Go back to your roots, says ALAN TITCHMARSH

Go back to your roots, says ALAN TITCHMARSH

But one has made a well-timed comeback in the past few years: autumn planting.



Years ago, the dormant season was the only time you could put in new trees, shrubs, roses or hedges, because woody plants like these came from old-fashioned nurseries that grew them in rows in fields.

They could be dug up only when all the leaves had fallen off to reduce moisture loss and since they were sold with a ball of roots trussed up in hessian sacking, they had to be delivered quickly and planted again straight away.

It wasn’t until garden centres came along that we could buy pot-grown plants with self-contained root systems that could be replanted at any time. 

But several hot, dry, Mediterranean-style summers reminded us just why autumn planting was best.

The roots of the best pot-grown trees and shrubs aren’t capable of supporting a full complement of leaves and flowers or fruit in the face of major heat and drought.

Many new plants died when their owners didn’t keep them well enough watered.

If they had just waited until autumn, the plants would have been fine. Mediterranean summers seem to be on hold for now but my advice is play safe.

And if you have major planting plans involving woody plants or hedging, both bare-root and potted kinds, plump for autumn planting.

They will establish so much better when put in at what nature considers the right time.

First, prepare the soil very well. If you are planting a whole border, remove any weeds, stones and roots then spread four inches of organic matter over the ground, plus a handful of blood, fish and bone per square yard, and dig it in.

Being slow-acting, plants won’t reap the benefit until they’ve been in position for six months or more which is ideal. Don’t waste your money on general fertiliser since it will be washed away by winter rain before plants get a look in.

With the bed prepared, you only need to dig planting holes and put your plants in. For bare-root plants, make wide holes to accommodate the roots when they are fully spread out before in-filling with the surrounding soil, mixed with well-rotted organic matter.

If you’re putting in pot-grown plants make the hole slightly larger than the container, then de-pot it and tease out some of the roots before popping it into the hole and filling in around it.

If you are adding a plant to an existing bed with well-cultivated soil just dig a large hole, roughly twice the size of the roots or the pot, and fork some organic matter and a smidge of blood, fish and bone into the base.

Firm the plant in gently to consolidate the soil slightly round the roots, add a plant label, stake and tree tie and water well, then let nature get on with it. Roots romp away in soil that is still naturally warm and moist, getting new plants off to a brilliant start.

Published at Sat, 07 Oct 2017 11:01:00 +0000

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