Expert tips for growing a great garden?
All of us who have a garden want it to be as perfect as possible, whether it is a vegetable garden or a flower garden. This hub has been written to provide all gardeners with some of the best tips for growing a great garden. Many of these tips are plain old fashioned common sense, but others may surprise you and give your garden a whole new lease of life.
I have been growing vegetables and flowers since I was about six years old. I am now in my forties and still successfully growing (and now showing) my vegetables (although I rarely get a chance to grow flowers these days). Having won various trophies and plenty of first prizes since I began exhibiting my vegetables, I feel I am able to share the secrets of my success here in the hope it will help other people to be equally successful.
Whether you prefer growing flowers or vegetables I am sure you will agree this is a very rewarding hobby that not only gets you fit, but can equally leave you feeling very relaxed and with a great sense of achievement. Just the joy of putting your own home grown vegetables on to your dinner plate, or sitting in your garden watching the butterflies flitting from flower to flower whilst you inhale the scents drifting around you are the 'tip of the iceberg' in terms of what gardening has to offer.
The keys to ultimate gardening success are below. Give as many of them as you can a try to you will notice a dramatic difference in your own success rates too.
Great Garden Tips
- Invest in a good quality set of basic gardening tools and accessories.
- Always prepare your ground thoroughly by digging it over in the autumn, mulching deeply with well rotted manure, seaweed etc and then leaving it for the worms to mix in over the winter season. In the spring dig the soil over again, rake it over to move lumps of earth and stones, and then re-rake it backwards and forwards until you have a consistency like fine breadcrumbs to plant into.
- Before you even consider planting into your soil make sure it has warmed up properly. This is easy to check if you use your elbow in much the same way as you check the temperature of a babies bathwater. The soil should also be pleasantly damp but not wet.
- Always check your seed packets carefully to make sure you are planting the seeds at the correct time of year.
- Water the seed drills prior to planting, allow them to drain, and only then sow your seeds into them.
- Make sure you only plant your seeds as deep as the seed packet suggests, otherwise the shoots are unlikely to make it to the surface.
- If sowing carrot seeds sow them really thinly as you risk attracting carrot fly if you do too much thinning of the young plants. When you ultimately start to pull the young carrots for eating, always discard the top foliage as far away from your growing crops as possible because the smell of the bruised foliage will attract carrot fly otherwise.
- If you are growing vegetables remember to stagger your sowing of crops like radishes and lettuces over a number of weeks, otherwise you will end up with a massive glut of one kind of vegetable ready all at the same time.
How to Design a Garden
- As soon as your seedlings are about four or five inches tall mulch around them to prevent weed growth and conserve moisture. Use mulches like well rotted cow manure, fresh seaweed, straw, newspapers, cardboard and untreated wood chips.
- If you have a rabbit problem on your vegetable bed put a chicken wire fence around the allotment, but bury at least six inches of the mesh below ground level as the rabbits won't bother to tunnel under it.
- If you have a rabbit problem around flower beds and borders try hanging old tights or stockings stuffed with human hair around the garden. You can also urinate around your garden as both methods will leave the predator scent and deter the rabbits.
- Never let your young plants become badly overcrowded. Always thin them out carefully before they get to this stage to avoid any check to their growth.
- Whilst your plants are young make sure they don't go short of water or wilt. As soon as they become established this watering should not be necessary unless you are in a very hot climate or suffering a drought.
- Watch out for signs of disease and remove infected plants immediately and burn them (do not add them to your compost heap).
- Watch out for insect pests such as blackfly or greenfly, and either remove the foliage they are on, treat with soft soap solution or use other organic methods.
- Remember many creatures in the garden are our friends, so encourage them as much as you can, and above all do not kill them, e.g. ladybirds/ladybugs, beetles, hoverflies (they look like small none buzzing wasps, and no, they can't sting), frogs (they eat slugs), hedgehogs (they eat slugs and snails too), butterflies (they help with pollination, although the Cabbage White butterfly is a nuisance to brassica crops like cabbages, broccoli etc) and worms (these help aerate the soil and break down manures and mulches into the soil).
- If you haven't used a mulch around your plants just remember to make sure you keep on top of the weeding before it gets out of control. A Dutch hoe is ideal for this as it will skim the weed tops off with little effort on your part, and the rest of the weed should die (although deep rooted perennial weeds like dandelions will need to be dug out from the root). When the weeds are really close to the plants you may well need to get down on your hands and knees and begin manually weeding using a hand weeding tool or even just your hands to carefully remove them.
How to Design Your Dream Garden
- Dead head flowers and roses to encourage more flower production.
- Pick vegetables like runner beans, peas and mangetout regularly, even if you have to compost them because you can't eat them all. This will encourage the plants to keep producing flowers (and therefore crops) for longer.
- Thoroughly rake your lawn with a lawn rake periodically to remove dead grass and moss. This process is know as scarifying and really improves a tired looking lawn.
- Keep pulling the heads off daisies and buttercups growing in your lawn to prevent them setting seed and spreading further.
- Don't cut daffodils back after flowering for at least six weeks to allow the foliage to provide nutrients for the bulb. If you cut the foliage back too soon you will most likely not get any flowers the following year (known as the bulb growing 'blind').
- Grow plenty of flowering and scented shrubs to attract insects like butterflies and bees into your garden. These will not only act as pollinators, but they in turn will bring in birds which are another wonderful addition to your garden.
- Use plenty of ground cover plants in your flower beds and borders to reduce the need for weeding, as well as adding further color and texture to the garden.
Tips on Shade Loving Plants
- Conserve water by fitting a water butt/barrel in your garden to catch rainwater from your roof.
- Always check how much sun your plants need before planting them. This way you can make sure you pick the right location to ensure they thrive.
- Buy plants suitable for the climate and conditions you have to offer. Seaside locations for instance can be very harsh on many plants so choose carefully.
- Prune shrubs, fruit trees and fruit bushes at the appropriate times of year for each variety to ensure plenty of flowers/fruits the following season.
- Divide your garden into 'rooms' if at all possible. This makes people want to explore further to see what is going to be round the next corner or through the next archway.
- Plant 'hot' coloured flowers and shrubs close to the house and soft pastel shades at the end of the garden furthest away. This will make your garden appear longer than it actually is.
- Locate mirrors at eye level within hedges to create the illusion of more space (you might want to place statues in front of the mirrors to stop birds flying into them).
- Add focal points like water features, statues, stone bird baths and sun dials for interest.
- Try ageing your stone statues and bird baths artificially by painting them with natural yoghurt. This encourages lichens to grow on them and make the statues appear much older than they actually are.
How to Plant a Perennial Garden
- Vary the heights of the perennials you grow, aiming to mainly have the taller plants at the back behind the smaller plants.
- Think of your five senses when planting a garden and choose plants that will satisfy all your senses, in other words think about what they look like, what they smell like, what sound they make when a breeze blows through them, what they feel like when you stroke their leaves and what they taste like if you plan to eat them.
- Find room for a least one garden seat or bench. If you have a large garden have several seats and benches in different places so you can follow the sun from seat to seat as it moves around your garden.
Above all remember to find time to actually enjoy your garden. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of spending so much time working on your garden that you forget to actually sit down and admire the results of all your efforts.