Preparation is the best way to get the most out of your garden.
1. Decide what you want to grow – fruit, veggies, herbs, flowers
Choose the foods you like to eat. No point in growing lines of healthy parsnips if no-one in the house will eat them.
It’s always a good idea to include a few herbs in your gardening pursuits – many everyday herbs can be grown in pots on a windowsill, so no digging! Or maybe a flower garden is what you had in mind?
2. Sketch a rough plan (this includes container growing, you need somewhere to put them)
Think about this a little. If you’re looking at an outside space that you want to turn into a practical and serene environment, it’s a good idea to take a moment to watch what happens in the garden. For example, where does the sun shine most? Are there any cold draughts? What’s already growing? Does it need cutting back to allow more light?
Then make your plans. Roughly sketch out where you want to grow your plants. If you’re growing in containers, this still needs doing. If you find yourself with a hundred tomato plants, have you got room for all those pots, and is it practical to have that many pots?
3. Choose the different varieties you’d like to grow (cherries, beans, oregano, roses)
Here is where you may have to be a little practical. Growing full sized fruit trees in your back garden, for example, isn’t always possible, and even if you do have the space, the tree will overshadow a large area where you may not be able to grow other crops.
However, there are dwarf varieties of virtually everything nowadays and you will be able to find a tree that will fan out over a fence, stay fairly small and be easy to maintain. But if you do have the space, this collection from Thompson & Morgan at Amazon UK is mouth-wateringly fabulous!
Malus domestica Apple Gala– A well loved variety in the UK. A reliable cultivar producing attractive yellow skinned fruit flushed with red. A sweet flavour when eaten straight from the tree, also makes a delicious juicing apple.
Malus domestica Apple Golden Delicious– Easy to grow, produces good yields of greenish-yellow apples that mature to golden-yellow that store well over a long period after harvesting
Pyrus communis Pear Mini Doyenne Du Comice– Producing fantastic mini pear fruits with a great taste. Holds an RHS Award of Garden Merit.
It’s always a good idea to grow a few herbs, but which ones? Basil is usually an annual plant and will need sowing every year, but other herbs such as sage, will last for many years before the plant needs replacing.
Do you love roses? Check your soil ph and read up a little if you want to take rose growing seriously – it is a specialist subject but you don’t have to be a specialist to enjoy beautiful roses in your garden.
4. Track down suppliers. You may want to grow heirloom varieties, or exotic fruits
If you decide to grow Heirloom varieties, get involved with a seed heritage group or association. Do a little research online before you decide, because there may be legal restrictions on international distribution of seeds to your region.
5. Make sure you know what’s involved. You may not have time to spray beans every day.
Run through what is actually involved with maintaining your garden. There’s nothing worse than doing all the beginning bit and then not having time to see it through. Don’t over-do it! Grow what you will have time for. Runner beans need their flowers spraying twice a day in dry weather, or they won’t produce beans. Could you find the time to do that? This is a little extreme.
Many plants just need watering and weeding if necessary, from time to time. But they will need regular attention, so if you’re going away for more than a couple of days, you’ll need to get someone to care for your plants.
6. Tools and supplies – what do you need? what can you recycle?
What you plan to do dictates what tools you’ll need. To start off a regular veggie patch, you’ll need a spade, fork, rake and hoe if possible. Make sure tools are easy to handle before you buy. They need to be the right height and weight for you to use comfortably.
You’ll also need a trowel, a watering can and it’s a good idea to have some gardening gloves. If you pinch out tomato plants without gloves, your fingers will look like you smoke a gazillion cigarettes every day.. not nice.
Not everything has to be bought. Recycle as much as you can. Making your own pots to start seeds in is pretty easy. Cardboard tubes from toilet rolls or kitchen towel rolls work well. Cut them in half and put them in a tray. The seedlings only need their pots for a short while before re-potting or planting out so it doesn’t matter if they get wet.
7. Get an idea of the cost (fruit trees, for example, can be quite expensive)
It’s definitely worth doing a few calculations before you head off to the garden centre. Check out approximate costs on Amazon or other online supplier in your area. Some supplies may be best bought online – heirloom seeds for example aren’t always available in a garden centre.
8. Go shopping! Collect all your supplies together
Don’t go crazy. Stick to your list… you did make one didn’t you? The garden centre is like a giant sweet shop for grown-ups… well, it is to me! I could buy one of everything, especially all the poorly looking plants that they reduce in price. I always want to take them home and nurture them back to health. It has been said I should get a cat, but there you go!
9. Sort out a gardening journal.
Keep a note of what seeds you sow and when, and when you put seedlings out in the garden. This will help you work out planting times and schedule garden appointments!
Keeping notes will also help you establish your garden next year; you’ll be able to see at a glance what works and what doesn’t.
There’s a handy printable with lots of monthly garden tips here – My Garden Journal
10. Prepare to enjoy this experience. Treat it as a healthy hobby, not a chore.
Gardening is one of the most practical, creative and healthiest hobbies you can take on. It should be always enjoyed and never treated as a chore. Washing dishes is a chore, potting out your tomatoes is a labour of love!