First-Time Gardeners: Beat The Initial Fear!

First-Time Gardeners: Beat The Initial Fear!

You’ve just moved into a new home and would like to do something to the garden. Or maybe you’ve been looking at that garden for years and think it’s time for some outdoor creativity. You imagine flowers, herbs and vegetables. How do you start?

The first thing any experienced gardener will say is: think and be patient. There’s no such thing as an instant garden, except in television shows. It may be tempting to plant some seedlings when the weather turns hot and sunny in March, but those plants may wither after a night frost in early May.


The starting point is to work out where the north, south, east and western points lie in your garden. Then walk the garden at various times of the day. Determine where the first sunlight falls and where it sets. Find the sunniest spots in the garden and see how the sunlight changes close to trees or shade from walls and fences. Plants that prefer a position in full sun need about six hours of sunshine a day.

Walk in the garden when it’s raining and see where puddles form. This helps to determine which points in the garden have more moisture than others.


You need to understand the nature of the soil in your garden. The composition of an ideal soil by volume should be approximately 80 percent equal part sand and silt and 20 percent clay. Clear away any debris such as large stones or broken pieces of fencing. Dig holes about one foot deep at two or three places in the garden.

Take out a handful of soil and make a ball by tightening your hand around it. If the ball breaks into pieces when you open your hand, the soil is too sandy and needs more silt. If it keeps its shape but breaks apart when you touch the ball with a finger, the soil is fine. If the soil ball doesn’t break apart to the touch, it has too much clay.

Dig the soil throughout the garden to a depth of two feet and use a rake to break down the larger pieces of soil. Improve the soil by adding compost. Never add sand, as this creates a kind of concrete when it mixes with soil in the rain. Add peat moss if the soil has too much clay. If peat is not available, find a chimneysweep and buy some soot from him, as soot works like peat. Do not add any ashes from a fire.


Now choose your plants. Stick to the instructions about planting them in shady or sunny spots. Remember a few basic rules about planting; work with nature and the weather, never against it. If you want a rose garden, keep it as a rose garden. Roses need sun, care, fertilizers and fungicide. Roses make the soil unsuitable for other plants, except small seasonal flowers such as begonias.

Don’t despair if the garden is too shady. Tomatoes will not grow in the shade, but you can grow peas, beans, salad leaves, beets, radishes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. A climbing hydrangea will cover a shaded fence in beautiful flowers long into the autumn and make a lovely bordrer around the slate signs on your garden gate.

Zoe is an avid lifestyle blogger and experienced freelance writer who is currently writing for house sign company House Name Plate. Tweet your thoughts on this article to @bloggingstyle.

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