Bed-hopping before things turn frosty

Autumn planting
Autumn planting

Work with nature and you can’t go far wrong is a piece of sage advice that certainly rings true in autumn planting.

We would love to have dug up and moved several plants that began to flex their muscles and encroach on border neighbours over the summer, but they would not have taken kindly to it whilst in full growth mode.

But those desires can now be fed as many plants are conveniently closing down operations.

Several of them heading for the long winter sleep may be surprised to wake up in a totally different bed.

The October-November period is traditionally nature’s planting time. It begins with a gradual drop in air temperature which has us donning hats, scarves, and gloves, and over time turns into a full-blown frost.

The good news is that below ground level the soil continues to retain warmth, enough to encourage root growth.

If we introduce new plants or move existing specimens to a different spot during this period, they have a good chance of becoming established before severe ground frosts arrive.

Although this sounds straight forward there are a few obvious provisos that ensure the planting operation is a success.

Ground preparation is essential. Dig a generous hole that will more than accommodate the root system of anything you’re planting. Make sure the soil at the bottom of that hole is not rock-hard and can be penetrated by young roots.

Add well-decayed composted garden waste or weathered animal manure. This will act as a reservoir, absorbing and releasing essential food elements and water as the developing plants demand them.

All planting activities should be accompanied by a bucket of finer medium which is sprinkled over the rough compost or old manure, forming a barrier between it and roots of the plant.

I reuse any compost from spent grow-bags or that which came from pots the tomato crop grew in. It helps if you add a handful of bone meal to the mix to encourage root development.

Add these ingredients with an eye to the depth of planting required, testing it with the plant if necessary.

A general guide with bare-rooted items such as roses, is to look for the soil level mark on the main stem which indicates the nursery planting depth.

As a general rule, both these and container-grown specimens are best planted slightly deeper than previously.