Beginners guide to gardening

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If you’ve just moved into a home with a garden or you’ve never tried to grow your own plants, flowers, trees, shrubs or vegetables before, it can be difficult to know where to start or what they need. To grow your garden successfully, it’s important to know exactly what your plants need and the best way to look after them. Here’s everything you need to know about gardening to help you be more successful. 

Planning

Before you buy any plants or start planting, it’s important to plan your garden so you know what plants will go where and which plants are most likely to thrive in the various areas of your garden.

Think about what you want to plant in each of your borders and, before you buy, check the heights of the plants you’re looking for. This will help you to understand which types of plants can be placed at the front and back of your borders. For neater, more uniform looking border, and to make sure all of your plants get the light they need, it’s best to plant taller plants at the front and lower growing plants at the back. 

Thinking about this will also help you choose plants that will complement each other and, if you want to add colour, you can also think about the colours you want to include in your garden.

Choose between sun or shade loving plants

To choose the best plants for your garden and give them the best chance to thrive, work out whether your garden is in full sun or part shade. This will affect the types of plants you’ll be able to grow. 

Full sun is described as an area that experiences six or more hours of strong, direct sunlight throughout the day. Plants such as vegetables and most flowering perennial and annual plants will grow well in these spaces. Part sun, part shade is an area that experiences two to six hours of direct sunlight every day. A shaded area means any area hat experiences less than two hours of sun a day or gets no direct sunlight at all. 

When should you start planting?

Spring is the best time to start planting but shrubs and perennial plants thrive better if you plant them in autumn. This allows them to become established in the late autumn months ready to bloom and flower in the spring. 

Work the soil

If you want to prepare your flower beds for planting or sowing, you will need to work the soil first. This allows the plant’s roots to penetrate the soil more easily to get access to water and nutrients. You can either till or dig the soil.

Tilling involves using a mechanical tool such as a rototiller to cultivate the soil. However, doing this can also disturb bacteria and earthworms so make sure you don’t do too much! Tilling the soil too much when it’s wet or dry can damage the soil structure and plant roots.

For smaller gardens and flowerbeds, digging is a better way to get your beds ready. It’s important to only dig the soil when it’s moist. You should use a sharp spade to turn the top eight to 12 inches of soil.

The mulch will also keep the soil cooler and help to keep your plants much healthier.  

Improve your soil

To stop weeds from pushing their way through and taking up the resources your plants need, spread a couple of inches of mulch over your flowerbeds. This will also help to keep moisture in and will mean you won’t need to water your plants as often. In addition, stopping sunlight from getting to the soil will stop weeds from being able to germinate in the first place!

Use organic mulch such as bark or compost and it will eventually decompose and improve the soil.

Watering

You should never allow seedlings to dry out which means they usually need to be watered every day. As your plants get bigger, you can water them less and less as they’ll be able to hold water better. If you have transplanted any plants, they will need watering every other day until their roots are more established.

Once any of your plants are established in your garden, the number of times you need to water them will depend on the soil, humidity and rainfall in your area. Once a week should be the bare minimum but make sure you put your finger in the soil regularly, if the soil is wet, you can leave it for another day but if it feels dry, your plants need watering.

Occasionally giving your plants a huge amount of water can cause stress and will allow roots to rot and disease to take hold. Always water around the roots of your plats and try to avoid the stems and leaves to prevent mildew or rotting. We usually recommend that you water plants early in the morning or afternoon to give them chance to dry off in the sun and so they don’t stay wet all night. 

When you buy a plant, the label that comes with it will tell you how much water they need but this will be dependent on the weather and your area. 

Weeding

Getting rid of weeds means your plants will have less competition for resources so make sure this is something you do regularly. Pull weeds up as soon as you see them to prevent them from becoming uncontrollable 

Pruning

Pruning is another important part of maintaining a healthy garden. If you clip dead flowers and broken stems off flowering plants, you will help to encourage new growth which means you’ll be able to enjoy them for longer. Remember that yellow or brown leaves and flowers are not going to turn back to their original colour so clip them off regularly to keep your plants healthy.

If you find that your plants start to outgrow the space you’ve planted them in, wait until autumn to move them to another position. 

Gardening can take a lot of time and effort and you won’t see results straight away but, if you stick to it and do a little bit every day, you will be rewarded with a beautiful, healthy garden that you can enjoy for years to come.

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