Starting work on your first gardening project can be a daunting prospect, but with a few gardening tips for beginners, once you get stuck in it’ll be an incredibly rewarding therapeutic endeavour. The result should be a calm and beautiful haven for you to spend time relaxing, whether alone or with friends and family.
To ensure that all your efforts bring fruit and that your garden blooms the way you want it to, it’s good to be aware of some basic pointers and some of the most common rookie mistakes before you start.
Gardening Tips for Beginners:
1. Know Your Soil
There are lots of gardening tips for beginners, but the most important is to know your soil; this is because plants thrive in different types of soil, so you need to ensure that your plants and soil match. Soil types include sandy, silty, clay, saline and loam. The last of these, which contains a combination of sand, silt and clays, is the gardening favourite.
A way to test your soil type is to let a soil sample settle overnight in a jam jar. Remembering to give it a good shake first, and the next day takes a look at the soil layers that have formed. Sand will go to the bottom, silt in the middle and clay will stay on top. The ratios of each should give you an indication of the type of soil you are working with.
If you are still not sure about what will work in your garden, check out some of the gardens in your street to see what is thriving in the local soil.
2. Plan Your Dig and Dig Your Plan
As with most home and gardening projects, it’s always best to have an overall plan in mind before you even pick up a spade. One way to approach this is to make a scale drawing of your garden on some graph paper. Ensuring that you include all the main features, and then decide what will stay and what will go. Then you can plan what new plants or features you are going to add to your garden. If this is going to be a major project, break your plan down into manageable tasks or areas and that way it will seem less daunting.
It also helps to label your seeds and bulbs as they go in as it is very easy for beginners and old hands alike to forget what’s been put where. Most plants are sold with a label for just that purpose.
3. Give New Plants Some TLC
New plants can be fragile and need careful handling. If you want to keep them from getting damaged in the car on the way home from the garden centre a good tip is to put down a plastic sheet or tarp and then add a small step ladder to create sections to secure your new plants for the journey. This has the added benefit of preventing messy spillages in the boot.
It’s all too easy to break or bruise them in our post-garden centre excitement and rush to get them planted. The best way to remove them from their pots is to gently squeeze the sides of the pot, turn it upside-down and let the plant slide out into your other hand.
Some plants that you buy may, unfortunately, be root bound in their pot. You will recognise this if the pot is mainly full of roots and what soil there is very dry. If you do discover that the plant you have bought has become root bound give it a good soaking before de-potting. Then gently massage the root ball with your hands. This will loosen things little before replanting. In extreme cases, when you can’t work your fingers into the tightly packed roots at all, take a sharp knife and make three to five vertical cuts into the root ball. This will cause some damage of course. But it will also allow for new root growth and give the plant a chance to spread once in the soil.
Don’t be afraid to check plants at the gardening centre before you buy by easing them out of their pots slightly to assess their condition.
4. Give your Plants some Space
Young plants don’t like to be crowded, so don’t attempt to plant too many in a bed. Check the label on the plant for recommendations on spacing in the bed. If you do crowd them, some plants may not survive and those that do will need lots of water and fertiliser and will be more susceptible to disease.
The same goes for your shrubs. Don’t plant them too near to a wall or a fence so that they have plenty of room to grow out, as well as up.
5. A Word on Watering
When planting new plants always be sure to soak the root ball thoroughly before they go in the soil. To ensure that the roots have enough room to spread and get the best from the soil you should also ensure that the hole you dig is bigger than the roots.
Generally, plants that live in beds will draw the water that they need naturally from the earth. These do not require irrigation. If you want to check to see if a plant is particularly thirsty and needs watering stick your finger into the soil and check it for moisture. On the other hand, plants that live in containers will need regular watering as they are living in a finite amount of soil and cannot draw water from the ground.
6. Don’t Go Easy on the Weeds
Weeds are public enemy number one when gardening, and you might as well get to grips with them from day one. Little and often is a good way to go with the weeding. To help you stay on top of it and do be sure to get the whole root out every time. Remember not to let any weeds that have seeded find their way into the compost. As you will find that when you spread the stuff, you will also be re-seeding the dreaded weeds all over the garden. Rookie error.
7. Don’t over Fertilise
It’s quite common for novice gardeners to turn to fertiliser when plants appear to be underperforming. Unfortunately, it is quite easy to over fertilise. Causing what is known as fertiliser burn, and this is no good for your plants. This is especially true for those which are potted and occupy a limited space where the salts in the fertiliser can accumulate. The symptoms of fertiliser burn include slow growth or no growth at all, death in seedlings, wilting and yellowing of lower leaves, browning of tips and leaf margins, leaf drop, and brown, black or rotting roots. You should also look out for a white crusty surface appearing on the soil.
If you notice these symptoms and suspect over fertilisation, you can save your plants if you act quickly. Especially by flushing the soil with water to reduce the plant’s intake of the residual salts. This takes time and care, so prevention is better than cure in this instance.
8. Enjoy Yourself
There’s a lot of gardening tips for beginners that are overlooked, but remember, you’re doing this because you WANT to.
Some jobs in the garden will seem like a bit of a chore. However, once you get going, you will see the results and feel the benefits. Gardening is a very physical activity and a great form of exercise. Let yourself have some fun with your gardening and try experimenting with colour, height and texture. Remember that you can always change things if you’re not happy with the results.
If you want to get started outside but don’t have the right tools, this beginner set from Wilko for £10 is the perfect starting block.