I’ve discovered quite a few things as a beginner gardener. Up until the beginning of the year, gardening didn’t really interest me and while I’m still very much a beginner, I’ve since decided to put my name down for an allotment.
Being outside has always been preferable to me. And recently, when somebody asked me ‘what is your happy place?’ I found myself admitting it was when I was in the garden.
We’ve recently bought a new house and we’re waiting to move in. When we were looking around houses, a big garden shot up (unexpectedly) to the top of my wish list. The house we’re moving into has a lovely garden. And, although our current garden could be so much more than it is, I love it.
This spring, I tasked myself to keep three plants alive; a small oak tree (a Christening gift for our son), a Mandarin orange and a primrose. Since then – and as I got a bit more confident – I’ve added a mint plant, woodland strawberry, sunflower, fuchsia and chives. I won’t add any more before we move.
I’ve had a few hiccups; the mint had thrips and then leaf rot and the Madarin orange had fruit flies. But, I’ve found the process of trying to figure out how to fix them to be a really relaxing one.
Think about what you love
I recently went on holiday to Spain. I was outside in the spa area of the hotel and I thought ‘yes, this is pure bliss’. The white Mediterranean walls against the pale stone. The water against the lush greenery. I’ve put photos below so you can see what I mean.
I’d already decided that I’d like a Mediterranean theme for our new garden, but this solidified it.
And really, it’s as simple as that.
Think about what gives you that deep-rooted feeling of relaxation. You know the one that makes your heart soar when you realise just how good you feel. And simply, make your garden feel more like that.
For me, it’s wisteria, lavender, light stone, teak wooden sun loungers with thick cushions, stripped towels, olive trees, outdoor dining and rustic pots.
I love the idea that I can go and sit in the garden with a cup of tea and experience the feeling I feel when I’m around the pool on holiday somewhere.
Part of the reason we picked our new house is because it will blend (once we’ve completed an extension) the outside and inside so seamlessly. I can’t wait to be able to throw open the doors in the summer and use the garden as an extension of our house.
PictureThis has revolutionised the way I learn about plants. You simply take a photo of each plant in your garden and add it to ‘my plants’ on the app. You can even set reminders for when you need to water each plant.
As well as the obvious, it tells you a huge amount of information about each plant, from when to harvest to what bug protection they’ll need.
When you’ve got an issue with your plant, there’s a part of the app called ‘Diagnose’. You take a photo of your plant and it tells you what’s wrong with it. That’s how I discovered that my mint plant had thrips and then leaf rot. Once diagnosed, it gives you a treatment plan.
Top tip: If your plant has got thrips and you realise early, you can use fairy liquid and water to get rid of them. I’m choosing not to use any chemicals on my plants because I don’t want to unwittingly kill other bugs, so this is a great solution for thrips.
Start with a few plants
I assumed you needed to water all plants every day. As it turns out, you absolutely don’t. My fuschia, for example, needs watering every 5-7 days.
That’s why I’d really recommend starting small. By doing this, you can really focus on each of your plants. When you have loads – and all have different needs – it’s inevitable that you will miss things (like thrips) and overwater one and underwater another etc.
If you feel you’ve got the needs of your plants under control, then think about getting another one.
Think about winter
Winter is ok. Christmas is in winter, after all, but aside from the cosiness, I’m much more of a summer lover. I don’t know about you, but I often forget my garden exists in winter.
Well, not this year.
I’ve already bought provisions to make sure I’m protecting my plants from frosts. My strawberry planter has a winter cover ready. I’ve also got my eye on this Woodside Outdoor Plant Cold Frame to protect my pots. Aldi have some great smaller cold frames, too.
Come September, I should have my allotment. That’s when a lot of the manual work will take place; the digging over, the learning when to plant certain things etc.
I’ve started to see gardening differently. It’s not just something to enjoy in spring and forget about in the autumn. It can be much more than that.
There’s something rewarding about being patient
I’m one of the least patient people you’re likely to meet. Lockdown really tested my resolve and now gardening is doing that in a much more loving way.
Planting seeds and then slowly watching them turn into flowers – or food – is really amazing. I made rosemary potatoes yesterday using the rosemary in our garden. We’ve also been having fresh strawberries for breakfast.
In a world punctuated by over-indulgence and waste, there’s something magical about not being a part of that, even if it’s for the smallest part of your day.
Don’t rush into buying things
In the past, come Spring I’ve rushed to the garden centre and filled my trolley up with flowers that I like the look of. I’ve given no thought to where they’ll go or what they need to thrive.
Fast forward to autumn and they’re all dead. For example, I potted lavender in the front garden, but our front garden is always in shade and lavender needs sun.
It’s little things like that I’ve not thought about before. Don’t go to the garden centre in a rush. Go with a plan and go alone so you can really look at your options.
Considering chemical-free gardening
This is unexpected for me. I’d never really thought about what sort of gardener I would be. I just knew that I wanted to encourage lots of different bugs and bees into the garden (preferably not spiders but they didn’t seem to get the mem0).
I read Gardeners’ World monthly, and I noticed that the writers – including Monty Don – are big pushers of chemical-free gardening. It got me thinking; 1. I don’t want to kill off wildlife with chemicals, 2. I don’t want to eat fruit and vegetables covered in chemicals.
Appreciate what you’ve got
I can’t lie, I’m so excited about moving to a bigger garden. It’s likely to be a year before our extension is complete, and since our garden won’t need too much work to it, I think it’ll be a sanctuary.
But, it has given me a whole new appreciation for the space we currently have.
It’s so easy to fly through life thinking ‘I’ll bother when we’ve got a new garden’ or, ‘I can’t do that because I don’t have the space’. As it turns out, you can achieve really special things in any size garden or balcony.
Learn to appreciate the here and now – which gardening really does help with – and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what you discover.