Advice for Newbie Gardeners

So many people say they would love to be able to garden but just can’t, don’t know how, or where to start, so here is some advice for newbie gardeners so you stop thinking about it and start doing it!

Go Out and Look at the Garden You Have

Before you go all ‘Love Your Garden’ and bring in the diggers, take a realistic assessment of the space you have. How would you actually like your garden to look and how will you use it? Look at where the sun hits throughout the day and where it rests in the evening – this helps to work out where your seating or dining areas should be.

Think next about what existing plants you have which you like and wish to keep. Take a look at our back magazine issues or online to get an idea of plant colours, shapes, and combinations which you like. Ask friends with nice gardens for advice and snap a picture on your phone whenever you see a flower you like.

Avoid Filling a Trolley at the Garden Centre

Be ready for a visit to the garden centre with a plan for what to buy or you could end up just wasting money on plants not suitable for your gardening space. Knowing what type of soil you have and whether the borders sit in full sun or deep shade all day will help you choose the right plants for your garden. Ask for advice when you are able to visit a specialist nursery or garden centre as the staff will have a vast range of knowledge.

Know the Difference Between an Annual and a Perennial Plant

If you look at plant labels or hear gardeners talk, you may be unsure of the difference between an annual plant and a perennial one. Knowing the difference can save you lots of time and money in the long run!

Put simply, an annual plant completes its whole life cycle in one year. It germinates, grows, flowers, sets seed, and dies within one year. Many would refer to this type of plant as a bedding plant and we often use annuals in hanging baskets, in pots, or in gaps in our borders to provide a real pop of summer colour in that year. Annuals are relatively cheap to buy and would include plants like petunia, lobelia, cosmos, marigold, antirrhinum, zinnia, begonia, sunflowers, and some types of salvia.

A perennial plant is one which generally comes back year after year in our gardens. They usually die back in winter and regrow the following spring. Common garden perennials would be plants like hostas, lavender, hardy geraniums, lupin, alchemilla molis, astilbes, hydrangeas, and some types of salvias. They cost more to buy than annuals but as they come back year after year, some people find that they are a better investment in the long run. 

You may not get as prolific a blooming of a perennial in the first year though as you would do with an annual, as it establishes its roots in the first year. An added benefit of many perennials, though, is that once established for a few years in your garden, you can lift and divide them to make more plants.

Grow Things You Like to Eat

If you would like to try to grow things this year which you can eat, then the sensible advice is to start small and to grow that which you will actually eat. Don’t grow Brussels sprouts if everyone in your house hates them. If you love salads, don’t waste space growing cabbages.

Garden in Bitesized Chunks

You may catch the gardening bug but don’t go all gung-ho in your garden. There can be so much to do to get it the way you want it but break things down into manageable chunks so you don’t burn out too quickly and lose all your enthusiasm. Gardening should bring you pleasure, not feel like a chore.

Record Your Progress

Keep your phone handy when you are in the garden. One of the best reasons for photographing your garden regularly is to serve as an aide memoire for your future planning. It can be hard when you look out at brown, withered borders in the bleak mid-winter to recall the glory days of summer and to remember just how gorgeous your little patch of green was.  

It is also a wonderful thing to look back at your fabulous summer garden pictures and take a moment to revel in the success of what you, as a new gardener, created and shaped. Looking back at your progress is like a giving yourself a big, well-deserved pat on the back.

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