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WHERE TO START : IMPROVE YOUR SOIL  

Before planting, make sure you prepare the soil, removing any roots of weeds along with any stones ore other debris. You can then scatter some fertiliser or organic matter over the surface and mix it with the soil.

You may also consider improving the quality of your soil to boost nutrient levels or the structure of the soil. This is a quick reference guide of how to improve your soil depending on the type of soil you have.

SANDY SOIL

It has a gritty texture when you rub it between your fingers.
Dries out quickly
DISADVANTAGES
Does not retain fertilising elements
IMPROVE IT BY ADDING
Add humus in the form of compost, black peat, manure


CLAY SOIL

It forms balls in your hands when moist and feels smoth when you rub it between your fingers
DISADVANTAGES
Tends to become compacted and not drain properly
IMPROVE IT BY ADDING
Add loads of well rotted organic matter


CHALKY SOIL

The worst soil for gardening.
DISADVANTAGES
Lacks fertilising elements, dry in summer, muddy when it rains, makes many plant species go yellow
IMPROVE IT BY ADDING
Mix 200 to 300 g of sulphur per m2 with the soil.
Add organinc matter
This soil benefits from good mulching

Silty Soi

Rich soil, feels like flour and darker in colour.
DISADVANTAGES
Can be acidic
IMPROVE IT BY ADDING
Neutralise the acidity by adding horticultural limestone. Drain if necessary.

BASIC RULES

A lot of times, once a plant is properly established will grow and thrive with minimum watering and little maintenance. But you must get them there first!

So, the first advice: Don't neglect your plant the first months you planted it!

Select your plant wisely. Make sure you selected the right plant for the right area. Most plants like to be place in full sun, but a few prefer a part shade area. Some like moist soils, other dry. You may have selected a plant that can be exposed to the elements, but some others need to be protected from winds and cold.

Watering. Always water your plants throughly at well spaced intervals. Light, daily sprays will discourage the development of the deep roots that make a plant grow stronger. If possible, water early morning or in the evenings, when the temperatures of the day are cool


TREES AND SHRUBS

Shrubs are useful for providing colour, aroma, bird-life and definition of spaces.

Autumn is a good time to plant, unless you live in a very cold area, where you should wait until spring.

This are 10 easy steps to follow when planting your shurbs:

    Make a planting wide hole. It needs to be wide not deep. A wide planting hole allows the easy spread of roots as the plant grows. Just make it a little over the height of the pot and 2-3 times the root ball width.

  1.     Fill the hole with water and leave it for an hour. 
  2.     Place the plant in a bucket for an hour and then, remove plant from the pot
  3.     Slice off circling or tangled roots and loosen up matted roots
  4.     Now, place the plant in the hole and make sure you don't plant the shrub deeper than it was in the pot
  5.     Fill in the hole, and make sure you don't leave any air pockets around the roots.
  6.     Once you are almost at the top (10cm left to cover), you can mix some organic matter or compost with the soil
  7.     Gently firm soil around the plant
  8.     Water 
  9.     Apply mulch

GROUND COVERS AND BORDERING PLANTS

Ground cover plants are useful for covering ground not needed or appropriate as grass. They can define garden areas. They are especially useful for dust control and to stabilise embankments where erosion is possible. 

Most ground cover and small bordering plants can be planted any time during the growing season, but either spring or fall is preferred.

The basic rules to plant grand covers and bordering plants:


  1.     Bed preparation: choose the area you want to plant or create a border, and getting ready by improving the soil and eliminate weeds
  2.     Spacing: It depends on the growth characteristics of each plant, but a basic rule is that you must space plants so they will develop a uniformly covered area in a relatively short period of time. Plant in a diagonal, not in a straight line:
  3.     Once the soil has been prepared, you just have to dig a hold as deep as the container and a little bit wider.
  4.     To remove the plant easily from the pot, it is recommend to soak the soil first.emove the plant from the container and check the roots. If they appear to be curling, just straigh them out.
  5.     Place the plant in the hole you just made, and fill up the sides with soil firming it down with your hands
  6.     Now is time to give your plant the first watering. Make sure you give it enought water to settle the soil around the roots.
  7.     Mulch. It is important to mulch your plant once planted to reduce the evaporation of water, reduce growth of weed and protect the roots from brusque temperature changes.

HOW TO CARE FOR POTTED PLANTS



Growing your plants in containers provides you with a few options that are unavailable to permanent plantings. The ability to move the containers around is perhaps the biggest advantage. As the seasons and the sun's position changes, you can move your plant to a sunnier or shady spot to fit the cultural needs of the plant. You will also be able to move plants into the 'limelight' when they come into bloom, or into the background somewhere when they are finished. You will also be able to grow acid loving plants in an area of alkaline soil and vice versa. Remember though, that when you are growing plants in pots  your plant is completely dependent on you to ensure its needs are met. Below are some basic tips for caring for your plant until you decide to plant it out in the garden or transplant it into a bigger container.

Positioning your plant


Plants need light and some plants need more light than others. Find out how much light your container plants need and choose spots where they can get all the light they need. Some may need full sunlight and others partial shade. A good way to ensure they get all the light they need is to mark spots where you want your containers to go and take note of the amount of sunlight the spots get every day.

Watering your plant

Most plants need water or they will die. But more plants are killed by over-watering than by lack of water! The most important thing to remember is that the soil needs to be kept moist. How much water it needs will depend on the time of year, the type of plant, and the environment that the plant is being kept in.
How to check whether a plant needs watering:
Place your little finger into the soil, if the soil is moist there is no need to water. If the soil feels dry water the plant from the top and drain any excess water from the saucer after an hour.
As a general guide:
• Plants will need watering daily during the spring and summer months and less often during autumn and winter.
• Some plants like succulents require less watering than others.
• Plants in smaller pots will need watering more frequently than those in larger pots.
• If the plant wilts it needs to be watered.

Providing Food for Your Plant

A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well.
There are several ways to supply nutrients. One is through the use of slow-release or timed release fertilizer. These products consist of water soluble fertilizer that is encased in a semi-permeable resin coating. When they come in contact with water, small amounts of nutrients are released to the soil for use by the plant. So, each time you water, the containers are getting "automatically" fertilized. These products are usually mixed with the potting media or placed on the soil surface at a rate specified on the label and based on the size of the container. Many of the products for use with annuals will supply nutrients for 3-4 months depending on the amount of moisture and temperature.

Another way to fertilize containers is to use liquid fertilizers. These products are mixed with water according to label instructions and then applied during normal watering. It is suggested to apply fertilizer to the soil media when it is moist rather than when it is completely dry. This helps to avoid potential damage to the plant. Reapplying every two weeks or so will provide adequate nutrition for most containers. You can adjust the frequency of application based on overall appearance and growth. You can also fertilize with every watering using only a half strength fertilizer solution. Occasionally use just plain water to leach the pot.

The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you are growing. High nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage while flowering and vegetable crops would prefer lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous types.

Planting in the Garden

When your plant has outgrown its pot it is time to re-pot or plant in the garden.
Cuttings need to be hardened off, gradually introduced into a new environment, after the root system has developed. It is best to wait a few seasons before planting into the garden.
The best time to plant out in the garden is from autumn or spring.
Water the plant well.
Dig a hole in the garden slightly bigger than the pot. Select a location that best meets the plants needs in terms of sunlight hours, size of plant at maturity and how it is likely to grow.
Carefully loosen the soil by squeezing the pot until the plant can be removed without pulling the plant. Gently tickle the roots especially if they have started to grow around the inside of the pot. If potbound the roots may need a gentle trim.
Fill the hole with water before placing the plant in the hole. Make sure all the roots are underground and that the stem is at ground level, as the soil needs to be at the same level as it was in the pot. Water the plant well.

Re-potting your Plant

To re pot, choose a larger pot (usually one or two sizes up), half fill with a good quality potting mix, carefully remove plant and reposition in new pot. Make sure all the roots are well covered with
potting mix and that the stem is at soil level. Water the plant well.
Enjoy watching your plant grow.