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How Did You Begin?

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jim8888
jim8888 Posts: 377 Forumite
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I've now found myself with time for gardening, but honestly, where do you start? There seems to be so much information that it's overwhelming. I have a fairly big garden that's probably got loads of potential, but I wondered how others eased themselves into this hobby? Any inspirational books, TV guides, clubs to join? Should I start by learning about soil, sunlight, weeds, pests, growing from seeds? I just want a prettier, tidier garden, not really into the Good Life growing my own, etc.. Any hints or thoughts appreciated.
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  • -taff
    -taff Posts: 14,585 Forumite
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    All gardening, despite reading books and watching everything else is trial and error. Decide what you want your garden to look like, decide if you want it split into areas, lanscaped areas,flower beds etc. Then you can either DIY it with some hard work or pay other people to do it for you. I'd currently reccomend watching Your garden made perfect because ti will give you some good ideas about layout and design and what can be done with a space. Be warned, it's not likely to be cheap unless you totally DIY and use a lot reclaimed materials from skips for example. Seeds are cheap though and most things want to grow so you could just clear a bed area, get the soil to a fine-ish tilth [ just means no big lumps and quite smooth] throw on some seeds, rake in and water and see what happens.
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  • twopenny
    twopenny Posts: 5,688 Forumite
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    I just want a prettier, tidier garden, not really into the Good Life growing my own, etc.. Any hints or thoughts appreciated.

    Start with what you have got. Get a gardening book or take some cuttings from shrubs/photos and ask what they are at the garden centre or nursery.
    If it's big you're likely to have shrubs as the bones of the garden. Find out how to prune them and when so you can get them to the size and shape you want. If it's big enough they may be able to grow to their own size and look after themselves. Depends.

    It's the wrong time of year to start planting much but a good time to go walking around the area to see what you like about others gardens, plants that you'd like. Again photos to help you remember. If a gardeners outside they will be more than happy to share the names of plants.

    Go to the nurserys and garden centres and see what appeals. Look for charity plant stands roadside. Gather your information. Tidy the garden for the summer. Good time to find out where sun and shade are and put your seating areas in temporarily for this summer as this is the main purpose of a garden  :) and you may change your mind.
    That can depend or help you decide on paths.

    A mown lawn with tidy edges makes and instant difference to the appearance.

    Take note of areas that are in shade, full sun, wet and boggy, baked dry for most of the day as the sun turns. The plants you can have there will depend on the conditions.

    Do you want a veg plot? Do you want it hidden or near the kitchen?
    Do you want a herb garden? These should be near the kitchen and can be pretty.
    Do you want perennial plants or annual ones?

    You can plant perennial wallflowers now if you fancy some. Bees love them, they bloom most of the year, are tough and need no maintenance or watering.

    Pots of geraniums in among the shrubs, border, outside the house make a quick and lasting summer feel.

    Gardeners world has a lot about plants. Learning when to take cuttings, sow seeds, when to plant which is usually autumn-early spring.

    Above all, don't try too much at once. Take an area and do that as a project. Like a seating spot or a view from a window.

    Posting photos of your garden would help a  lot



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  • MovingForwards
    MovingForwards Posts: 16,978 Forumite
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    Don't look at your garden as a whole as it will be daunting, instead break it down into sections and tackle one at a time.

    I assume you've had a look around an maybe found some styles you like eg cottage garden, formal, oriental, Mediterranean etc? 

    Get a pen and paper, draw the boundaries, any immoveable items eg trees, things you want to keep eg shed, greenhouse, pond. Work out where the sun hits and what time, where the shaded spots are, where you want to sit. Then see what you have left.
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  • jim8888
    jim8888 Posts: 377 Forumite
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    Great, thanks for the tips, really helpful. I think a combination of trial and error, but trying to reduce the errors by looking at what works in other gardens, and understanding some basics is the way to go. Off to look at buying some wallflowers this morning!
  • Ebe_Scrooge
    Ebe_Scrooge Posts: 7,320 Forumite
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    Lots of good advice above.  I'd echo the sentiment about tackling a bit at a time - gardening should be an enjoyable hobby, not a chore.  And as TwoPenny says, take the time to work out which areas are in full sun, full shade, partial shade, which bits get the sun in the morning, which in the evenings, etc.  This will give you a good idea of where you want to put seating, BBQ, whatever, as well as guiding you towards which plants will do well where.

    Get chatting to your neighbours - they're likely to have similar soil conditions to you, and can tell you what plants have worked well for them.  Most gardeners are also more than happy to swap cuttings, seed, etc.

    It's worth getting a soil test kit, so you can establish whether your soil is acid or alkaline.  Easily available online or at any garden centre for a couple of quid.  Some plants prefer acid soil, others alkaline.  Changing the PH level of your soil can be done if you really want to grow specific plants, but it's a huge amount of work - you're far better working with what you've got.

    There are loads of websites that give general advice.  BBC Gardeners World is a pretty good one, the RHS website is great for giving advice about specific plants.

    But it's largely trial and error.  And the key thing is to grow what pleases you.  Don't grow roses if you don't like the look of them, for instance :-)  You may want to try growing a bit of fruit and veg - it doesn't need to be a massive veg plot, maybe you just want to try your hand at something simple like lettuce, radishes, beans - but again, just grow the veg that you enjoy eating.

    Take it slowly, a bit at a time, trial and error - some things will work well, some won't, but it doesn't matter.  Just enjoy it :-)
  • Slinky
    Slinky Posts: 10,036 Forumite
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    If you like strawberries and raspberries, they are both really easy to grow - plant them in a sunny spot, water and feed, enjoy the fruit. You may need to cover the strawberries with something like an old net curtain as the fruit ripens to protect them from the birds.

    Rhubarb is also really easy, plant the crowns in early Spring, water well, cover in manure in the Autumn. Split the crowns in February when they get large and get even more rhubarb.

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  • twopenny
    twopenny Posts: 5,688 Forumite
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    edited 13 April 2021 at 9:43PM
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    Gardens evolve over time as you play with them - unless you can get GroundForce to come round - and you will continue to plant something because 'it will look nice there' or 'that's where I want it' only to find it has too much/not enough sun, shade, moistuer etc.
    Without knowing what this garden looks like now that's really as much as anyone can say.
    Have fun with it, don't take it too seriously and be sure you have somewhere to sit with your coffee and contemplate.
    Wallflowers are a great idea. Instant colour, scent, bees like them and sometimes they flower through the winter.

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  • Eldi_Dos
    Eldi_Dos Posts: 1,674 Forumite
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    jim8888 said:
    Great, thanks for the tips, really helpful. I think a combination of trial and error, but trying to reduce the errors by looking at what works in other gardens, and understanding some basics is the way to go. Off to look at buying some wallflowers this morning!
    One way of staying in tune with local conditions is watching when parks department clear and restock flower beds in parks and verges.   Its all too easy too buy bedding plants from garden centres and especially supermarkets too early and for them not to thrive when put in before ground conditions are ready for them.
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