Gardening Q&A: how can I improve my soil to grow shrubs in?

Horticultural advice from the experts at the RHS
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Question: I'm trying to turn my bland garden into something more visually exciting so I recently dug out an area to plant a variety of shrubs, grasses and flowers. I've created a list of plants I'd like to put here, including Sambuca nigra ‘Black Lace’, Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ Ampelopsis glandulosa, Leycesteria ‘Golden Lantern’, Stipa Tenuissma and Agapanthus and have also done a pH test of the soil, which resulted in a neutral/acid 6.5 approx.

Can you tell me whether a generous or sparing dose of manure would benefit this patch, as we live in Essex, which seems to have quite craggy soil?

Answer: Quite a project! Your soil’s pH is ideal to grow pretty much anything. It is the soil structure that you may need to improve, especially as you describe it as ‘craggy’. Before planting, dig in a good layer of around 5-10cm (2-4in) of well-rotted farmyard manure or homemade compost. If the part of the garden to plant has not been cultivated before, it might be beneficial to double dig the area where manure is incorporated into the soil more deeply. Our web profile explains how to do this.

Once the soil has been conditioned, you can plant any of the bone hardy plants this autumn. Any choices from warmer climates such as the Agapanthus, Coprosma, or Stipa I would plant in April when the ground should be warming up again.



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