Tips for Planting a New Border

Get ready list:

• Garden fork and spade. With a fork it is easier to loosen up the soil.
• A few bamboo canes and string.
• Bone meal to improve root growth. A small scoop or recycled tub to measure.
• Option: Rootgrow, mycorrhizal fungi. Improves root growth and the ability of the plant to absorb more water and nutrients.
• Rotted farmyard manure or garden compost to improve soil structure. (25-50 liter / m2)
• Mulch (bark or wood chips) to apply on top to improve moisture in the soil. (25-50 liter / m2)

1. Transplant existing plants to another spot, or plant them in pots

Perennials: usually, in the spring or autumn you can transplant plants to a place that suits them. Digging them up also allows you to split the best parts of the plant up to create a few new plants and remove weeds. Dig holes for the plants at the new location before you dig them out. Then you can move them in one go to the new spot. (See also point 4, planting)

2. Prepare the soil

Remove any weeds and roots in the top soil. The more time you spend on this now, the less time you spend on weeding later! If there are tree roots from nearby trees, shrubs or climbers, try not to disturb those if possible. If there is a tree stump, leave if possible in place as wildlife loves these. Grubs of Stag Beetle (Vliegend Hert) for instance, live in these rotten stumps. To speed up the rotting process you can drill holes in the tree stump. Mushrooms will often appear and they will do their job in breaking it down. You can also plant ferns around it, they love rotten tree trunks.
If the soil is very compact, take a fork and break it up a bit. Apply some rotted manure or other slow fertiliser and fork in.
Apply a layer of mulch to cover the soil (for example: tree bark or wood chips). A layer of mulch will keep the soil more moist. It will slowly decompose and become part of the soil, creating a better environment for the plants to grow. A layer of 2-5 cm is ideal to cover the soil. 2 cm means you need 20 Liter to cover 1 square meter soil.
At this point it is also ideal to soak, to water the new plants in their pots, before planting!
Then leave it, have a break, have a coffee!

3. Setting out the plants

The hard work is done, now the fun part! If you have a planting plan, set out the plants (in their pots) in the position according to the drawing.
Instead of measuring each position for each plant, it is easier to draw on the planting plan with a pencil a grid of 1 x 1 meter square (or 1 x 0.5 m etc, what ever is handy). Next, you make the same squares with lines of rope and a few bamboo canes on the ground. Now you can position each pot in the squares following the drawing.
You can then adjust it to fit the actual situation. The measurement of the border might be different from the drawing. The planting plan also takes into account the growth of the plant, and gives each plant a certain distance. For example, the larger plants and the plants that are growing fast have more space around them.

4. Planting

Starting at the back of the border, mark the position of a few plants with a cane and move the plants aside. Move also the mulch aside and dig the holes double the size of the pot (See illustration A). If the soil is very dry or in a dry shade situation see point 5 and illustration B.
Mix a hand-full of bonemeal or fish/bone meal in the plant hole. If the soil has not much organic material in it, add some compost as well. (if you have Rootgrow or other mycorrhizal fungi starter, add it to the bottom of the plant hole.)
Tip: For bone meal etc., use your kitchen scales to measure the quantity suggested for new plants in a small used tub from your recycle bin. That gives you a sense of how much to use for each plant.

Take the plants out of the pot and if the roots are a solid clump then loosen them up a bit. Place the new plant in the hole and make sure the topsoil level of the potplant and the bed are the same.
Tip: Read also the label. If it says to plant it deeper or more shallow do so.
Backfill the planting hole with soil and firm to a level topsoil. Then move the mulch back around the plant.
After planting all plants, you need to water each plant or the hole bed well with a soft spray. After watering the bed dig a little hole to see if the soil underneath is moist.

5. If the soil is very dry or in a dry shade situation

Remember, when you buy new plants, the roots are very short: not longer than the pot. A plant will survive a dry environment if it has time to grow long roots.
Use this method to plant and water: First, always water the new plants in their pots, before planting. Dig the holes for the new plants and pour water in the holes before planting. See illustration B. Let the water drain away and pour again water in the hole. This waters the soil at the bottom surrounding the new plant roots and gives better results. If you only water after you filled back the soil most of the water says in the top soil.
Then proceed with illustration C, and make sure to add some organic material as well as bonemeal. Illustration D: Take the plant out of the pot, place in the hole and water again! Wait till the water has drained away, then you backfill with soil and firm the ground. Mulch and water the top soil.
In the months after planting, keep the soil most. Ideally, you plant in the early spring or autumn when it rains regularly so you don’t have to water.

Planting-illustrationA-D. (c)2020 Walter van Rijn

It’s addictive. Once you start with gardening and you see the result, there is no way back … It’s probably the best addiction you can have…

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