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Blog
How to plant a garden
Add value to your home
08 March 2021

How to plant a garden

Rosie Hamilton
Writer & Researcher

Table of contents

  1. 1. Benefits of starting a garden
  2. 2. How to start a garden
  3. 3. What to plant in a garden
  4. 4. When to plant a garden
  5. 5. How to learn gardening skills

Planting a garden is one of the most rewarding and valuable home improvements you can make. Not only will the end result make your house more attractive, the process of planting and gardening is incredibly therapeutic.

Whether you’ve just bought your first house with a garden, are looking to get your outdoor space ready for the warmer weather, or you’re starting completely from scratch, these basics should get you growing in no time.

Benefits of starting a garden

Gardens make our living spaces nicer, calmer, and more beautiful. A nice outdoor space can be pretty beneficial to your property’s value too.

Appearance

Careful garden landscaping can transform a space. You can make a space look larger, more welcoming, or more private, simply by choosing the right plants and design features.

Wellbeing

Gardening is not only good exercise (helping you burn around 330 calories an hour, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), it can help you get your daily dose of Vitamin D, and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Property Value

It goes without saying that gardens are a key selling point for many home buyers, and a beautiful garden can hugely increase the value of a property. A garden is an extra living or entertaining space, an aesthetic focal point, and a way for a homeowner to have their own private place in nature.

Curious to know how much your home is currently worth? Get a free, online valuation here. It'll give you a detailed estimate of your property's value, based on an analysis of the latest property data from your area. Try it now.

How to start a garden

Although you might be raring to get going outdoors, the best gardens are created in the careful planning that happens before the planting starts.

Prepare

Understanding your garden is the best way to ensure your plants will grow well. Take the time to figure out the conditions you've got to work with, in particular: soil quality and sunlight. This will have a large bearing on the types of plants that'll thrive in your new garden.

Soil

  • Clay - If your soil feels sticky, and easily forms clumps that don't fall apart when you drop them, it's likely that it's clay-based. This type of soil is quite difficult to dig, and for roots to penetrate. To improve the texture, add lots of well rotted manure or compost.

  • Sandy / Chalky - If your soil falls easily through your fingers, and is very fine, adding organic matter will help boost the nutrients in the soil, making it more fertile for planting.

Sun

Although you can improve the quality of the soil in your garden, you'll have to work with the sun (or shade).

Many flowering plants, or vegetables need several hours of sun a day in order to grow their best. This means they're likely to be best suited to a south-facing position, or an east or west facing garden that gets a good portion of sun a day.

However, if you have a north-facing garden, do not despair! A number of lovely plants grow in shady spots, like: ferns, hostas, and heuchera.

Plan

Once you know what sort of environment your garden can provide, you can start the fun part: actually figuring out what you want to plant.

We'd recommend starting by:

  • Researching the types of plants you'd like to grow.

  • Deciding whether you'd like to grow plants from seed, buy plug plants, or purchase larger plants that you can put into the garden straight away.

  • Considering whether you'll need to dig out flower beds, or whether you're going to design your garden using containers.

It can help to draw out your garden design first, so that you can play around with layout, and figure out how many plants you'll need to fill the space, before you buy anything.

Although it's less fun than thinking about what plants you're going to grow, it's also worth considering logistics in your garden design too. Do you need to place to keep your wheelie bin, or park your car? How easy will it be to water the plants if there's not any rain for awhile?

For tips on making the most of a small outdoor space, head here.

What to plant in a garden

There's hardly ever a 'right' or 'wrong' thing to plant in your garden. You should plant based on the sort of gardens you like, the conditions you're able to provide, and your budget. Our one tip is: the closer you can match your plant's needs to the natural conditions of your garden, the easier they'll be to look after.

One of the key parts of starting to garden is learning to be a little bit flexible, and trying out a range of things to see what works best for you.

Remember: start small, and build up once you know what works (and what you enjoy doing) in your garden.

  • Complete beginners - Bulbs are a great thing to choose if you're a gardening beginner (or even if you're a tried-and-tested expert). They require very little maintenance, add dramatic pops of colour, and can be planted in either beds or containers. Plant early flowering bulbs - like snowdrops and daffodils- in autumn, and summer-flowering bulbs - like lilies - in spring.

  • Small budget - If you don't want to spend too much on setting up your garden, try and grow as much as you can from seed. Seeds can be bought much more cheaply, and in greater batch sizes, than plants, but they do require a bit more work to get them garden-ready!

  • Nature-lovers - If your aim is to attract as much nature as possible to your garden, plant pollinator friendly flowers like scotch prize marigolds, hyssop and dahlia mignon. Replacing fences with dense hedges is also a great way to encourage small birds to find a home in your garden.

  • Vegetable garden - If you're lucky enough to have a sunny spot, tomatoes are a great edible plant for beginners. In the right conditions they'll grow quickly, and provide a significant crop. They're pretty thirsty plants so remember to water regularly, and feed with a liquid tomato food at regular intervals. Radishes and salad leaves are also great additions to a beginner's vegetable garden, but watch out for caterpillars!

When to plant a garden

As a general rule, the best time to start a garden is in spring.

Spring in the UK might be officially defined by the spring equinox (usually around the 20th March), but for gardeners, spring really begins when the risk of the last frost has passed.

This is different in different parts of the country. Areas of London are unlikely to have any frost after mid-March. In contrast, areas of Lincoln are still at risk of frost until early May. You can find out when the risk of last frost has passed here.

Once the threat of frost has passed in your area, you can start planting with confidence.

Spring isn't the only good time of year to work on the garden, however. Autumn is a great time to plant perennials (plants that live for more than three years).

Try and avoid doing large scale gardening in winter and summer.

Winter in the UK brings cold and harsh conditions - including frozen ground - which can be damaging to plants, and make it much more difficult to do the logistical bits of gardening, like digging beds.

On the other hand, the hot weather and direct sun that comes in summer, produces quite harsh conditions for introducing new plants into your garden. You'll end up having to water your garden much more regularly, particularly warm weather isn't ideal for many types of flowers.

Note: Gardens surrounded by walls or other buildings tend to be warmer and more protected from the elements. Weather conditions in these gardens are therefore likely to be milder.

How to learn gardening skills

The internet contains a wealth of information for budding gardeners.

Websites such as: The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), Gardener's World, or House and Garden, are great places to look for tips and advice. Many garden centres also have online guides on gardening, and specific plant care.

If you're looking for something a little more formal, there are a number of books on gardening available - we'd recommend anything by the RHS or the National Trust as a starting point. Many botanical gardens also run courses and talks on topics ranging from general horticulture, to caring for specific types of tropical plant.

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