Step 3 – Preparation, getting the area ready for planting
Preparation is the secret to success; so take sufficient time to make sure you have the basics covered. The more thorough the preparation the better the plants will grow.
Regardless of soil type the area intended for planting needs to be substantially free of weeds, especially perennial types, and of course cleared of any old plants or materials no longer needed.
This can be achieved by digging the area and physically removing unwanted plants and weeds or by spraying herbicide like ‘Round Up’ according to the label instructions. Perennial weeds, those that come up every year like dandelions or thistles, which are not removed will re grow through the new plants and are usually more difficult to eradicate after planting.
Contrary to popular belief planting can take place at almost any time of year providing you can water the new plants in dry periods, so it is far better to prepare properly and plant when you are ready rather than rush and not prepare properly. That said most planting is done between early autumn and late spring when there is usually sufficient moisture in the ground.
What plants need
Once cleared of unwanted vegetation the soil needs to be prepared by digging over with a spade or rotovator for larger areas.
Plants needs are very simple, they require a good mix of water and air in the soil with, at least for the grasses and perennials we offer, comparatively little food. The best way to achieve this simple balance is by breaking up the soil so that young roots can quickly get established. Any method of achieving this by spade, fork, rotovator, or mechanical digger, is fine.
Compacted soils, often found for example on new build sites, are where the soil has been pressed or squashed to such an extent that plants, water, and air find difficulty in penetrating. Signs of compacted soils are poor plant growth, water sitting on the surface, or the soil being very hard to dig. These conditions are bad for plants and the soil will need to be de-compacted before planting. A fork or pick axe, forced through the hard layer to break it up, is fine for small areas otherwise mechanical diggers or ‘back hoes’ are easily available and do a first class job of de-compacting as they dig downwards easily breaking up the compacted layers. By comparison rotovators are not good and can compound an already existing problem if overused.
If water sits on the surface for long periods after rain or is permanently on view then the site is defined as waterlogged. While there are some grasses that will take these conditions, a wider range can be grown if the waterlogging can be reduced by ‘mounding’. Simply this is a technique to raise the planting area of the soil so that the plants will be raised up out of the wettest areas, if only by a few inches. This can be achieved by bringing fresh soil in to create the mounds, or by scooping up the existing soil so that it is at least several inches above the surrounding level. Mounds should be as wide as practical, and ideally wide enough to take a group of plants rather than individual ‘molehills’. This will not turn a swamp into a desert but will allow more plants to survive.
Once the area has been dug the soil should be brought to a roughly even, level surface by using a rake or fork. The soil is then ready to receive plants.
Go to Step 4