Organise your garden with Brian Kidd

Movingshrubs and larger plants around the garden should be done with care.
Movingshrubs and larger plants around the garden should be done with care.

It’s time to get yourself organised and re-arrange your garden.

Is that conifer in the wrong place? Does that tree in the middle of the lawn keep on getting in the way of mowing? Are some of the herbaceous plants in the wrong place? There’s no time like the present to sort it out. 

November is a great time to move plants around, especially if you catch the weather on a good day. 

Young plants move fairly well, but more established specimens will suffer greater stress and therefore require advance preparation. As a rule-of-thumb, plants that have been growing in one position for more than five years are much less likely to survive transplanting than younger specimens.

When moving large specimens around it is essential to keep the roots moist to keep it alive. On windy days the roots tend to dry out quickly and if they are exposed for a few hours they could die.

Plants resenting root disturbance such as roses, magnolia, cytisus and cistus can be tricky to move.

But if a large shrub has to be transplanted, such as a magnolia, dig out a trench the width of a sharp spade just below the canopy of the shrub. The trench should be the same depth as the spade and as the soil is removed, quite a lot of fibrous roots will be cut off. This is fine and normal, as long as those which remain are kept moist.

Now, use the spade to undercut the roots. After cutting half of them away, cover the exposed roots with damp hessian and then undercut the other half.

The hessian should be dragged underneath the root ball and tied to a trolley; this will make it much easier to get the whole plant out and moved without losing too much soil.

If soil keeps sticking to the blade of the spade, my tip is to use a piece of wood shaped like a wedge to clean the mud off the blade.

The shrub should now be planted in the new position and watered, even if the ground is wet. But be careful because too much or too little water may hinder re-establishment. 

If replanting cannot take place immediately, pack the root ball with organic matter and wrap it in hessian before placing it in a cool, shaded spot. Keep the plant well-watered.

In springtime, it’s a good idea to spray over the stems and leaves with rain water rather than over-watering the roots.

If the shrub you wish to move is very prickly – such as a holly bush or berberis – make sure you cover the whole shrub with thick material or one of those cheap blue tarpaulins. This will protect you and in particular your eyes.

If you see some shoots appear to be dying during the spring, don’t worry too much. They would have died because of the loss of roots, so simply prune off the dead parts and water the plant all over the foliage. I like to use Maxicrop Growth Stimulant – it’s an excellent product to help struggling plants of all types come back to life. 

A thick mulch of organic matter, such as chipped bark or garden compost, will help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. However, keep the base of the plant free from mulch. 

This week’s top tip: This time of year is the best season to plant tulips because the colder weather encourages slugs to be less active.

It’s easy to make these beautiful flowers look great in colourful tubs and pots.