, firming it down as you go.

4. Once the hole has been filled, water the shrub again using at least 1 full watering can.

5. Cover the soil with a generous layer of mulch – this will help prevent weeds and reduce the amount of water loss from the soil.

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How to plant a hedge

Hedges are often planted in exposed positions meaning they can be damaged by the weather, so the secret to growing strong thick hedges is to make sure they’re well protected from prevailing winds for the first few years. Container-grown hedging plants can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged, but as with shrubs, autumn is best. Plants sold without any soil on their roots, known as bare-rooted, should be planted during the dormant season only (November to March).

Hedges can be planted in single or double rows. For most gardens a single row of correctly space plants will be perfect – but if you want quick cover or an impenetrable hedge, try a staggered double row instead.

1. Once you have prepared the strip of ground, mark out the line of the hedge using a piece of string.

2. Next dig a hole that is as deep as the hedging plant’s container and twice as wide. Mix the soil you’ve removed with some compost and put it to one side.

3. Water container-grown plants thoroughly and allow them to drain. Ease the plant out of the pot, laying it on its side if necessary and tapping the pot rim to help ease the rootball out. Bare-rooted hedging plants should be kept moist at all times. Carefully pull out any roots of container-grown plants that are circling around the bottom or sides, so that they grow out into the surrounding soil.

4. Position the hedging plants in the centre of the hole and start to fill in the sides using the soil mixture. With bare-rooted plants, carefully spread the roots out across the bottom of the hole first, then shake the stem before firming the first layer to make sure that soil trickles down in between the roots.

5. Water the hedging plants again using at least 1 full watering can per plant.

6. After planting cover the soil with a generous layer of mulch, or plant through weed control fabric and cover with a layer of chipped bark or soil.

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How to plant herbaceous perennials

Container-grown herbaceous perennials can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged.

1. You’ll need to dig a hole at least twice as wide and around the same depth as the perennial's container. Mix the soil you've removed with compost and leave it to one side.

2. Gently tip the plant out with one hand on top of the compost to support it, taking care not to damage any emerging shoots.

3. Put the perennial in the centre of the hole then fill in the gaps around the sides of the plant with the soil mixture, firming it down gently to make sure it’s secure.

4. Water the perennial well, then cover the soil with a layer of mulch. Keep the mulch at least 5cm clear of the base of the plant otherwise you risk scorching the foliage and encouraging rot to set in.

How to plant bedding plants

Tender bedding plants should be planted out after the risk of frost has gone, but autumn, winter and early spring bedding can be planted at any time. If you are buying very young plants or growing your own from seed you will need to harden them off before the final planting by moving them to a protected area such as a cold greenhouse or cold frame for a couple of weeks before they are ready to plant out.

1. Before planting your bedding plants in a bed or border, use a garden fork to make sure the soil surface is level and to break down any large clumps. You’ll need to dig a hole that is as deep as the plant’s container and slightly wider. Use a hand trowel or your fingers for smaller plants. If you’re planting in a container or hanging basket make sure you use a suitable compost and add in some slow release fertiliser and moisture retaining gel.

2. Water the plants well before planting and allow them to drain before removing them from their growing container. If they’re in pots, remove them by tipping them upside down and supporting the rootball with the plant between 2 fingers. Then give the base of the pot a couple of sharp taps with your trowel to loosen it completely. If they are in packs then gently tease them out by pressing the base of the pack and pushing them upwards.

3. Position the plant in the soil by holding it at the rootball and firming the soil down around it. Water thoroughly after planting.

How to plant a tree

Container-grown trees can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged, but autumn is the ideal time. Bare-rooted trees – those sold without any soil on their roots – should be planted during the dormant season only (November to March).

1. Dig a hole that is at least 3 times as wide and twice as deep as the tree’s container. Loosen up the soil at the base of the hole with a fork and add some fertiliser and organic matter. Mix the soil you’ve removed with compost and leave it to one side.

2. Trees over 1.5m tall at planting time will establish more quickly if their roots are held firm. The best way to do this is to hammer a 1.2m (4ft) stake in at 45° after digging the planting hole.

3. Give the new tree a thorough soaking by standing it in a bucket of water for a couple of hours before it’s planted. To remove the tree from its container, lay it on its side, tap the rim of the container and then slide it out. Carefully pull out any roots that are circling around the bottom or sides, then position the tree in the centre of the hole next to the stake if you’re using one.

4. Start to fill in the sides of the hole with soil, firming it down as you go. Shake the trunk of bare-rooted trees before firming the first layer to make sure soil trickles down between the roots. Once the hole has been filled, water thoroughly once again, before covering the soil with a generous layer of mulch. If the tree is grafted, make sure it is not planted too deep as it is important the graft union is not buried.

5. After planting, attach the top of the stake nearest the trunk to the tree using an adjustable tree tie with a protective spacer. This will hold the tree securely and prevent it from rubbing against the stake in windy weather.

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How to plant bulbs

Autumn is the best time to plant bulbs so that they can develop strong roots before winter sets in. If you notice gaps in your garden at certain times of the year, choose bulbs that will bloom in these months to give your garden bursts of colour.

1. To begin with you need to choose whether to use pots, containers or a border to plant your bulbs in. Note that a border needs 25 to 50 bulbs, in clusters of about 6, to look really impressive.

2. To plant your bulbs, first work out the correct planting depth by measuring the bulbs from base to tip, then multiply this 2 to 3 times. For example, a 5cm bulb should be planted 10-15 cm deep.

3. Use a hand trowel to dig a hole for your bulb, place the bulb in the hole with its ‘nose’, or shoot facing upwards, replace the soil and gently firm down, then repeat for the rest of the bulbs.

4. Water the area, making sure you keep the soil moist for the first few weeks.

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