Getting the ground ready for planting

French marigolds
French marigolds
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Brian Kidd has some gardening advice on what to be getting on with this weekend

The great thing about planting summer gems is that the soil doesn’t have to be dug over to the full depth of a fork. We can concentrate on improving the top few inches so that the new plant roots can grow down.

Because if the soil dries out during the summer, they are down there in the cool and can usually attract water from deeper in the soil.

To ensure we have a continued good root growth, fertilisers such as fish, blood and bonemeal, or Vitax Q4 pelleted fertiliser, or indeed any flower fertiliser, is added to the soil as a top dressing.

Then we simply fork this lightly into the top three or four inches so that the soil bacteria can break it down into soluble food for the plants. Fertiliser is best applied and worked in about 10 days prior to planting, but if it’s too late, then scatter it on anyway as the plants will still utilise it.

There are some gardens that are difficult to plant because the soil is poor, or it may be clay. This can be very disheartening, but if we learn to cultivate on top of this type of soil, it makes life so much easier.

One very simple way of doing this is to water the surface and spread the contents of a growing bag so that they don’t cover more than two square yards.

Then we add the fertiliser and a generous amount of sharp sand, working this into just the top inch or so of the soil.

Recycled compost (ProGrow) is also available and lots of good gardeners actually plant straight out into this. It’s simply scattered over the top of the ground. The fertiliser needs to be added, but when lightly worked into the top two or three inches of the ground, it’s a pleasure not a task.

It’s this time of year when you find it was such a good idea to prick out the seedlings into insert trays, just one to every cell. When the plants are being bedded out, it’s like transplanting a potted plant as the roots are so good.

Very importantly, the plants must have moist roots whilst they are being planted. Some gardeners find it cleaner and easier to pop in the plants with dry roots, but they never grow away well as it’s impossible to saturate the roots if water is added to the soil afterwards.

Let’s have just a few reminders about plants for awkward places. No need for loads of Latin names, but simply the names you’ll see on the strips of plants.

For very wet borders, don’t forget that mimulus are just right and if the dead flowers are picked off regularly they will last until September.

For hot sun, especially if you can’t water the flowers, the best choice is geraniums, followed by the French and African marigolds.

For hot sun, plenty of light but shaded part of the day, the fibrous-rooted begonias take some beating and they will flower all summer with constant deadheading.