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HOW TO GROW SHRUBS

The term shrub is used to describe a wide range of woody plants with multiple stems and branches usually appearing from or near the base of the plant. Some are evergreen whilst others are deciduous (lose their leaves in autumn and remain bare through winter). They vary in size form low growing shrubs that seldom reach 50 cm in height whilst large shrubs can grow in excess of 4 metres tall.

There is often confusion between large shrubs and small trees. Essentially they are one in the same thing in gardening terms. Shrubs are the permanent backbone or foundation of most gardens and should be selected wisely and planted with due care and attention to detail. They are definitely a long term investment in the garden.

PLANTING PROCEDURES

– Dig a square hole (some prefer round) hole about 3 times as wide and twice the depth of the nursery container the shrub is growing in
– Keep two thirds of the top soil to one side and add compost equal to one third of the volume to the soil along with bone meal or superphosphate at the recommended rate
– Mix all these ingredients together thoroughly before filling the hole
If the soil is dry then fill empty hole with water first and allow to drain before returning the soil mixture
– Firm down the soil before digging a small hole to fit the root ball of the shrub
– Carefully remove nursery container
– Place root ball of shrub in planting hole making sure that it’s at the same level with the surrounding ground
– Fill in around the root ball and firm soil down gently
– Form an irrigation basin around the planted shrub to facilitate efficient watering
– Once planting is complete water well to settle in and continue regular watering until the plants is established

FERTILISING AND CARE

– Apply a layer of mulch around the plant to keep the roots cool and repel weeds
– Regular fertilising with a balanced granular fertiliser (5:1:5 formula is ideal) every 6 to 8 weeks ensure healthy growth
– Lanky or leggy shrubs may need pruning back or staking with a stout stick until they fill out
– Prune back any plants that get straggly or untidy preferably immediately after flowering

PESTS AND DISEASES

– Aphids gather on the soft new growth tips and suck the sap out of the plant – control with a general insecticide
– Caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers chew the leaves – treat with a systemic insecticide (only suitable for use on non-edibles)
– Red spider mites are a problem on some plants in summer – use a suitable miticide
– Fungal diseases like mildew and rust on the leaves – spray with a broad spectrum fungicide

GARDEN USES

– Use shrubs as individual specimens
– The back bone of all mixed shrub borders
– Good in large pots or containers
– Used extensively for hedges both low boxed types and tall screens

SUMMARY

1. Select the correct shrubs for the specific purpose they are to serve in the garden
2. Make certain that they are compatible with your climatic conditions
3. Be aware of deciduous shrubs that lose their foliage in winter
4. Prepare the planting soil thoroughly and feed regularly
5. Check often for pests and diseases