Gardening Tips: The Basics to Keeping Plants Healthy
Gardening is one of the most rewarding pastimes with its extensive benefits. Want to engage both mentally and physically? Gardening has it all! From developing your creative flare to physical strength and agility, gardening is proven to increase mental health and wellness.
Knowing how to keep your plants healthy and basic plant care is fundamental for a well-maintained attractive space. Not only can this appeal to wildlife (supporting your garden’s biodiversity) it will also provide a relaxing haven for you to enjoy year-round.
To get the maximum out of your garden, you’ll need to know basic plant care. For a flourishing garden, follow our basic plant care tips and tricks.
Basic plant care
Depending on the species and environment, plant requirements can vary. It is key to research and understand your plant’s needs. Below are some gardening tips for keeping plants healthy:
- Look at the water requirements of your plant species. Certain plants thrive in moist soil, whilst others prefer it dry between waterings.
- When initially watering, your plant may require more water to establish the root system and moisten the soil. Ensure that you don’t overwater as this can lead to root rot.
- Apply water to the root ball, to encourage deep root growth and conserve water. Leaving foliage dry prevents the risk of fungal diseases.
- Certain plants flourish in bright, indirect light, whilst others thrive in partial or full sun.
- Plant placement is critical for its growth and development. Position your plant in an area appropriate for its lighting needs. For potted plants, rotate periodically to ensure even growth.
- Most basic plant care labels and guides highlight temperature recommendations. It is important to monitor local weather conditions to protect plants from extreme conditions.
- Each plant will have its soil requirements based on its nutritional needs, moisture levels and the pH conditions it needs to thrive. Knowing a plant’s soil requirements is a fundamental aspect of successful gardening.
- Nutritional requirements: Certain plants will thrive in nutrient-rich soils, whilst others prefer well-draining soils. Tailoring the soil to a plant’s needs ensures that it has access to all of the essential nutrients it requires.
- pH levels (acidity or alkalinity) can severely impact a plant’s growth. Some plants require acidic soils and others thrive in alkaline conditions. Ensuring the correct pH levels helps prevent nutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
- Soil type- whether sandy, loam or clay, each soil type can impact a plant’s ability to retain moisture. Well-draining soils are essential for plants sensitive to root rot caused when soil is waterlogged.
- During spring and summer, give your plants the required amount of fertiliser by following the recommended dosage on the label.
- Monitor your plants, ensuring to remove dead leaves, branches and flowers to encourage new growth.
- For a uniform appearance, mirror styles and shapes throughout your garden. For an informal appearance, follow the natural shape of your plants when pruning.
- Monitoring pests and diseases:
- Check plants often for indications of pests and diseases such as aphids, powdery mildew, fungal infections etc.
- For signs of pests and diseases, look for discolouration, spots, holes or unusual growth on foliage. Stems may show signs of lesions, discolouration, swelling or damage. For flowers and fruits, there may be rot, wilting or deformities.
- Early identification can give your plant the best chance of effective care, reducing the risk of damage and spread to other plants in your garden. Follow guidelines when treating pests and diseases.
- Support and Staking:
- For tall or leaning plants, use garden stakes to help them maintain their shape and prevent breakage.
- Support and Staking:
- Adjust care plans to support the health and growth of your plants.
Choosing the right plants for your garden
When picking plants for your space, use the following advice:
- Size of area: When buying a plant, look at the dimensions it will grow to, ensuring that your area is the correct size.
- Soil type: Identifying your soil type will help to determine the plant type suitable for an area.
- Climate: Over time, plants have developed to withstand a variety of changes in temperature, precipitation, humidity, windspeeds and seasons. When keeping plants healthy, it is critical to identify their needs and factor this into your gardening routine.
Picking healthy plants
If you buy a damaged or dying plant the chances of revival are limited, even if you follow our gardening tips, so it is important to choose plants with:
- Strong and healthy foliage. Ensure that leaves are free of signs of damage, discolouration or unusual spots.
- A well-proportioned and balanced shape.
- No pests and diseases. Inspect your plants- looking for discolouration, spots, holes or unusual growth on foliage and the stems.
- A healthy root system. If the plant is potted, gently tip it out to view the root system. Roots should be white or light in colour and well-distributed throughout the root ball. Root rot is evident by brown, mushy or overly tangled roots.
- Suitable soil moisture: soil should be moist but not water-logged.
- No additional plants or weeds: Make sure no weeds or plants are growing alongside the one you want to buy.
- A healthy stem: The stem should be free of damage- including lesions and discolouration. A stem should be smooth, lean and damage-free.
- Stalks and ties secure: Ties used to support growth shouldn’t cause damage to a plant.
- Appropriately sized containers: Plants should be potted in an appropriately sized container with correct labelling about their characteristics and needs.
Determining soil type
Soil types vary based on their physical characteristics and composition. Identifying your soil type is critical when keeping plants healthy. It can be determined using a soil test or by physically handling soil and rolling it in your hand to identify the size of the particles. The following soil types are the most common and will likely be found in your outdoor space:
Sandy soil is a well-draining soil due to its large particles. It warms quickly in spring and is easy to manipulate. Sandy soil struggles to retain water and essential nutrients so it often needs frequent irrigation and fertilising.
With its tiny, densely packed particles, clay soil can retain moisture and nutrients. It can become compact, resulting in draining issues and poor aeration. Adding organic matter can improve this.
For keeping plants healthy, loam soil is considered ideal. It is a balanced mix of sand, silt and clay particles, providing good drainage, moisture retention and nutrient retention.
Peat soil is made of partially decomposed organic matter. Generally, it is acidic and has brilliant water retention. Although fertile, it may need a pH adjustment for certain plants and can be slow to drain.
Chalky Soil (Alkaline Soil)
High in calcium carbonate chalky soil has a high pH, making it alkaline. Certain plants, such as lavender and specific herbs thrive in alkaline soil, whereas others may need a pH adjustment.
With its low pH level, acidic soil is often found in regions with frequent rainfall. Rhododendrons, blueberries and azaleas thrive in acidic soil, but for plants that flourish in neutral or alkaline conditions, there may be changes needed to the soil.
As a result of its fine particles, silt soil retains moisture. It’s fertile and perfect for growing a wide range of plants.
Planting and transplanting
Whether planting or transplanting your plant from one place to another, it is important to complete the following steps to ensure that you minimise plant stress.
- Choose the correct time: Transplant plants during their dormant season or when they are not actively growing. For many plants, this is in early spring or late autumn. Do not transplant during extreme weather conditions.
- Find a suitable spot: Select an area that meets the plant’s sunlight, soil and spacing requirements. Prepare the soil by removing weeds, rocks and debris.
- Water: A few days before transplanting, water the plant. This will hydrate the roots, making it easier to take the plant from its current spot. When planting, water thoroughly to settle the soil and reduce air pockets, supporting the root system.
- Dig a hole: In a new area, make a hole/trench that is roughly the same depth as the plant’s root ball and about twice as wide.
- Prepare the plant: Gently extract the plant from its current area, ensuring no damage comes to the roots.
- Prune if needed: If the plant has significant growth or crowded roots, you may need to trim part of the outer root and foliage to reduce transplant shock.
- Place in the new area: The plant should be positioned in the centre of the new hole and at the same depth as it was in the previous area.
- Backfill with soil: Fill the hole with soil, gently tapping it down to remove any air pockets. To conserve moisture and suppress weeds, add a layer of mulch around the base.
- Water thoroughly: After planting, thoroughly water and keep the soil moist in the plant’s establishing period. Look at your plant’s specific needs when watering further.
- Monitor: Check regularly on your plants and treat them as required. If any pests or diseases are recognised, care for them as outlined in the treatment guidance.
Watering and fertilising
The key to keeping plants healthy is ensuring that you understand their needs. When you buy your plant, it should come with a label outlining its characteristics and guide overall care.
Gardening tips for watering your plants:
- Water at the start of the day: this allows plants to absorb moisture before the heat of the day.
- Water at the base: Applying water near the root zone, instead of the foliage, helps to prevent diseases from occurring on the leaves.
- Water deeply: Watering thoroughly at the base allows for deep root growth.
- Regular watering: Frequently watering your plant allows your plant to thrive. The majority of plants prefer to have consistent moisture.
- Monitor soil moisture: You can use a moisture stick or stick your finger into the soil to check on moisture levels before watering. Over watering can lead to water-logged soil which can be detrimental to plants.
- For potted plants, water the roots: ensure water has gone through the plant pot so that it has reached the roots.
Fertilising tips for keeping plants healthy:
- Be aware of your plant's needs and requirements: Plants have varying nutrient requirements. Picking fertilisers based on the specific requirements of your plants (and season) is key.
- Monitor nutrient deficiencies: Wilting foliage with abnormal growth or colouring is most likely a sign of a nutrient deficiency in your plant. Adjust your fertilisation routine as needed.
- Read and follow labels: For maximum results, follow the fertiliser instructions to minimise the risk of over-fertilisation, which can have negative effects on a plant.
- Fertilise at the correct time: For the majority of plants, it is important to fertilise during their growth periods, usually in the spring and summer months. Reduce fertilisation during dormant seasons.
- Apply slow-release fertilisers: These can provide nutrients to plants over an extended period. This can help reduce maintenance requirements, as the need for frequent applications is minimised and the risk of nutrient imbalances is also reduced.
- Place fertiliser evenly: Add fertiliser evenly on the root zone of your plant to support nutrient intake. Do not place fertiliser on foliage or the stem of a plant.
- Water after fertilising: After applying fertiliser, water your plant to help nutrients absorb into the root zone and prevent the risk of root burn.
- Test your soil: Soil testing can help to give you a clear understanding of your soil’s nutrient levels. This can allow you to adapt your fertilising routine to support specific deficiencies.
Pruning and maintenance
Pruning regularly can help keep plants healthy by removing dead, diseased or damaged branches or foliage to stimulate new shoots, leaves and flowers. Overgrown and loose branches can also be removed to ensure an area is safe. This also provides each plant with adequate space to develop. Healthy plants are more able to fight diseases. Basic plant care would denote that whilst pruning your plant, you monitor for disease and pests and treat them accordingly. By trimming your plants to keep shapes consistent and uniform, you can enhance the appeal of your garden. Thinning out dense foliage improves air circulation to reduce the risk of fungal diseases and allows light to penetrate through lower leaves and branches.
It is beneficial to prevent pest and disease problems through regular monitoring rather than treat them once they have become established. Frequent monitoring and appropriate treatments are critical when keeping plants healthy.
At Grasslands, our team of horticultural experts are readily available to share their knowledge and expertise. We take pride in our 35 years of providing cultivated plants to our valued customers, available online and at our nursery. Call 01565 722766 for further advice and support on how to care for your plants.