Why adding a grit mix to your soil could make all the difference when it comes to creating a thriving garden
Here in the Garden of England, we’re lucky to have some of the best weather in the country (apparently), alongside verdant landscapes and beautiful scenery. It’s an area known for its agricultural and garden prowess, but despite the climate and area, even the most proficient gardeners can struggle to grow certain plants and vegetables in their gardens.
Much of the struggle comes down to the soil you’re blessed with. For some, that can be free-draining soil, such as sand, but, in many areas of Kent, gardeners will find they’re working with clay soil.
Clay is a heavy, wet soil which holds nutrients well, but unfortunately doesn’t drain well - which is why some plants struggle to grow when just relying on the soil. This is where adding a mix to your existing soil could work wonders for your garden and plant growth. Here at Gardenscape we have a vast number of different mixes to choose from, including bed & border planting mixes all the way through to professional growing media, but we’re here to get into the nitty gritty today - discussing why a grit mix could be beneficial for you and your garden.
Why do I need to use grit in my garden?
Most gardeners will have clay dominated soil, which isn’t ideal for drainage, and on its own can make it difficult to grow things in the garden. In order to get around this, - you can create a raised bed, or you can plant into your own soil from your garden, dig it hard and then add amendments to improve its fertility - but this takes a long time, because you’re trying to change the balance from predominantly clay soil to predominantly sand. This is where grit comes in - being a bigger particle than clay, silt or sand, when it’s mixed with organic matter, grit will help the drainage of your soil, and provide the perfect environment for your crops to grow.
What’s the benefit of buying a mix containing grit?
It is possible to just add grit to compost in your pots and borders, but getting the perfect ratio of grit to growing media can be a tricky business, especially if you’re applying directly to beds and borders. Rather than attempting to mix yourself, by getting a ready-mixed product, you’ve got more time to get planting, and then enjoy a cup of tea and admire your handiwork.
What’s the best mix for me? We have all kinds of different mixes with added grit, but what works best for you depends on a number of factors - most importantly, what you’re looking to grow. Anything that doesn’t like a lot of moisture and requires well-drained roots (for example, cacti, alpine plants and lavender), could benefit from a mix with grit. We sell a huge variety of different mixes, but we also offer bespoke mixes if none of our range suits your needs. These are particularly popular with nurseries and professional gardeners. Just contact us to discuss your needs and how we can help create the perfect mix for you and your garden!
How should I use my mix?
That all depends on your planting plans - if you’re creating a new bed, then dig out the desired space, and add your mix before planting up. If you’re adding it to an existing bed, then mix it evenly and watch your plants thrive!
If you’re not sure which mix is best for you, or would like us to create a bespoke mix for you, get in touch with us.
It feels like it’s taken a long time to get here, but spring has finally sprung, and for many, this month is their favourite when it comes to appreciating the great outdoors - the garden looks greener, the trees have leaves again and two Bank Holidays on the horizon call for finally making use of the garden furniture and the barbecue.
But, before you recline in the hammock with a Pimms in hand, there’s lots to be done this month to get your garden ready for the summer. With everything beginning to grow and the warmer weather encouraging those shoots and buds to thrive, there’s also a double edged sword (or, perhaps a double edged trowel). The increased growth of the flowers and plants also means the grass needs cutting more frequently and those pesky weeds need keeping at bay. Still, after a hard day’s work tending to the garden, you’ll definitely have earned that Pimms…
Here’s some tips on which tasks to tackle outdoors this month:
Lawn and order
It’s good practice to work on your lawn now to help encourage healthy growth. May sees longer daylight hours and warmer soil than in previous months, providing the perfect conditions for the grass to grow. Apply a nitrogen-rich summer feed after mowing - the high levels of nitrogen will help to promote spring growth.
We don’t just mean you quenching your thirst in the garden, this month you’ll need to pay extra attention to your plants and ensure they’re getting plenty of moisture. Get into the habit of watering regularly, and don’t forget to give some extra love to thirsty crops such as courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes, especially if you’re currently growing these in a greenhouse where it’s much warmer. Ensure soil is kept moist but don’t overdo it - you don’t want it to become waterlogged.
This month is the prime time to plant up hanging baskets, so that they’ll be abundant with flowers come summertime. Choose a mix of trailing and upright plants, and don’t forget to cut holes in your basket liner to allow the trailing plants to grow through. Once you’ve prepared the liner, fill with a multi-purpose compost which will provide the flowers with the additional nutrients they’ll need. Plant your largest flowers in the centre, add the trailing plants around the sides, and then fill any gaps with flowering plants such as verbena and petunias. Add more compost, and then hang in a sunny, sheltered spot. If the weather is still a little fickle, keep your basket in a greenhouse or shed for a few weeks until the temperature improves.
Slugging it out with the snails
You don’t want to plant all of your wonderful specimens, only to see them devoured by slugs and snails, so consider taking some steps to minimise the damage these critters can cause.
For pots, putting copper tape around the pot will stop them crossing the tape. Crushed eggshells will provide a similar barrier on your soil (but you’ll need lots of them), or try cockleshells as an alternative. Or, depending how you feel about picking them up, when you see them, relocate them to somewhere far away from their chomping ground (and no, not your neighbours’ garden.)
Much like a spa treatment for your garden, mulch can work wonders on your soil. Not only does it work to lock in your soil’s moisture, it also improves its texture and even helps to keep weeds at bay. By layering a good quality mulch over your soil, weeds will struggle to grow due to a lack of light and won’t easily be able to find their way to the soil below. Apply around 2-3 inches of mulch on top of your soil for best results.
It’s a bug’s life
At this time of year, aphids (also known as greenfly or blackfly) tend to swarm to young growth in gardens, and in large numbers can be problematic for your plants because they suck sap from plants, weakening them and can even kill them off in some instances. Some species also transfer viruses to plants - and no amount of hand washing or mask-wearing can fix this unfortunately, so these plants will need to be destroyed.
However, it’s not all bad news - a small number of aphids is unlikely to cause any issues, because birds and insects such as ladybirds will eat them from the plants. It’s only in large numbers you’ll need to be wary, so if you do spot an influx of aphids, grab the hose and wash them off - they’ll fall to the ground where other creatures can eat them. Organic pesticides can also be used to treat them, just be careful not to spritz at a time when insects such as bees are visiting the flowers.
Once the last frost has occurred (it’s usually best to hold off until the end of May to be sure), it’s time to fill your borders with some colour, by planting out summer bedding and half-hardy annuals including sunflowers, cosmos and nasturtiums. Bedding plants grow quickly and will produce a lot of flowers quickly, so ensure you have a good compost to really help them thrive and bring lots of lovely colours to your garden.
As the weather finally begins to take a turn for the better this month, it’s just the encouragement we need to get out into the garden and crack on with that long list of jobs we’ve been putting off.
While there are undoubtedly many tasks you can undertake in April, from weeding to tree planting, the warmer air and moist soil also makes it the perfect time to dig deep and create a new border.
Borders can really transform a garden, and add some colour and interest to areas that may previously have looked a little unloved. With some careful planning, you could create a border that will continue to flourish with the passing seasons, or even use the border to disguise areas you’d prefer to keep hidden, like walls and sheds.
The great thing about borders is there’s no one size fits all approach; meaning whether you’ve got a cosy cottage garden or a sprawling lawn, you’ll be able to create something that works for you and your outside space.
Ready to cross into a new border? Here’s how to give your garden the edge it deserves...
Before you go digging and planting up your new border, you’ll need to do some important groundwork. Planning is essential - in order to decide which plants you’d like to grow, you’ll need to determine how much light and shade the area you’re hoping to place the border will get. Once you know this, you’ll have a better idea of the types of plants that will thrive in the new border, and you’ll avoid frustrations later down the line when things may struggle to grow due to their conditions.
If you’re planting herbaceous perennials, bear in mind that they’ll really flourish next year, so consider planting a mix of perennials and annuals to help the border thrive while your perennials are establishing themselves.
Another important factor in designing your new border is knowing how much space you’ve got to work with - there’s nothing worse than returning from the nursery with a car boot filled with blooms, only to discover you’ve bought far too many or few for your desired space. You’ll also want to know the size of the border so you can calculate how much mulch you’ll need once you’ve finished planting.
Dream in colour
Once you know the size and conditions of your new border, you can start planning which plants you’d like to fill it with. For small borders, one type of each plant will give you plenty to be working with, while for larger borders you may want to create clusters of 3-5 plants. Also plan for filling any gaps with bedding plants, seeds and bulbs.
Think about what’s in flower when, as timing will be essential when it comes to keeping the colour going for as long as possible.
Once you’ve defined the space for your border, it’s time to start making that dream a reality. Firstly, use a spade to cut the desired shape for the border, then lift out the grass in sections. Remove any stones or roots that may be lying under there.
Once this is done, you can put down some compost to help enrich the soil and encourage healthy growth in your new plants.
Now it’s time to edge your border - use your spade to define a clear edge of about 4-6 inches deep. If you’re looking for really neat edges, use shears to trim the grass after digging out your edges.
Now that you’ve dug out your border and it’s ready for your plants, it can be tempting to just start putting things into the ground - but be patient because a little planning now will pay off later.
Before planting, take each of your plants in its pot and place it in the position you’d like it to grow in. Do this with each one until they’re all laid out, then stand back and take a look. Now’s the time to move anything you’re unsure about or that won’t give you the desired look you’re after.
Let it grow
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for - planting time! Dig each hole to be about the same size as the pot, and place the plant into it, teasing the roots out as you go. Once everything is in place, water your new border thoroughly. Finally, add some mulch to keep the soil moist (and to deter those pesky weeds from ruining your hard work) - then stand back and admire your handiwork!
As we enter April, everything starts to feel a bit more hopeful. The days are longer, the world looks greener, and if we keep our fingers crossed, hopefully the sun will come out to play too.
With spring finally arriving, it’s time to get back out into the garden and start tackling the jobs you’ve been putting off. April is a great time to take stock of what needs to be done to get the garden back in shape after winter, but it’s also the time to look ahead. Time spent wisely in the garden now will reap the benefits in months to come, and ensure you have a glorious garden over the summer months and beyond.
But, where to start? If you’re looking hopelessly at the weeds and overgrown beds wondering how on earth to turn your outdoor space into an oasis, then we’ve got some handy tips to help you get the most out of your garden this April.
Repair your lawn
If the winter’s left your grass looking a little lacklustre, then April is a great time to work on repairing it so it’ll soon be back to its verdant self. For any patchy areas, sow grass seeds now. Prepare the lawn by removing weeds and scarifying the soil to loosen it. Then, use a lawn feed to help promote grass growth.
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to plant. Mow the grass, then moisten the soil and sprinkle the grass seed evenly. (You should aim for about 35g per square metre, however, for patchier areas you can apply 50g per square metre).
Water your lawn after reseeding, and continue to mow as normal.
Tackle the weeds
It’s a gardening job nobody enjoys, but an essential one nonetheless, especially if you want to give your garden a fighting chance of blooming this year.
Around this time of year, you’ll start to see dandelions springing up in your lawn, so it’s a good idea to tackle these now to avoid them taking over.
The same goes for those pesky weeds that are in your borders and beds - left to their own devices, they’ll take over and hamper the chances of your budding plants flourishing, so pull them up now (make sure to get the root too).
Grow your greens
If you’ve been longing for your own supply of vegetables, then now’s the time to plant them up and make that dream a reality. If you’re growing summer vegetables from seed, then you’ll need to harden them off first, by gently introducing them to the outdoors and to sunlight. Try leaving them outside for short bursts of time, and eventually you can increase this to allow them to be outside day and night.
Let it sow
Now’s a great time to sow seeds, especially if you’re looking for some colour in the garden this summer. Direct sow wildflower mixes - they’re ideal for attracting bees and butterflies, and will give the garden a lovely variety of colours too. It’s also the time to sow hardy annuals (poppies, sunflowers and marigolds).
Before you sow, prep your soil to make sure it’s well-conditioned and providing the best nutrients to your seeds.
Plant out sweet peas
If you sowed sweet pea seeds in autumn, then the likelihood is they’ll be ready to plant in the ground this month. You’ll need to be sure the last frost has passed, and that you’ve hardened the seedlings by introducing them to the outside, bit by bit for a couple of weeks before you plan to plant them.
Once they’re good to go, choose a spot in full sun where they’ll thrive, and plant them about 20cm apart.
Set your sights on summer
Take advantage of the soil beginning to warm up, by planting some summer flowering bulbs this month. Gladioli, Cannas and Alliums can all be planted directly into the ground, and will make for an impressive display come summer. Group the bulbs together with at least six for maximum impact.
Back to the roots
April is the ideal month to plant trees and shrubs in the garden - planting in spring gives them a chance to grow and flourish during the summer months, and they’ll be better prepared for winter.
If there’s any trees or shrubs that need a little relocation, now’s the time to consider doing this, too. Choose a cooler day to avoid the roots drying out, and be aware that it may take a little time for your plant to adjust to its new surroundings. Much like us, moving can be stressful, and plants can experience shock. Ensure that the soil is well watered before moving the plant, and afterwards continue to water thoroughly.
It’s also a good idea to lay down a thick mulch of compost or bark to help conserve moisture.
Charlie Bond - Gardenscape's Constant Gardener