Gardening advice for beginners
I want to get into gardening, but where do I start?
It’s a question we’ve heard time and time again. And one we’ve asked ourselves – everyone is a beginner to gardening looking for advice at some point! It’s a hobby so many of us are drawn to and it’s easy to see why – you get to spend time outdoors with nature, and hopefully create a beautiful outdoor space for yourself and your family.
If gardening is something you’re new to, it can feel daunting at first getting to know the different types of plants and flowers, and figuring out what style you’re into. Does your garden get enough sun for what you’re hoping to grow? What type of compost should you use? How often should you water this plant… and that plant? Should I be pruning or deadheading? The questions can feel endless but don’t let that put you off, here’s some step-by-step gardening advice for beginners.
Step 1: Get to know your garden
The first step is to have a good look at your garden or outdoor space and figure out what you’re working with.
Where is the light and shade in your garden, and where do you want to plant?
If you’re hoping to fill a space at the back of your garden but you’ve noticed it doesn’t get many hours of light, don’t fret, there’s still plenty of options that like a bit of shade. Similarly, spots that get a lot of hours of direct sun, you don’t want to fill your sunniest spots with plants that are shade-loving as it’s likely they’ll scorch. It’s all about planning and making your garden work for you.
Don’t feel like you need to have a huge, sprawling garden to grow lots of plants. There’s lots of great options for balconies or courtyards and small spaces, but again, it’s about planning for the space and sunlight that you have.
If you’re planting directly into the ground – which you often will be for bigger plants and trees – it’s good to know what type of soil you’re working with as plants will react depending on the type of soil.
Around Grimsby and Cleethorpes, the soil type we tend to have is usually clay with some loam. That means that the soil that is dense, sticky and high in nutrients which is great, but it can sometimes have drainage issues. It can be good to add some organic matter to the soil to reduce some of the compaction and help with drainage.
Step 2: Choose your style
What kind of style do you want for your garden or outdoor space?
Do you have your heart set on growing your own fruit and vegetables? Maybe you like a romantic cottage garden? Is a modern Mediterranean getaway in your own back garden (we can’t promise the weather, but we can help with the plants)what you’re looking for? Or maybe you’re not sure what your style is but you know you want some easy-to-care for foliage that will grow well in the shade. Here’s where the Plant Finder comes in handy! Use the ‘search by criteria’ tool, choose ‘garden style and size’ and select from the options in the drop-down menu, you’ll get a range of plants that fit in with your style.
You can then click on each plant, where you’ll find plenty of helpful care advice, such as how much sun the plant needs, what kind of soil it prefers and how often you should water and feed. So, it does come in handy to get to know your garden first.
Step 3: Picking your plants
You’ve got to know your garden, you’ve picked out a style or have an idea what you want your garden to look like, now it’s time to choose your plants.
Some plants are much easier to care for than others. If you’re just starting out with gardening or have less time to dedicate to your plants, it’s a good idea to go for some reliable, easy-grow plants that are likely to last you a long time with minimal effort.
Here’s some easy-to-care-for plants for gardening beginners:
Don’t worry if these plants aren’t what you had in mind. There’s plenty of other low-maintenance plant options that are great for gardening beginners. Use the Plant Finder ‘search by criteria’ tool and select the ‘Easy-care’ option. You can even search by plants that have been given a merit by the Royal Horticulture Society as being reliable, hardy and disease resistant in studies.
Step 4: Caring for your plants
When you’re new to gardening, it might feel overwhelming reading care advice for each of your individual plants, especially if you have a lot of different plants.
So, here’s a few bits of general gardening advice for beginners to keep your plants heathy once you get them home.
A good general rule for watering
The best way to know if your plants need watering is to go out into the garden and check with your finger, about an inch deep to see if the soil is dry. Don’t just feel the very surface as that may be moist but there still may not be enough water in the soil to reach the roots, which is key to a healthy plant. If you feel that the soil is dry an inch deep, then your plant needs watering. Make sure you give it a good enough drink that the water will soak through to the roots before it evaporates. During warmer weather and strong sun, water will evaporate much quicker so you’ll need to water more frequently. Pots (especially terracotta), containers and hanging baskets will lose their water quicker so they’ll need to be checked more often. Established drought-tolerant plants manage without regular watering.
Pruning, trimming and deadheading
Most plants benefit from a little hair cut, not only to help keep their shape but to encourage bushy, healthy growth. Trimming back some stems or foliage that look past their best, allows the plant to spend its energy on healthy growth. For plants with woody growth like lavender or rosemary, don’t cut back into the older woody growth, just trim the new green, softer stems and it can be harder to grow back from the woody stems.
Deadheading fading flowers, particularly fast-growing bedding plants encourage new flowers to grow.
If your plant has grown too big for its pot or container, it’s a good idea to move it into a bigger pot to give it enough space to grow. Click here for our step-by-step advice for beginners on re-potting your plants.