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Gardening boomed in the UK during lockdown. Thousands of green-fingered Brits got busy tending their window boxes, allotments, and gardens. Anyone green-fingered will tell you that spending time tending and enjoying your garden is good for the soul. Gardening is both an art and a science, with a good bit of skill and a dash of luck thrown in.
But what do you do if you don’t know where to start? Luckily, reading this will give you some ideas on how to get the best out of your garden. If you arm yourself with just a little knowledge, you have no need to fear the challenges you’ll face. After all, even advanced gardeners make mistakes. That’s one of the chief joys of gardening, it’s always a work in progress.
Later, I’ll share some of the best plants to grow as a beginner. Read on to find tips ranging from advice on maintenance to suggestions on the layout of your garden and how to improve your top soil.
Let’s dig in.
Consider what you want from your garden
Before you get down and dirty, you need to think about what you want from your garden. Do you want to grow a flower garden, focus on growing vegetables and herbs or include a little bit of everything? Whatever the shape of your garden or the scale of your ambitions, it’s worth having a plan, as it’s likely to save you time and money because it will mean you have a better idea of how you’re going to use the space available and are less likely to buy things you won’t use on your trip to the garden centre.
Plan your borders to get the best out of your garden
When you’ve considered what you want to do, it’s time to plan what you want to plant where. It can feel daunting to plan a garden border as a novice gardener, but it’s easier than it looks. For neat borders, plant taller plants behind lower-growing ones at the front. The labels will give you a hint as to how far the plants will spread, so you’ll know what sort of gap you need to leave between them.
If you’re planting a border near a garden path, you might want to consider the scent as well as the colour of the plants you choose. Lavender is not only beautiful but gives off a lovely calming aroma too.
If you’re struggling to come up with a planting scheme, it’s easy to go for a natural one. All you need to do is buy a seed mix you like, sprinkle it over your chosen area, water well, and watch them grow.
Now let’s find out how to decide where to put each type of plant by looking at the space you have available.
Decide where you want to put your plants
Take a look at the space you’ve got and work out which plants would thrive most in shade and which ones would do best in sunlight. For example, if you adore ferns, planting them in shady spots will be ideal, but if you want to grow vegetables, plant them in the sunniest parts of your garden. If you’re unsure of the orientation of your garden, and which areas will get the most sunlight, you can work it out using the compass on your phone.
It can be helpful to have an idea of how much sun your garden is exposed to and bear it in mind when you go to buy plants. Remember that the majority of flowering plants need to be in full sunlight, as do most fruits and vegetables. If you’re uncertain if a particular plant needs a lot of sun, check the label, it usually tells you if they do well in shade or need full sun to thrive.
Don’t worry if your garden isn’t south-facing though. Getting plenty of sun for half the day in an east or west-facing garden will be enough for you to enjoy a garden in full bloom. If you do have a north-facing garden, find plants that love shade and can happily grow.
Improve your top soil
Forking through soil means you can remove debris and weeds and loosen compaction. If you’re going to get the best results with your plants, they need good soil conditions. Adding compost helps to aerate heavy soils, improves drainage, and helps light soils retain moisture.
If you’re growing vegetables, try growing green manures to enrich the soil. Once you plant something, there’s no need to dig for the sake of it. Simply mulching will be enough. Here are 5 simple steps you can follow to improve the quality of your top soil.
Dig through the soil using a spade to break up any large lumps. If the soil has been cultivated, you can fork through it to the depth of the tines.
Next, add bagged compost, well-rotted manure, or your own homemade garden compost. Add at least a 5cm layer of it to the soil. Organic matter is better for plants and flowers than inorganic material because it helps the bacteria in the soil grow.
Mix the organic fertiliser using a spade or gardening fork, ensuring that it is well incorporated.
If you need to, break up big chunks of soil with the back of the fork, then tread the area and use your heel to firm the soil.
The last step is to rake it to get rid of any stray seedlings or stones. This will ensure you have an even layer of soil for sowing and planting.
It’s important not to overdo it because you can easily strain your muscles even if you’re physically fit, so don’t try to improve all your soil at once. Remember to do some stretches to warm up before you start, too. The main aim of improving your top soil is to provide your plants with the best possible environment and to ensure that water can permeate the soil and still drain well.
How to water your plants
It’s essential that you water your plants correctly and often. Check the labels on your plants if you’re unsure how much water they need. Be careful not to flood your plants as this will invite disease and stress them. It’s best to water your plants either early in the morning or late in the evening and focus on watering around the roots. It’s time to find out some of the best, easiest plants to cultivate as a novice gardener.
Get the best out of your garden with these easy plants
You can make your life as a beginner gardener easier by picking plants that grow naturally in your area. While tropical plants can look modern and stylish, they won’t thrive in cooler environments. Instead, choose low-maintenance plants that will almost look after themselves.
Here are some of the easiest plants to grow provided that you have enough sun ( a mix of flowering plants, fruits, and vegetables).
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sweet peas
It’s also pretty simple to grow a shrub if you follow the directions on the label. If you want to grow plants from seed it’s best to sow them in late April. If you want to get earlier flowers, you can grow seedlings in indoor containers and plant them outdoors from May onwards. Soon, we’ll talk about how you can include roses in your garden even if you’re a novice.
Grow your own vegetables
If you want to try your hand at growing your own veg, don’t be afraid to have a go. Tomatoes and radishes are both very easy to grow. Radishes can be sown and will be ready to harvest in a month. Tomatoes just need to be fed each week. Peas are also easy and can be supported with bamboo canes. The great thing with peas is that the more you pick, the more they grow. You’ll want to avoid broccoli and cabbage if you’re a beginner because they are prone to pests and more difficult to grow. Let’s look at a few easy-to-grow crops.
These can be grown on a windowsill for most of the year provided there is enough light and warmth. You can grow them in a seed tray and then sow them in vegetable containers.
Sugar snap peas
If you provide sugar snaps a bit of support in the form of bamboo sticks, they are very easy to grow and only take up a little space. Plant them in early summer and soon enough you’ll be munching on them, sweet and fresh from the pod.
New potatoes are great crops for beginners because they are less prone to disease and less likely to attract pests. They are also ready to harvest earlier than other varieties.
So why not start your own vegetable garden with these fantastic, simple crops? If you don’t want to bother with veg, you can try growing herbs. Herbs like rosemary and sage serve as attractive border plants, so your herb garden will also be decorative. If you want to cultivate herbs like parsley, oregano, and mint, it’s best to do so in containers. Patience is key if you want to grow a herb garden because some herbs such as thyme can take as long as 21 days to germinate.
Start small to get the best out of your garden
Even if you don’t have a garden, there’s no reason you can’t become a gardener. Use window boxes to plant perennials, fruit, and veg and to create formal displays. You can use window boxes to liven up bigger gardens too.
Now let’s find out how you can include roses in your garden.
Don’t be put off by roses, beginners can grow them easily enough. Buy a potted rose in spring. Plant it in your garden and remember to fertilise it twice during the summer. You don’t even really need to prune them. That’s great news for anyone who’s not comfortable using pruning shears. Nevertheless, you can prune them if you feel so inclined. Having gorgeous roses in your new garden is more than achievable.
The two most important things you must make time for in your gardening ventures (aside from watering) are weeding and mulching. Doing these two things will give your plants the best possible conditions to grow by making the best out of the nutrients and moisture in the soil.
All you need to do to mulch is cover the roots of your plants with leaves or wood chips. This will protect the roots from drying out and make them less vulnerable to pests. You typically mulch in the spring to prepare for the hot summer weather and then mulch again in autumn to prepare for frosts.
The only weed you might want to leave alone is dandelion as it is important to pollinators.
Pruning is also vital to ensure that most plants stay healthy. Different plants need pruning at different times, but generally, you should prune roses and other flowering shrubs in early spring when you see new growth. Herbaceous perennials like rosemary and lavender should be pruned when they’ve finished flowering in late summer or early autumn.
Next, let’s find out what tools you’ll need to get stuck in.
Beginner gardening tools
A spade and a gardening fork or trowel are both essential for creating borders. You’ll also need some pruning shears if you’re planning on growing anything that needs pruning. Gloves and a good watering can will be a good investment, as will some good plant pots and some window boxes if you want to start small. Pick up a gardening knife to help with weeding, too.
The wrap up
We’ve covered many of the basics for the novice gardeners amongst you — from planning, maintenance, and improving your top soil to choosing the best plants to grow. Who knows? We might even have helped the odd more advanced green-fingered gardener out there too. I hope that you’ve now got some ideas about how to get the best out of your garden and these tips have helped made starting your own gardening ventures seem less intimidating.
All that’s left to do is get stuck in and start cultivating your dream garden today. Follow these tips and you’ll have everything you need. Together, we can all dig in and help revive this healthy, very British hobby!