Preparing to Plant Your Herbaceous Borders
Ground preparation is best done in late summer, so that the ground has time to settle again before planting. Because perennials stay in the ground, once the border has been planted no major cultural operations can be undertaken. Thorough preparation is essential, which means deep digging, preferably thorough double trenching. No amount of manuring and fertilising after planting will ever make up for half-hearted initial digging. Add plenty of organic manure, as well as slow-acting bone meal. In sandy soils, add leaf-mould or peat, on heavy soils, some sand or ashes to make thelighter and warmer. Double-trenching may be hard, back-breaking work, but it need only be redone every ten years, small sections at a time, and the effort is well worth while.
This can be carried out at any time from September till April, and plants from different nurseries arriving at different times can be planted as they arrive and according to plan. Label or number every plant planted according to the plan. Generally the earlier plants are put in the better they will perform the following year, since early planting gives roots time to settle in before the frosts induce complete dormancy. There are one or two plants, such as lupins, scabious and pyrethrums that are better planted in spring, but they are exceptions. Put plants in the ground and work the soil in well between the roots. Plant to exactly the same depth as they were growing before. No planting should be done during frosty weather. Store plants received during cold spells in a shed with almost dry peat heaped over their roots, and plant as soon as the weather improves. Nor should planting be carried out when the ground is waterlogged. Plants should be well watered-in. A day or two later, break up the crust, fork out foot marks, and scatter on a top-dressing of very well-rotted manure.
During the first growing season the most important point to watch is that the border never dries out. Tall-growing plants will need staking, and many floppy plants such as peonies look better if given the support of pea-sticks: these should be placed in the ground as soon as the shoots begin to come through. Inspect plants periodically for attacks of. Keep the hoe moving between the plants to keep under control, but since hoeing encourages the soil to become dry, watering is particularly important. In autumn, cut off all dead growths to ground level, remove any weeds, and apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or to the whole bed.
need a general overhaul every three to five years. Plants like peonies and that resent root disturbance should be left well alone, while plants like Michaelmas daisies which are inclined to become invasive should be lifted, cut back to size and replanted. If you have found some colour or foliage combinations less effective than they might be, make the adjustments by moving tolerant plants.
Finally, always keep an eye open for improved forms of the plants you already have, more startling plants and more striking combinations of colours.
Basically the same principles apply to beds as to borders, but as they mainly houseor bedding plants, double-digging is not essential and planning mistakes can easily be rectified. In general the main idea of using annuals or bedding plants is to obtain a mass of colour, but the best bedding schemes are usually those in which temporary plants and permanent plants are combined. Or in which plants of contrasting colours are combined in bold blocks. Round, square or rectangular beds lend themselves best to bedding schemes. In regularly-shaped beds confine yourself to two types of plants, using the taller growing ones in the middle, and the smaller growing ones in a broad border round the edge of them. Where bedding schemes are to be carried out round some permanent feature that feature should be really outstanding.
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