Gardening for beginners: where to start
Gardening is a rewarding and fruitful experience, and we applaud you if you’re about to dig deep into the world of growing your own produce, flowers, shrubs and trees. To help you transition from green to green thumb, we’re happy to present a few tips and tricks for beginners.
Get into gear
You don’t need every gadget and gizmo when buying gardening tools. To start off with, make sure you have a spade and shovel for digging, hand trowel and hand fork for delicate work in between plants, a decent non-kink hose and fittings for irrigation, pruning shears, a rake, and some stakes for climbing plants like tomatoes. Gloves are important, as you shouldn’t handle potting mix or compost with bare hands, and they’ll protect you against vicious rose thorns. Buy the best pair you can afford. A compost bin will prove to be a superb investment, while a few bags of potting mix, mulch, soil, manure and compost (if you don’t make your own) will help you get off to a flying start.
It’s all about the soil
Many experienced gardeners say that gardening begins AND ends with the soil, so make sure you sow your plants in a nutrient-rich medium. Organic matter like compost should be added to the soil; we highly recommend you learn about composting as an early lesson in gardening.
Time to plant
When the soil is rich with goodness, dig a hole about twice the size of the plant’s container. Be careful when handling the plant as you don’t want to damage the root system before you even plant it. Planting too close together is never a good idea. Look for resilient and easy-growing varieties, as watching plants wilt and die is very discouraging for new gardeners.
Flax, herbs, onions, main-crop potatoes, aragula, and red cabbage are just a few plants that need minimal attention. Ask gardening experts for what thrives best in local soils.
A wise word on watering
Watering is best done in the morning so the water can soak into the soil and towards the roots. If you water during the day when temperatures are at their highest, a lot of that water will evaporate before it has a chance to feed your plants. We suggest you water deeply and less often, instead of frequently and lightly, but there’s always an exception! In sandy soil, it’s best to apply less water but to do it more often.
Stay on top of weeds
Weeding is one of the less desirable aspects of this gardening caper but you’ve got to do it. Do it often before weeds overgrow everything – left too long they WILL overgrow everything! Make sure you pull them out roots and all, not just the tops.
The magic of mulching
Mulching, like composting, is another early gardening lesson you should learn. For a really good book on the subject, we recommend William Shakespeare’s “Mulch Ado About Nothing”. But really, mulch is magic. A layer of compost, straw, or even leaves, helps feed soil and retain moisture, and keeps weeds under control. A substantial layer of 25 centimetres is ideal for shrubs and trees, and about half that depth for vegetables and flowers.
What to grow
What grows best in one place might not grow nearly as well at another thanks to differences in soil, sunshine hours, and rainfall levels. Knowing what to grow comes down to understanding conditions in your part of the world, so consult an expert at a local garden centre or, even better, an experienced green thumb in your street.
If a neighbour has a great garden, don’t be shy in asking for their advice. They’ll be flattered. Pick their brains about what grows best in your part of the world – or street – as the case may be.
With their advice, you’ll go from green to green thumb in no time.