Most people will admire a beautiful, well maintained garden with diverse plants and colours, food crops and/or flowers. Whether big or small, they can amaze and inspire you. For the non gardener wanting to start however, it can seem daunting. Below are 5 very easy tips on how to get going for beginners…… real beginners, the type of beginners that have no gardening equipment, possibly not even a garden!
I will be covering:-
- What To Grow
- How To Start
- Growing Your Own
What To Grow?
This really is the first decision. Sometimes if you have been given something as a gift or offered plants and you’ve taken them, you can give it a go and start there. Otherwise, you need to decide, or browse around a nursery and see what inspires you. Flowers, shrubs or fruit and veg? Perhaps a little of each. This may change over time. I know plenty of people with beautiful gardens, that really enjoy gardening but only cultivate plants and flowers to and don’t touch fruit and vegetables and others who are more the other way. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.
If you like to cook, or have a cook in the household, the chances are you’d like some of your own fruit and veg. If you are going to try fruit or veg then the next question is what do you like to eat? If you are going to go to the trouble of growing something, you really want to be making sure that you eat it, otherwise what’s the point!
Another pointer, particularly if you are going to grow things in the ground is, if it grows in a neighbouring garden, the chances are it will grow in yours! So getting to know your gardening neighbours, friends or family who may be local, if they are in to gardening, the chances are they will be happy to help. I’ve admired pretty plants before in peoples front gardens and when the opportunity has arisen, I have asked what they were, usually people are very accommodating.
I am in the UK so I’m in a temperate climate, www.gardenia.net gives extensive international information and links regarding what you can grow in your climate.
Easy plants to grow
Flowers – (From Seed or purchased as young plants) Sunflowers, Zinnias and Pansies
Shrubs – (from young plants) Lavender, Daisy & Dogwood
Fruit & Veg (from seed) – Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Radishes, Spinach, Turnip, Carrots, Mint, Strawberries, Potatoes, Onion, Garlic.
How To Start
How to start? – Just start! It really is that simple. Don’t be overwhelmed.
It really is all about confidence and having a go, letting yourself make mistakes, which you will laugh about later, but would have learnt a lot in the process. Everyone has been a non gardener at some point! My poor house and garden plants spent years having to deal with flood and drought, as I would forget to water them, or leave them too long in the sun until I would finally notice they had gone brown.
Here are some starting options:-
1. Buy a ready made pot or plant that you like the look of and nurture it. Watering them when they need it and dead heading (removing dead flower heads as they die off) You will soon get to know when they are thriving and when they are well…..not so happy!They are mainly found in supermarkets, home and garden stores and nurseries, usually come with instructions, mainly plants and/or flowers although you can find vegetable ones and can be for inside or outside.
2. Buy a starter kit. These usually come with everything you need with them, pots, soil, seeds. They can make nice gifts, and often in shops leading up to Christmas. Nurseries with gift shops and home stores are likely to stock them. They will often have flowers, herbs or salad to help you get going. I have been given a few over the years. One of my favourites was this below, particularly as it came in a box with biodegradable pots, sadly it did have plastic labelling sticks, however I did have some success with it.
3. Buy ready made baby plants from a nursery, supermarkets or home and garden centres for re-potting into a container or direct into the ground.
4. Growing your plant from seed. You will need seeds, soil (compost) and a container, reusing supermarket fruit containers is fine, or anything else you might have in the house.
The incredible thing about gardening is that you can do it in a tiny space like a windowsill or balcony, to an allotment or large garden and land. A few choice pots may be all you need to get started and gain confidence. The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell is a great book for balcony gardening or small space ideas and inspiration.
Container gardening is an excellent way of managing plants and flowers, and reusing unwanted items in the house. You don’t need to necessarily buy expensive or plastic pots. If you are purchasing plants, rather than growing from seed, you very quickly acquire them anyway! It also enables you to move pots to another part of the garden, if there is a season change, or it its unhappy in a location. You are also more likely to notice changes or damage when you have less to look after or move them around because you fancy a change.
I find pinks, pansies and daisies easy to manage, give beautiful colour and can start off looking lovely in pots. The pinks and daisies in particular can be transferred as they grow out of their pots, broken up and moved into the ground, and thrive well with minimal effort, but still providing an abundance of colour.
This huge daisy bush below started life in a pot, which was transferred to the ground. It has outgrown that space and been moved again to a larger space where I needed ground coverage. It was a little stressed by it’s move for a few weeks, but with extra watering, some extra home compost and homemade feed …and the odd chat of encouragement to recover, it has responded and blooming again in its new space.
You really can begin gardening with very little equipment. Seeds, plants and compost will be the main expense until you may be eventually creating your own. You can reuse household items instead of purchasing pots. Seedlings can be grown easily in supermarket purchased plastic containers, and pots and trays can often be found going free from other gardeners. A trowel can be handy but particularly if container gardening, you can just use your hands. Old pottery is ideal to be smashed in a bag and put into the bottom of larger containers to give drainage. If using a larger space. A spade and rake would be helpful.
Growing Your Own
I find great satisfaction in growing my own fruit & vegetables. There is something wonderfully earthy and life giving about walking out into the garden and picking something tasty to add to your cooking or put in a sandwich. You can’t beat the picking to plate time …a few seconds!
From a sustainability point of view, there is no packaging or plastic, if you’re not using pesticides then there’s no nasty chemicals and no carbon footprint. You can utilise your produce with the joy of knowing you help nurture something that is now sustaining you, and the taste is better then anything shop bought. If there is any leftover root or peelings they can return to the earth via composting so there is also no waste. It really is a win win.
I don’t have a huge garden, but I have an area where I mainly grow my fruit and veg (Particularly as Bunny Rabbits like to eat them!) I find it easier and more manageable to grow in raised beds, and containers, and if they need to be lifted off the floor (from bunnies) although off the floor also helps with slugs and snails.
I particularly like Alex Mitchells book , Crops In Tight Spots. I liked and tried out reusing food and other tins around the house.
So here we are … let’s garden
Growing from seed – You’ll need
- Some sort of container with drainage holes (If no drainage holes you can use Stones/broken pottery/used tea bags)
- A waterproof container for the above container to sit in household plate/ lid/tray/gardening trays
- Make holes in your container or fill with alternative drainage option
- Put in the compost allowing allowing about 2-3cm clearance from the top.
- With your finger just make a line I have made 2 lines in the soil in the square plastic container shown roughly 5-7 mm’s deep.
- Sprinkle or place seeds as recommended on the packet.
- Cover them back over with the compost.
- Water and place them where you want them to go depending on your climate, space or season.
Many flowers, plants and fruit and veg can start off this way before either moving to a larger pot or planted out to a larger area. Lettuce, Tomatoes, Peppers,Cucumber, Radishes, Spinach, herbs, to give a few. Your seed packet will advise you.
I’ve certainly learned over the years, the more you respond to where a plant wants to be, the better it will thrive and produce for you, whether that is in its colour and flower or the produce it brings, and the greater joy in return you will receive. If your purchasing flowers, plants, trees, shrubs you will soon find yourself with a collection of predominantly plastic pots, but they can be reused again and again for alternative planting as you grow or passed on to someone else. So don’t throw them away!
Pick up a ready made pot and start nurturing, or pop some soil in a pot and throw in some seeds or a plant…you’re now gardening!
For further reading, help and ideas I have picked up several of the books by Alex Mitchell which are available through Amazon by clicking the images above.
The links below enable you to shop supporting the book shops local to you via Bookshop. org. (Currently UK and US only).
For UK bookshop.org click here
For US bookshop.org click here