Gardening like most things, depends on getting things right from the beginning. Understanding the basics is the foundation for building a great garden.
Get it right, then things go well, and gardening can be very rewarding and enjoyable.
Get it wrong, and gardening can be extremely frustrating, and fraught with a host of unresolved problems and difficulties.
Having a set of key gardening tips, gathered from the experts, is a great reminder of how to get the major principles right.
These tips will benefit beginner and experienced gardeners who may need a refresher course on the foundations for good gardening.
This article presents of collection of the best gardening tips gathered from all over the world in a simple layout that is easy to read. The technical jargon that confuses many people has been kept to a minimum.
Knowing your soil type is crucial when starting a garden and for on-going maintenance. Soil type not only affects fertility, but it also affects drainage and texture.
Only by identifying your soil type will you know to manage your garden and overcome some of its shortcomings.
Hard clay soils can be infertile and have very poor drainage causing the soil to be too wet or too dry. Understanding soil characteristics such as pH and texture is vital as it profoundly affects the effectiveness of fertilisers, soil conditioners and watering regimes.
There are four basic soil types - sand, silt, loam and clay. If you are unsure, take a soil sample to your local nursery or garden center. It is also important to understand that soil is layered and there may be quite different soils through the vertical profile. For example, you may be a sandy loam on the surface underlain by clay, which can greatly affect the drainage of the soil.
Once you understand your soil type you can easily take various steps to improving its performance. For example, clay soils can be greatly improved by adding gypsum or lots of organic matter. Improving the soil structure, drainage and fertility is a lifetime endeavour for the foundation of a good garden.
There are a wide range of inorganic fertilisers on the market, but they tend to be highly specific and designed for a single purpose. They also leach from the soils very quickly and don’t improve the soil structure. Using plenty of good quality organic matter is a better way of fertilising all gardens, regardless of the soil type.
Long lived organic fertilisers, such as compost and mulch, supplemented with blood and bone and other organic concentrates, are much more effective and sustainable. Organic fertilisers and compost materials enhance the nutrient levels in the soil and encourage soil microbes and worms. Soil needs to be developed and supported to evolve into a self-sustaining entity almost like a living organism. Organic fertilisers are best. Always follow the directions and recommended application rates.
Plant health depends on healthy roots, that depends on healthy soils – that is the microorganisms in the soil. You cannot really feed the plants directly. Fertiliser applied to the soil will be modified by the soil processes. If the soil is unhealthy the fertilising won’t work because it will never reach the plants. The nutrients have to be delivered in forms the plants can use. Check your soils and see whether the soils require fertilising. Remember that tossing fertiliser onto the surface of the soil will not be effective because there are no roots on the surface. Fertilisers needs to be dug in so that the soils can work on them and they can be made available to the plant’s roots.
Healthy living soil needs a protective cover to be productive and sustainable. Bare soil is naked and vulnerable. Mulching helps control weed growth, organically. Weeds compete with plants for moisture and nutrients and they need to be controlled. Mulching around your plants is the simplest way to control weeds.
Mulching also helps keep the soil moist and smooths out the soil temperature variations, daily and seasonally. In cold weather a thick layer of mulch helps keeps the soil warm and frost-free. In warm weather a mulch blanket helps keep soil cool and moist. A thick layer of mulch also stops soils from drying out and supports the soil’s microbes and worms. You can use a wide variety of organic matter as mulch and the type does not really matter. But it needs to be reasonably thick (6-9 inches; 15-20 cm). Mulch types include, leaves, lawn clippings, hay and straw, shredded paper and cardboard, bark and many commercial varieties.
Locate plant species with similar requirements together, in various sections or parts of your garden. This includes similar species or different species that need the same soil, light, watering and nutrients. If you don’t do this, you can create a nightmare for yourself as none of the incompatible plants will be healthy. This is a matter of design and knowing what each species of plant needs. Companion plantings are also an excellent idea to control bests and to create the right conditions so that the plants support each other’s needs.
Learn to identify diseases and pests and apply an early-warning system approach to ‘nip them in the bud’ Spraying with chemicals is always the last resort. Healthy plants tend to stay healthy.
Prune shrubs regularly and early in their life (at the right time of the year) Don’t let shrubs get too large and gangly, as then it will be too late and their appearance will never recover.
Remove spent flowers and buds every few days to prolong the flowering season. This is applies to shrubs as well as flowering annuals. The same applies to fruit trees. Always remove the diseased fruit remnants quickly.
Water on-demand when the soil and plants need it. Use soil moisture meters or test soils below the mulch. It is important not to over-water or under-water. The watering should to be just enough, and deep enough. Water regularly at the right time of the day, but not too little, too shallow, or too late. Water deeply and for longer, every few days rather than using a shallow watering every day or so. A long, deep and thorough watering encourages plants to root more deeply. It is always easier to maintain moisture levels in the deeper layers of the soil rather than at the surface. Encouraging deeper roots will make the plants a lot easier to look after.
The best compost is the one you make yourself, as it will be alive and thriving with worms and micro organisms. The simple combination of kitchen scraps, organic matter recycled from the garden and house makes the best compost. Garden prunings, leaves, grass clipping all make good compost. However you have to work hard to keep the composting processes working, including controlling moisture, turning over the layers and knowing when to harvest the compost and used as much. Composting within trenches in the garden itself can be very effective and does not require a lot of time or complex equipment.
Annuals that grow from seed and then die after flowering are the easiest plants to grow and bring a splash of color. Don’t plant bulbs or flowering plants in plain rows. Plant them in clumps of at least 5, 7 or 9 plants and in areas. This will boost their impact. Dead-head them regularly when they are flowering, to keep them flowering for longer. Set aside a particular section of your garden for annuals. Cover with a deep layer of mulch during the winter months to stop weeds developing.
Roses are tough and delightful plants. Choose roses that flower for longer periods. The older style bush roses are a lot easier to look after than the modern grated ones. Climbing roses are fabulous if you have the space and time to prune them to keep them under control. They will flower more prolifically if the branches are trained horizontally.
Pots are great if you have limited space, but they can also be very useful in larger gardens as well. You can move them around to create a feature, or move them away when the plants they contain have finished flowering. Tall pots also create a vertical aspect to a garden that helps with the balance. Setting up the pots with plenty of organic matter in the soil is the key to overcoming the drying out issues.
Many people create wonderful gardens but forget to add a focal point. Think of a painting or a photograph and the need to provide a focal point or a destination in your garden. A bench, water feature, garden seat, pagoda, a large pot or a tree provide excellent focal points to give the design depth and balance. Just make sure you leave enough room for the trunk to expand.
Only dig in the garden when it is dry or moist, not when it is wet and the soil will stick to the soles of your boots. If the soil is dug while wet it will become compacted and the texture will be ruined.
One of the joys of gardening is that it is always interesting and challenging. If nothing went wrong it would be boring. Nobody ever gets it right the first time. It is too unpredictable. It is fine and normal to constantly move plants to keep them happy, to replace plants that have got too old or straggly and to tinker with the design and colour schemes. No garden is ever finished and it will always go through good times and bad times as the seasons change and the plants age and mature. Gardening is a lifetime commitment and a lifetime of enjoyment.