How To: Start Gardening for Beginners

Gardening is both fun and rewarding. Sitting in your garden surrounded by plants and flowers that you have grown, or harvesting fruit and vegetables for your meals that you have cultivated. Although it can be hard to know where to start, here we have some helpful tips and guidance to start you on your path to gardening success.

How To: Start Gardening for Beginners

Understand your garden

An important factor in understanding your garden includes being aware of your soil type. Most plants will favour moderately fertile, well-draining soil, so if your soil is quite chalky or clay-heavy then plants may not thrive and it would be best to remedy this before planting anything. Adding homemade compost to your soil before planting can help introduce much-needed nutrients to your garden.

It’s also worth considering factors such as how much sun your garden gets, your climate and the direction your garden faces. If your garden faces North then it won’t be the best environment for vegetables or a Mediterranean-type garden. If your garden gets full sun then growing fruit and vegetables will be much easier, but if you’re mostly in shade then hostas and ferns are more suitable. 

Before digging anything up or planting anything new, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan everything out. Planning will help you use colour and structure wisely, and make sure that there is life throughout the garden at all times of the year.

Plants for beginners

Choosing plants that are native to your area or thrive in your soil type will be the easiest to manage going forwards. This can also include medium-sized shrubs as they will generally look after themselves. Whilst tropical plants look interesting or stylish, they will not thrive in cooler climates. 

Flowering plants such as sunflowers, poppies, nigella and pansies are easy to grow for the beginner. Our top tip: If you wish to grow flowering plants from seed, they will need to be sown after the risk of frost has passed after mid-April. If you want flowers earlier in the summer it is best to raise the seedlings indoors in small containers and then plant them from May onwards in the garden. 

If you’re looking to try your hand at growing vegetables then ones such as radishes and tomatoes are great. Radishes can be sown directly where you want them to grow and will be ready to harvest about a month later. Tomatoes are great container plants – just remember to support them with a bamboo cane and give them a weekly tomato feed.

How To: Start Gardening for Beginners

Pests, Disease & Wildlife

Most bugs and pests in the garden don’t do a lot of harm, as there are natural predators that will keep the numbers in check. But, if there becomes an infestation you will need to act as they can destroy plants and introduce disease. Keep an eye out for things such as aphids, slugs, snails and caterpillars. There are many options such as pesticides and more natural options such as organic pest control – just work out what works best for you and your garden.

Although we have just said that some wildlife can harm your garden, there are many that are beneficial to our gardens too! Encouraging birds into your garden is incredibly helpful as they will eat certain pests including the aforementioned aphids, slugs, snails and caterpillars. Bees are also incredibly useful as they will pollinate food crops – creating a space for a variety of creatures in the garden is important for the ecosystem and also incredibly enjoyable. This can include hanging bird boxes, making hedgehog nests and a wet area for frogs or toads.

Containers

If you don’t have much space in your garden, or it is mostly paved, don’t worry, you can still create a little oasis with potted plants – often called Container Gardening. This is ideal for growing plants on a patio, especially if they are non-hardy variety as you can bring them indoors over winter. One of the easiest container plants is the pelargonium (also known as geraniums), as it produces lots of flowers throughout the summer and they aren’t very fussy. They just need ample amounts of sun. Don’t forget that potted plants will need watering a bit more often than plants in the soil as they will dry out more easily, and the pots will need a drainage hole at the bottom to prevent them from becoming water-logged.

 

Pruning & Maintenance

Whilst pruning back plants can seem like a daunting task when done correctly, you will be rewarded with healthy plants that will flourish and bloom year after year. The key to pruning is to know when to do it – follow the guidelines for each plant taking into account the season and how much should be pruned back. 

Herbaceous perennials such as lavender and rosemary can be pruned after they have finished flowering in late summer or early autumn. Thyme can be cut back after the first frost.

Roses, hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs should be pruned in the early spring after frosts have passed. 

If you’re not confident about pruning back your plants, you can opt for no-prune plants such as Japanese Acers as they don’t require anything other than water!

While you can start working on your garden at any time of the year, Spring is usually the best time as you’re heading towards the growing season. Vegetable seeds can usually be planted from mid-march, but don’t worry if you decide to buy sprouted seedlings instead as growing from seed can be unreliable. 

Check out our helpful monthly “What To Do This Month” guides, so you can work on something in the garden regardless of when you decide to start. 

Visit us in-store at Holt Garden Centre and speak to a member of our team for expert advice on how to create a thriving and beautiful garden space.

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