Spring Gardening Tips: Top tips for planting climbers

Climbers have many uses in the garden. They are a cheap and easy way to cover up and add a beautiful focal point to a bare wall, fence or shed. If you have a smaller garden, you can also plant climbers to create an area of privacy without taking up too much space. You can use any wire or trellis as the support and sometimes you can even recycle things around the house for this purpose such as an old bed-head!

The key to growing climbers is to remember that most climbers will not thrive in very dry soil so don’t set them too close to a wall or fence. Planting climbers too close to a wall or fence is a common mistake and causes the roots to be in ‘rainshadow’ – stuck in the area of ground that is sheltered from the rain by the wall or fence.

Also make sure your planting hole is 30-45cm away from the support you are using. The base of the support should be 5cm away from the wall or fence and 30cm above the soil.

How to plant climbers step-by-step

  • Dig a large planting hole. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil at the base, then add a little compost.

  • Attach the support you’re using to the wall or fence. The support should be as wide and tall as the area you want your climber to cover. Now insert the climber, taking care to lean it towards the support. You will need to test the planting depth by laying a cane across the hole. Clematis should be planted 6cm beneath the surface but the top of most other climbers should be at the same level as the top of the soil.

  • Spread the root system away from the wall and backfill the hole with soil, organic matter and fertiliser. Firm well with your foot.

  • Choose 4 or 5 strong shoots. Insert a cane for each and attach them to the lowest wire of your support framework. Tie in the shoots.
  • Prune away any weak, damaged or dead stems using sharp, small pruning shears. To encourage strong growth of the tied stems, also remove any excess stems.
  • Water the plant thoroughly. Soak the soil surrounding the plant well. Taking care to avoid the stems, apply a 5-8cm layer of mulch.

When you’ve finished planting, don’t forget the all-important after-care:

  • Be aware of your climbing plant’s growth habit so you know how to best manage it.

  • Continue to prune and ‘train’ your climbers while they are young. This will increase bushiness.

  • Water and mulch well for the first few months after planting so that the climber is free of weeds and doesn’t dry out in sunny weather.

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