Planting Small Potted Plants In The Garden

The smaller plants are often the last aspect of a “complete” garden to be installed. There are many reasons why this happens:

  • You may not want the presence of all the smaller plants and their typically close spacing to interfere with irrigation pipe or landscape lighting wire installation.
  • You may make your specific plant variety selections and counts after the larger woody plants are installed. (I do this all the time.)
  • The garden you’re working on was created some time ago and you’re now embellishing with perennials and groundcovers.
  • The smaller plants were not available at the time, had to be ordered and now must be installed.
  • Installing the smaller plants was deferred until a later date because of a seasonal concern.

In the photo above Ajuga (Carpet Bugle) is being planted as a groundcover in a 3 year old garden. There are 2 issues in this particular example to take note of: 1) This garden is sloped down to the patio edge. And 2) This garden already has a 3 inch layer of mulch.

When this garden was initially installed, care was taken to grade the sloped earth down to the patio and remove any excess soil. The result was a uniform, controlled grade held neatly by the mulch and the patio’s edge.  The goal now in planting these new smaller plants, is to preserve that neat, finished grade and not mix soil with the mulch while digging.

First thing I do is arrange & set the plants (in their pots) where they are to go. When setting plants on a slope use a trowel to make little divots to hold each plant in place. Now the mulch is pulled away around each plant to expose the bare soil beneath. Here, as each hole is being dug, the soil is not piled up on the sides of the holes, but removed and placed in a wheelbarrow.  The new plants are now set into each hole (sans the pot of course). In the wheelbarrow the removed soil is amended with some peat moss and Dry Roots granular organic fertilizer. Now the Ajuga can be backfilled and planted with just enough of the amended soil to keep the surrounding grade as level as it was before. Your ready to gently pull the mulch back around each plant, water, and admire your work.

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