We are usually still enjoying summer at least at the start of September but soon gardeners’ thoughts will turn to the autumn planting season. Once air temperatures drop and we have some steady rain (theoretically after a warm, dry summer!) there are a few weeks when conditions are ideal for splitting, moving and planting new perennials and shrubs. The soil is still warm and contains plenty of moisture but the lower air temperature means that plants are not putting on ‘top growth’ and all their energy goes into growing a strong root system.
Thinking about planting inevitably brings me back to the importance of understanding your soil and how to look after it. Soil conditioning is vital
to improve the capacity of the soil to hold water and nutrients and make them available to plant roots.
Well-rotted organic matter is the basis of all soil conditioner whether you make your own garden compost and leaf mould, or buy it in as farmyard or stable manure, local authority composted green waste, spent mushroom compost or any other composted, sterilised and shredded ex-plant material. All these products have some nutrient content after all the original plants took up and stored nutrients and these are retained when they rot down. The difference between soil conditioner and multipurpose compost is that the latter has an added nutrient content, usually enough to support 6 weeks’ growth.
Why do we need to add organic matter to our soil regularly? Well in nature, leaves fall and plants die and all this material remains on the surface to decompose and be dragged down into the soil by worms. Thus the organic matter and nutrient content of the top soil is constantly refreshed. In our gardens we grow much more densely using up more nutrients and we remove weeds, spent annuals and the top growth of perennials to keep beds and borders neat. Add a balanced fertiliser to provide all the necessary nutrients, dig in organic matter when (re-)planting and top with a deep layer as mulch around existing plants. This way your plants will produce strong, healthy growth and plenty of flowers every year