It’s not all about looks! Choose the right plants and you can improve the ‘health’ of your garden.
When you next head to the nearest garden centre or browse a plant brochure or website what are you looking for when it comes to your plants? Something pretty? Bright? Something that will fit within your garden’s ‘theme’? It might be time to reconsider your plant choices, and start to look for bulbs and shrubs that actually enhance the ‘health’ of your garden. So what can plants actually do for your outdoor space? And which ones are best to put in the ground?
Many gardens suffer due to a lack of nitrogen in the soil, which reduces the growth and lushness of your plants. Instead of adding a chemical nitrogen fertiliser directly to the soil there are plants that can provide it instead. Using plants rather than fertliser means you don’t have to handle noxious chemicals and the nitrogen provided by plants lasts longer and does not leach from the soil when it rains.
Nitrogen fixing plants work by taking nitrogen from the air and converting it to a form that plants can absorb through their roots (read more about the science here). They do this using a companion bacteria, called Rhizobium that grows on their roots. The bacteria forms the nitrogen into lumps on the plant’s roots and provides the soil and therefore plants located nearby with beneficial nitrogen on a regular basis. Plants that do this include lupins, indigo, broom shrubs, sweet peas, beans and peas.
You could plant a row of flowering sweet peas or edible peas/beans along fences and borders. They don’t take up much space, add some height and either produce food or add colour to your garden. While they are doing all that they are also adding good quality nitrogen to your soil. You can’t just do this for one year – to work well you should have some nitrogen fixing plants in your garden every year.
Weeds can be a real problem in some gardens and dealing with them can become a chore. There is a way you can prevent weeds from sprouting in your soil without having to spritz the area with nasty chemicals. Ground cover planting is the solution. Ground cover plants cover a wide area cutting off sunlight to the ground below which prevents weeds from germinating. There is wide range of different plants you can choose from; colourful annuals to perennials and shrubs and many of them are very economical to buy. Perennials are a great solution when it comes to ground cover planting, as are established shrubs such as rhododendrons. If you are unsure what to choose try the Bakker website which we like because you can select your plants based on colour, height and other features like fragrance and flowering periods. If you are not a plant buff this will mean you can quickly make a sensible selection of plants that you know will work well in your garden.
It is important you pull up and kill any weeds already in the soil before you begin planting and prepare the ground properly otherwise you risk wasting your time and money. This is a useful guide on how to do this.
Bees and Birds
The British Bee Keepers Association reported that our British bees face losses of up to 15% each year and this is down to poor weather, disease and starvation. But featuring the right plants in your gardens could help prevent the reduction in their numbers. Planting pollinators is the best way of doing this, and not only will they help the bees but they’ll also encourage other insect and bird wildlife into your garden, providing a steady source of food for both.
The RHS recommends planting lavender, bergamot, sweet William and honeysuckle in the garden (just to name a few), to encourage visits from bees. Bees are great for improving the quality and health of plants, as well as spreading them around your outdoor space and encouraging their growth. If you have a vegetable patch or fruit trees bees can be essential to fruit production.
Forget about the look of your garden this year – instead choose plants that can improve the health of your outdoor space!