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Gardening for Beginners – Tips

Get to know your garden

Before you start, it’s a good idea to get to know your garden. Check the aspect – is it south-facing or north-facing? Knowing where the sun hits the ground will help you decide what to grow where. It’s also worth knowing what soil type you have. Take a look at what’s growing – camellias, magnolias and pieris will tell you the soil is acidic, while absence of these suggests a more alkaline soil. Doing a soil test will further help you know your soil, and therefore what plants you can grow.

Plan your garden

Sitting down and planning your garden is a great starting point. This way you can work out what to grow where, rather than getting carried away at the garden center and ending up with a jumble of plants that don’t look good together and might not suit your growing conditions. Planning will also enable you to use color and structure wisely, which will help you create a garden that looks great throughout the year.

Learn how to plant

Planting your plants properly will ensure they grow well and live for a long time. Make sure you take time to weed and prepare the soil before planting, and add mulch or fertilizer where necessary. If you’re unsure how to plant something, look online for instructions rather than just hoping for the best. Trees planted too deeply will never thrive, and root-balls that sit proud of the soil surface will dry out quickly, leading to the eventual death of the plant.

Feed and water plants regularly

Knowing when and how to water plants is the difference between them living and dying. As a general rule, water the root ball rather than the leaves, as it’s the roots that absorb the water. Soaking the rootball every week is better than watering a little bit every day. Feeding is also important – generally you should be looking at feeding every fortnight during growing season (that’s spring and summer), although you will need to feed more if growing in containers.

Start small

When starting a new veg patch or allotment, it can be tempting to take it all on in one go. It’s much better to do a little bit at a time. You can easily cover areas you don’t want to cultivate with cardboard or black plastic, to stop weeds growing, while you work on a different area.

Keep an eye on pests

Most garden pests don’t do much harm to plants and can be left alone – there are plenty of natural predators that will keep them in check. However, sometimes pest populations can become an infestation, and you need to act. Keeping an eye out for increasing numbers of pests like aphids, slugs and snails, will help keep your plants safe, and save you a lot of heartache.

Make use of compost

Composting kitchen and garden waste is good for the environment, wildlife, your purse and also your garden. Let the waste break down for a year and then use it as a mulch around the base of plants in your garden and veg patch.

Don’t be afraid to prune

Pruning plants can seem like a daunting job, but if you learn how to do the job properly, you’ll be rewarded with plants that look good, grow well, and they’re likely to flower and fruit better, too. The key to successful pruning is to know when to prune, and follow guidance on how to make the cuts and shape the plant.

Be kind to wildlife

Many of those new to gardening see wildlife as the enemy – insects and their larvae defoliate plants, birds eat our fruit and mice nibble our pea and bean seeds. But wildlife can be useful in the garden, too. Birds eat a varity of garden pests, including slugs and snails, aphids and caterpillars. Bees pollinate our food crops. A garden wouldn’t be half as enjoyable without its wildlife – from frogs and toads, to hedgehogs, bees, butterflies and birds. Creating habitats for them and learning to share your garden with them, is the key to enjoying your space.

Enjoy your garden

Don’t forget to enjoy your garden. Make sure you take time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Create a seating area where you can sit and read or eat with friends and family. Plant borders you can enjoy from a window, and hang bird feeders so you can watch their antics.

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