Gardening is one of Britain’s most well-loved hobbies, and for a good reason. Taking part in just half an hour of gardening can burn the same number of calories as a game of volleyball[i], and regular gardening relieves stress, improves mental health, and lowers the risk of severe diseases like Alzheimer’s and coronary heart disease. 27 million people reportedly take part in regular gardening[ii], and if you’re itching to join this figure, we have some advice to set you on the way to the ultimate garden paradise.
It goes without saying, but you are unlikely to see beautiful blooms blossoming overnight. You may make mistakes – though we’ll advise you on some common ones to help you avoid them – and that’s okay! Take your time and enjoy the processes of planting and maintaining your garden, and you’ll be reaping the fantastic benefits of this great hobby before you know it.
Find Out What Kind Of Soil You Have
There are five main soil types typically found in British gardens, and knowing what type your garden has will influence what you will be able to plant in it. Feel the soil and observe the texture to determine what kind you have – this will help you understand how the ground is likely to behave under different weather conditions and helps you create the best environment for your plants to thrive.
Clay soil is quite hard to dig, but it is rich in nutrients and highly fertile if treated with organic matter to break up the cloddy texture. As clay soil drains poorly, organic matter (such as mulch) will break the soil into separate crumbs and allow the nutrients and water easier access to the plant roots. Clay soil feels sticky and lumpy when wet and will hold its shape when rolled into balls. Good flowers for clay soil include foxgloves, daylilies, and Chinese lanterns.
Sandy soil is easy to work with, drains well and warms up quickly in spring when seedlings need the warmth to grow. However, sandier soils will dry out quicker than other types and are low in beneficial nutrients, as the rain washes them quickly away, so it will require plenty of organic matter to retain the right nutrients. Sandy soil is dry, coarse, and gritty to the touch and will crumble easily. Good flowers for sandy soil include lavender, Japanese rose and Star Jasmine.
Though free draining, silt soil retains a lot of moisture due to its fine texture and is relatively high in nutrients. This makes it a very fertile soil type. Silty soils need plant cover as they can be washed away or eroded in harsh conditions, and it can get compacted easily, though this is an easy fix with a gardening fork. This type of soil is smooth to the touch but won’t hold its shape so well if moulded. Good plants for silt soil include snowdrops, dogwood, and hellebore.
Loam soils are often regarded as the perfect balance of all soil types, creating the best environment for growing plants. It is easy to work, packed with nutrients, drains well and isn’t prone to waterlogging. Loam soil is a mixture of sandy, silt, and clay soils, so it will have an uneven look and feel and not hold its shape when rolled into a ball. Good plants for loam soil include wisteria, rhododendrons, and anemones.
Chalky soils are alkaline, so will not grow plants that require acidic soil. This type of soil is free draining, though important minerals will quickly dissolve and need to be supported with the regular addition of fertilizer. Chalk soil can be light or heavy but is stony and easily identified by this. Good plants for chalky soil include lilac, lavender, and mock orange.
Choose The Right Plants
Although choosing plants that will thrive in your soil type is important, it’s also important to remember that some plants are harder to grow and nurture than others. As a beginner, it’s best to stick to easier seeds that won’t require as much maintenance until you are confident you can take on more demanding plants. Some good plants for beginners are:
These plants will flower with very little maintenance, though it’s important you research how they will grow and what they will require before you buy them.
Once you have planted your new flowers and are watching them begin to thrive, it’s vital that you keep on top of their general maintenance to fuel their continued growth. Make sure that you:
- Water your plants once or twice a week
- Feed or fertilize them every two to three weeks
- Weed regularly
- Prune during winter and spring
- Deadheading – The removal of dying flowers from plants
Not maintaining your garden regularly will cause your plants to steadily die, so it’s essential for the health of your garden that you stay on top of it.
There are a few mistakes that all beginner gardeners make at one time or another. Though there’s nothing wrong with that – you learn more from your mistakes than you do your successes – it can be nice to avoid them completely so you don’t have to sacrifice your garden.
Planting In The Wrong Spot
Different plants have different needs, so when you are looking at buying them, make sure that you read the description or the label and have the right spot in mind for them to thrive well before taking them to the flower bed. Most plants need over 5 hours of sunlight a day, so planting in the optimum spot is important for their long-term well-being. You should check on your garden daily to catch any such issues early.
Neglecting The Weeding
It might be a terrible job but getting rid of the weeds in your flower beds is essential for a healthy garden. You can pull or dig the weeds out by hand, hoe them, use weedkiller, or cover them in a thick mulch to deprive them of light. If you’re pulling out the weeds by hand, make sure that you get all of the roots out to stop them from regrowing. Some weeds are more persistent than others, like poison ivy, mugwort and crabgrass, and these will need to be caught early on to stop them taking over.
Under or Over Watering
Although so many gardening articles will warn against under-watering your garden, overwatering is just as bad, perhaps even worse, because it can heighten the risk of fungal pathogens and eventually kill your plants. You have to give your plants the right amount of watering, which is around one inch of water per week during their growing season. Although rain may cover this job for you, if the clouds don’t show, you’ll have to give them this amount yourself. Always check the soil before watering as overly wet soil will cause rotting – wait until the soil dries out before watering.
Planting At The Wrong Time
Planting out of the growing season will be detrimental to your plant’s health – the growing conditions won’t be right for them, and they will likely die. When buying bulbs or seeds, make sure you read the description to find out their planting season and plant them at the right time.
|Months||Season||Plants That Will Grow|
|March, April & May||Spring||Snapdragons, Dianthus, Sweet Alyssum|
|June, July & August||Summer||Marigolds, Geraniums, Cornflowers|
|September, October, November||Autumn||Begonias, Petunias, Calendulas|
|December, January, February||Winter||Primroses, Stocks, Sweet Peas|
Starting An Organic Vegetable Garden For Beginners
Starting a vegetable garden is a great way of becoming self-sufficient, and starting an organic vegetable garden will result in natural, non-toxic veg full of flavour and free of nasty chemicals or fertilizers. Although you will have to be more vigilant when it comes to pests coming after your food, starting an organic vegetable garden couldn’t be more easier.
- Choose a patch and clear it of weeds, making sure that all weeds are ripped up from the root
- Add compost or manure – use around 5 large buckets for every 5 square metres of ground
- Apply organic fertilizer
- Plant organic seeds – many nurseries use pesticides, so opt for farmers markets or gardening shops to get the best seeds.
- Once planted, ensure that general maintenance is carried out regularly – weed often, water most mornings unless soil is already moist, fertilize and control pests.
Starting An Herb Garden For Beginners
Starting a herb garden is a great project to do with kids, and gives you some of the most delicious herbs you’ll ever have tasted. In addition, Herb gardens are a great introduction to gardening because of their ease and relative low maintenance, so here’s how to set up a simple herb garden in your own yard.
- Choose the right location – Most herbs need around six or more hours of sunlight per day, so make sure you plant them where they can get enough sun.
- Add compost – Don’t use manure as it will reduce the flavour
- Choose your herbs – some good herbs for beginners are basil, oregano and rosemary.
- Buy them – Herbs can be grown from seeds, or you can buy plants and plant them yourselves
- Harvest frequently – Once your herbs are ready, harvest them regularly to make way for more.
Get Stuck In!
Now you have everything you need to get started, all that’s left to do is get out into the garden! Although it might seem daunting, you don’t need magically green fingers to make your garden thrive – as long as you are vigilant with your pest control and overall maintenance, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful blooms in no time.
Got any questions about starting your own garden? Let us know below!
Angela Waxler is an ex florist, a professional gardener and has been working in the industry for well over 25 years. Angela has worked with brands all over the world during her career.