Late autumn/winter makes for a perfect time to move things around in the garden. It sets you up to be ahead of the curve before growing season kicks in during spring next year. Put in the work now and you’ll find that plants have been busy building strong root systems and gearing up for healthy growth to prepare you for a plentiful garden by spring!
Shift and shield
As a rule of thumb, avoid moving anything that’s well-established with a vast network of underground root systems. Instead, turn your attention to tender plants, those planted in the last year or two, or newly sown additions that aren’t settling in as well as you’d hoped. You may want to move tender plants into a greenhouse or conservatory. For this, getting the correct pot size is key. If the plant has grown, you’ll need a pot large enough to encourage growth but not so large it takes up limited indoor space. As a rough guide, move up about 2 inches in diameter each time.
When replanting outside, focus on plants that are struggling in their planting site and in need of more light and shelter, or those that have outgrown their space and are encroaching on their neighbours. It’s best to do this when the weather is cold because, as growth slows down and the plant goes dormant, it gives the roots time to heal in time for summer in its new location. Leave any late-flowering plants or evergreens in place and look to spring-flowering growth and deciduous plants like acers, Camellia japonica, azaleas and other shrubs or herbaceous plants—which can all be moved at this time of year.
Method for moving
The optimum time for autumn transplants is at least four weeks after the first frost, about the time that leaves are dropping. Though, roots will take longer to establish in clay soil than loam or sand. To get started lay out an old compost bag as a sheet by the side of the plant or shrub. Then dig widely around the base, trying not to damage the root system whilst lifting out as much of the root ball out as you possibly can.
For large plants, push a spade well underneath the root ball, then carefully lift the whole plant onto the sheet. Place lifted plants onto your prepared layer of sheeting and it will stop soil from crumbling off onto your lawn or patio. You can also inspect each plant this way and, when working in large volumes, may even want to label them or organise into categories. If the plant is heavy, you can use your sheet to drag it to its new position. Smaller plants can be transplanted using a Stainless Steel Widger. By inserting a spatula-shaped widger into the soil you can lever the plant out gently, avoiding any damage to the roots.
Position and transition
With your plant out the ground, dig a spacious hole to the depth and width required. For small plants use specially-designed Transplanting Trowel from Kent and Stowe will make this task really quick—the marks along the blade enable you to accurately measure the depth of your planting hole. For bigger plants use the Kent & Stowe spade. Keep an eye out for the soil mark on the trunk or stem, this is a great indicator to get the same planting depth as before. Then, line the planting hole with some fresh compost to help roots re-establish and sprinkle in some water too. You can then backfill the hole and firm down with the heel of your boot to ensure there aren’t any air pockets. It’s a good idea to trim back some of the plant’s foliage at this point, to compensate for the fact that their root system is likely to be reduced.
At this time of year, when you’re having a rejig of your garden greenery, take the opportunity to plant in some new spring-flowering bulbs in order to plug any gaps that may have emerged. For such tasks, the Long-Handled Bulb Planter is a great bit of kit that makes planting bulbs a doddle; removing a core of soil to your desired depth and creating the perfect planting hole for any bulb.
In the weeks to come, you’ll need to keep an eye on replanted growth for signs of stress. Give plants the best chance to acclimatise to their new environment with extra water when there’s little rainfall and, when the weather warms and the plant starts growing again, a little general-purpose fertiliser will give the roots a kick-start. Soon you’ll have a beautiful, balanced and bountiful garden ready for growing season next year!