The surprising reason your plants are dying

Are you getting frustrated that everything you plant in your garden is dying and you don’t know why? Here’s 5 reasons why your plants might not be happy and how you can keep them alive.

Sun levels

Different plants like different amounts of sun.  Peonies for example like ‘full sun’, which is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.  Direct sunlight is when the sun shines directly on a plant with nothing getting in the way which can create a shadow.

In the modern garden it can be difficult to give plants full sun and this can be one reason why they tend to struggle.

You may find that they grow but they dont flower well.  When growing vegetables or fruit, this can mean that you get less produce from the plant which can lead to you feeling demoralised.  You’ve cared for the bloody tomato plant all summer and it's only given you 5 measly tomatoes to show for your efforts!

If you can work out the sunny spots in your garden and plant the sun loving plants there they'll be much happier and so will you.

Soil type

There are 6 different soil types in the UK.  The 3 main types found in gardens are Sandy soil, Clay soil and loamy soil (a mixture of sand, clay and silt).

We’re going do a little experiment in order to work out what type of soil you have:

🧪Head out into your garden and pick up a handful of garden soil.

🧪Put the soil between your hands and try and roll it into a sausage.


🧪If it forms a sausage shape and feels sticky and smeary to the touch then you have clay soil.

🧪If it completely disintegrates in your hands and feels grainy then you have sandy soil.

🧪If it sort of forms a sausage but has lots of cracks in it you have a loamy soil.

This isn't an exact science but it gives you an idea of what you're working with and will help you to choose plants that will thrive in your soil type.

Soil moisture levels

Sandy soils tend to be freely draining, which means the water runs easily through them, whereas Clay soils hold on to the water really, really well and are considered poorly draining.

Some plants hate to have wet feet.  Bulbs will rot if held in really wet soil for a long period of time resulting in no flowers.  Please, please, please if you garden on clay soil plant your bulbs in pots and save yourself the heartache of them not appearing in spring.

Conversely, some plants LOVE moisture.  False goatsbeard (Astilbe), bleeding hearts (Dicentra) or Hydrangea will really struggle if they are grown in soil that is too dry.  That's not to say you can’t grow them but you will have to water them ALOT!

To discover your soil moisture levels:

🕳 Dig a hole that is 30-45cm across and 30-45cm deep. 

🕳  Fill the hole with water. 

🕳  If the water drains from the hole in 10 minutes or less, you have freely draining soil. 

🕳  If the water takes an hour or more to drain, you have poorly draining soil.

🕳  Anything in between is average draining soil.

Soil nutrient levels

In freely draining sandy soil the water takes a lot of nutrients from the soil as it passes through. In order to replenish these nutrients you will find yourself having to regularly feed your plants in order to keep them healthy. Another good tip is to work some organic compost into the base of the planting hole to ensure the plants roots have lots of nutrients right next to them to give the plant a good start.

Clay soils in contrast are very nutrient rich.  Loamy soils tend to have an average level of nutrients.  

All soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter such as compost once a year to ensure that your plants have the right level of nutrients to grow well and produce lots of flowers or fruit.  This is best added to the soil in autumn so the garden insects have time to break it down ready for the plants to take it up when they start to regrow in Spring.

Match your plants to the conditions you have

Now you should know your garden’s:

Sun levels

Soil type

Soil moisture levels

Soil nutrient levels

You can take this information with you to the garden centre and choose the right plants for the space you have. Whilst remembering to choose plants that you love and will bring you joy whilst you grow them.

For further advice on the best types of plants for your space and my help creating a bespoke plan for your garden book a Mindful Gardening Hour with me.


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