Aug jobs 7
By Mark Lane

To ensure colourful blooms all year, it is essential to give your plants the right conditions to grow.

First, think about the growing conditions of each plant.

In other words, woodland plants will like moisture-retentive, humus-rich, free draining soil in shady areas of the garden, while Mediterranean plants will prefer sunny conditions in very free-draining soil.

The late plantswoman Beth Chatto coined the phrase ‘right plant, right place’ and this still holds true today.

Of course, with climate change we are having to rethink the choice of plants in our gardens. With wetter winters and hotter summers, we need to adapt our planting schemes.

Knowing the acidity, alkalinity or the pH of your soil will also determine what plants will grow in your outdoor space.

This might seem confusing, but a simple soil-testing kit costing a couple of pounds from a garden centre will help you pick the right plants for your garden and produce more, larger and longer-flowering blooms.

Feeding soil

The next thing to think about is feeding the soil.

Many people assume that if they put plants straight into garden soil or compost in a pot that the plant will grow happily.

Most composts only have feed that lasts on average for 6 weeks, so in order to get large, colourful flowers you will need to supplement the feed with a liquid or slow-release fertilizer.

Pexels lukas 296230

The same goes for garden soil. Unless you mulch the soil every year with well-rotted homemade compost or manure, fork in a slow-release organic fertilizer such as fish, blood and bone or Growmore around your plants, you will still need to feed your plants.

I always use the analogy of feeding and watering children. Kids need food and water daily, and so do your plants.

When you place a plant in a hole, backfill with soil and water it to settle the soil around the roots, in time they start to search for sugars, nutrients and carbohydrates in the soil to feed it.


Soil roots are thick, needing to reach further and deeper than water roots to access enough nutrients, while water roots are thin, small and fragile.

You can test this by initially growing a plant in water in a clear vase. You will see thin roots forming, but they will soon need to go into soil to thicken up. Water roots require less energy and time to grow compared to soil roots.

In short, roots anchor the plant, absorb water and dissolve minerals and transfer these to the stem, and store reserve foods. Knowing this is essential for terrific blooms.

Once your plant is growing you will need to check regularly for pests and diseases and deal with these as quickly as possible, and ideally organically.


Aug jobs 2

Finally, to stop plants setting seed during the growing months, you need to deadhead your blooms when they have faded or are dead to keep your plants looking great and to prolong flowering.

Some flowers develop attractive seedheads, but a lot do not. For winter interest it is good practice to leave faded blooms, as they become a source of food for birds, places to rest and hibernate for small insects and pollinators and look stunning covered with frost and snow.

* Mark Lane is a Thrive Ambassador, BBC gardening presenter, writer and garden designer

Meet all Thrive's Ambassadors

Find out more
Mark Lane sunny