Gardening for beginners
Gardening is a wonderfully worthwhile hobby with many known benefits. Whatever the reason you’ve decided to get into gardening, we’ve put together a handy beginner’s guide to give you all the info you need to know to get started!
Start with the gardening basics
There’s such a vast array of plants and vegetables available, that it can be easy to get intimidated. There’s no need to hang up your trowel just yet, though - try and choose easy to grow plants to get you started. If you choose plants which are more difficult to grow, it will be disheartening when you don’t see them blossom as you’d hoped they would.
Instead of the trickier greenery like wisteria, roses, and clematis, opt for easier plants to grow. Think geraniums, primula, or sunflowers. When you get the hang of it, you can branch out to more difficult plants.
Choose the right plants for your garden
The key thing to consider when you start to think about what plants you want to grow, is which plants will grow in your garden. Some plants prefer different circumstances, so it’s important to take a look at your garden before you can think about planting anything. First, check what soil you have; is it loamy, sandy, or clay? Is it more acid, or alkaline? Once you know the type of soil you have in your garden, you can take a look at what plants to start putting in it.
Take a look at where to place the greenery, too. It’s important to remember that most plants and vegetables need between 6 to 8 hours of regular sunlight a day, so there’s no point planting them in a continually shady area. Shade will be a welcome relief in hotter weather, but your plants will need a decent amount of sunlight to grow, and you can always create more shade at a later date to relieve heat stress.
Plan ahead before planting
It’s tempting to just get digging when you’ve got all your plants ready to go, but wait - you should design your floral displays or veg patch first before you plant them. This way you can figure out how much room you have to play with, and try to arrange your new greenery in an as appealing formation as possible. This will also help you decide where each plant will be best placed, so as to get the best growth you can from them.
Deal with weeds as they appear
The key thing to remember about weeding is that it’s easier to deal with weeds as and when they appear, rather than with a fully-fledged plant. Things like horsetail and dandelions are notoriously difficult to remove from your garden once the plant has established itself, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any weeds trying to sneak into your flower beds and veg patches.
Remove as much of the root as possible when weeding. If the roots snap, and part of them stay in the soil, the weed will be back before you know it. It’s easier to pull weeds from wet soil - if your soil is dry, get out the hoe. Covering your beds in mulch or straw will help to prevent weeds from sprouting, and will also help to maintain the moisture of the soil. You could try laying down a weed control fleece to prevent weeds - these work best if laid in a new bed. You’ll need to cut holes to allow for your plants, so be mindful of how much room each plant will need to grow.
One of the most tempting reasons to garden is to grow your own veg. After all, nothing tastes quite as good as fresh produce that you’ve grown yourself! Remember to choose things that you’ll eat, otherwise there’s little point in growing them. Growing your own produce takes more effort than shrubs or flowers, but the effort will be well worth it when you get to cook your own food.
Choose a good sunny spot with good soil, and get planting. If you’ve never tried growing your own veg before, opt for easier things like peas, runner beans, or potatoes to get you started. Once you’ve grown your own feast, you’ll be eager to experiment with other vegetables next year! Remember to rotate where you plant your crops if you grow veg regularly, so as to give the soil a chance to recover essential nutrients for growing.
To avoid a gardening glut where you have to harvest all of your produce at the same time, try and plant your veg every fortnight or so. That way you’ll have a constant supply, and everything will be ready to harvest as and when you can eat it.
Be wary of pruning
While some plants - like roses - need to be pruned, or deadheaded, to encourage more growth, be wary of being too eager with your pruning shears. Dead matter and dead flowers will need to be pruned, but remember not to prune your plants before they’re ready. Pruning your greenery at the wrong time could mean that the plant doesn’t flower, or you could be cutting it just as new growth was about to spurt through.
Water is one of the key ingredients your plants need to grow. It’s important to know when and how to water correctly though, as it is possible to overwater your plants and kill them. Stick your fingers about two inches into the soil to see if it needs watering; if it’s dry, then give it a good soaking.
It’s better to give your soil a thorough soaking than to water it little and often. Watering for longer and less regularly encourages a strong root system, and your plants will find it more beneficial than having a surface sprinkling. Try and use a watering can or a sprinkler if you can, as dumping a load of water directly on the plant can damage it.
Watering is crucial for potted plants, as these tend to dry out quicker than flowerbeds and veg patches. It’s also important to water more during hotter weather so as to prevent plants wilting.
Get the right gardening tools
Every gardener needs a set of basic tools to help them get growing. For potted plants, you’ll need to get a trusty trowel, watering can, potting soil, and of course, containers. For flower beds and veg patches, a shovel, hoe, and digging fork will be wonderful accompaniments to your watering can and trowel.
With these basic tools you’ll be able to get stuck in with your garden - larger gardens might benefit from larger machinery such as tillers, but these are the essential basics you’ll need if you’re new to gardening and aren’t quite sure where to get started.
Plants or seeds?
If you’ve never done any gardening before, it can be confusing knowing what to opt for. Should you choose seeds, or should you choose plug plants? The answer will depend on what exactly you want to grow.
While seeds can be the cheaper option for many, you will also need to account for the fact that they will need to germinate in the soil before you’ll see any greenery bursting through. Some seeds are easy to grow - generally the larger the seed, the more likely it is to germinate - so don’t be put off by them. Take a look at what you want to grow and make an informed decision based on this.
Plug plants are easier to grow for some gardeners, as you can simply plant the seedling straight into your soil. If you’ve got your heart set on a plant that can be tricky to grow from seed, it might be better to opt for a plant instead. You could also grow seeds in pots indoors until they start to grow, before transplanting them into your garden.
Give plants space to grow
It can be easy to become dazzled by the wonderful plant displays at the garden centre, but try to keep your growing space in mind. You shouldn’t try to cram as many plants as you can fit into your flower beds - plants need ample space to grow, so their roots can get the proper nutrition they need to grow properly. Seeds should be sown in rows, or geometric patterns, so as to give them the room they’ll need to flourish.
Plants placed too close together are unlikely to survive - those that do will need to be watered constantly, and supplied with lots of fertiliser to give them the nutrients they need. Crowded plants will also be more susceptible to disease.
Label your plants
It can be easy to forget what you’ve planted where over the course of the year. Try to label your plants as you plant them if you can, so as to remember what you’ve got planted in your garden. That way you’ll be able to keep track of what has and hasn’t grown successfully, and allow you to plan what to grow next year.
Have fun with gardening
It’s important to remember that gardening is a trial and error process. Don’t get too pent up with getting everything exactly right - you’ll gradually learn what does and doesn’t work for your garden. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the things you grow, and most importantly - have fun!
Are you new to gardening? What will you be growing this year? We want to hear all about your gardening plans over on our Facebook page!
Lead image: HT-Pix via Getty Images.