Archive | Novice Gardeners Advice and Pointers

Learning to garden is part trial and error and part recommendation, learning and application of information.

Growing all Sorts of Stuff

Book Cover

Why You Might want to Grow Edible Stuff

  • Food stuff is top of the list in Mazlow’s hierarchy of need.
  • ‘Growing your own’ to feed the family has been a priority for centuries.
  • Farmers, market gardeners and smallholders all contribute edible stuff as do allotment holders and the majority of gardeners.
  • Windowsills, greenhouses, conservatories and sunny sheltered spots can be used to grow tomatoes and salad crops for example.
  • Herbs add taste to many dishes  and  basil, mint, parsley, rosemary and chillies,  are all stuff you can grow quite easily.
  • Stuff called Curcurbits such as courgettes, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers are comparatively easy to grow with a bit of shelter and warmth.
  • Tasty specialties are now more commonplace but Pineapples were grown in special stove houses in the 17th and 18th centuries.

What Other Stuff You Might want to Grow

  • Man can’t live by bread alone so aesthetic stuff needs to be grown to feed the inner man.
  •  Flowers and decorative plants come in all shapes and sizes. Cacti, Holly, Ivy and poinsettia are seasonal stuff you can try.
  • Stuff for indoors includes a range of bulbs and windowsill plants. Old Aspidistra and other evergreen leaved plants have a reputation of cleaning the air. A reputation probably earned when we all had coal fires.
  • Growing stuff in a formal manner from a large landscape to a small Knot garden can be time consuming but rewarding.
  • Organic and environmentally friendly grown stuff has its own reward.
  • Forestry, heath and heather, parks and pleasure grounds all serve a visual or emotional purpose.

How to Grow Stuff

You will have guessed it – read the book!


Plunge Bed Success this Spring

Alpine house
I have reported before about the Alpine house at RHS Harlow Carr. Now we can begin to see the fruits of all the labours both in growing and display.

There must be 100 different plants on display many of which were in flower this week. I know the pictures are small but how many varieties can you recognise?

Just by observing the plunge beds regularly, I am picking up tips that I hope to be able to use in my own cultivation.

Alpine House Harlow Carr

See Gardeners Tips on Plunge Beds

Beginners instructions for building a plunge bed for growing Tete-a-tete narcissus from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society.
‘To construct a plunge-bed dig a pit in a well drained piece of ground that will not flood – near a tree or hedge will be fine. A wooden frame, sufficient to hold the pots, on top of the ground will do equally as well. Place the pots in the plunge-bed or frame and cover them with soil/compost/sand to a depth of about 5cm. They can now be forgotten until the spring. A strong cardboard box stored in a dry cold garage or shed will do equally as well. Cover the pots in the same way as above and don’t let them dry out.’


Top Tips for Growing in Pots

Sedum bootimus-Don’t judge the results by the crop you harvest but by the seeds you sow

Ten Tips for Growing in Pots and Containers

  1. Terracotta is a sympathetic choice for containers in your garden. They are also porous and let in air and allow plant roots to cool through evaporation.
  2. Try several pots of the same size and or shape in a group (I like ‘long tom’ pots). Planted with Agrostis Cloud grass will create a real impact.
  3. Exotics like Banana plants look shapely and they can be moved, pot and all into shelter or wrapped for winter protection.
  4. Keep a sense of balance between the needs of your container plants. They need water, food and light but not an excess of any one feature. The pot is a micro environment that needs regular care such as watering / drainage, fertilizer and shelter.
  5. Trailing plants will benefit from a bit of training in  the right direction.  Pinch out rampant plants and those you want to branch. Pick off faded flowers.
  6. Constant watering can wash out nutrients so give a weekly liquid feed.
  7. Mix plants of different colours, textures, habits and heights. Variegated plants and scented plants often work well.
  8. Locate the pot carefully as the aesthetic of the base and pot combination can be important. A gravel or coloured chipping base can be very effective.
  9. Do not be too conventional with the container. In addition to the old gardeners boot (above) I have seen a wheel barrow planted with courgettes and fire buckets (with holes) used for displays. Use your artistic skills like many container on the top of barges that are brightly painted.
  10. Choose appropriate plants. Below is a second top ten of plants you may want to try in pots.

Top Ten Plants for Outdoor Pots

  1. Clematis cartmanii ‘Joe’ is a white, spring flowering trailer that can be tied to an upright. Try it with blue Crocus or Muscari.

Continue Reading →


Autumn Blues

Lister Park 067

Every colour has its day and for blue that is often in Autumn. This is a selection of our blue to purple plants showing off during mid to late October.

Blue conifer

There are not too many plants that form a blue leaf or needles in this case. Eventually this Firs young needles will turn green.
Some Hostas are said to have blue leaves or blue/green.


Michaelmas daisies are one of our favourites on Gardeners Tips as you may have noticed.

Geranium  Rozane Gerwat

Blue is a tough colour to get right in the garden. Roses, Dahlia and Narcissus are renown for not having blue varieties. I have cheated with this hard Geranium that was in flower earlier in the year.


Five Soil Types

Soil Color and Quality

There are potentially as many soils as there are gardens but they can be classified into five types.

Heavy Clay Soil

Minute particles of clay stick together in a gluey mess when wet and go rock hard when dry.
Often clay soil is very fertile. Clay soils can be improved with drainage, coarse grit, or the addition of coarse organic matter as humus.

Sandy Soil
Sand particles are much larger than clay making sandy soil free draining, light and quick to warm up in spring. Nutrients wash through quickly and watering and feeding of plants is needed. Sandy soil can be improved with the addition of humus.

Lime free Soil

Peaty or dark lime free soils are generally rich in organic matter. Acid in nature, below ph7.0, they tend to be moisture retentive and suit acid loving plants. In extremes they may be hard to re-wet if they dry out too much. Perennial plant selection

Alkaline Soil
Limey soils are often pale, shallow and stoney. They are free draining and quick to warm up in the sunshine. Moderately fertile they benefit from the addition of organic matter.

Average Soil

The dream of every gardener and found when soil has been well cultivated and enhanced for many seasons. Local conditions make a fixed definition hard but reasonable drainage and neutral to slightly acid soil makes for an average soil that is suitable for the majority of plants.

Soil Tips

Consider your own soil by looking at the colour, feeling the texture and observing the plants that grow best in yours or local soils.
Avoid boggy soil that will not drain as plants need air at their roots or they rot or drown. Airless soil also attracts moss.
Impoverished soils have the nutrients leached out with water or taken by earlier crops. Add back humus as well as general NPK fertilisers.


One spadeful of soil will be teaming with 1000’s of life forms

Soil Color and Quality by elvisripley CC BY-NC 2.0


Growing at School (a Gardening Scheme)

Sunflower -Valentine

Gardening is not lesson time but fun time even if you do the growing at school. ‘The ‘RHS Campaign for School Gardening’ aims to inspires and supports schools to provide children with gardening opportunities to enhance their skills and boost their development.’

Quick Result Seeds

  • Sprouting seeds that grow in a jar without any soil.
  • Mustard and cress a salad crop you can grow on a wet facecloth or old sponge.
  • Annual seeds flower for just one year. They can be bought in mixtures containing lots of different plant seeds.
  • Pot marigolds also called Calendula have big seeds,  bright yellow or orange flowers and flower the same year they are planted.
  • Sunflowers are ever popular link
  • Annual seeds from Thompson & Morgan

More about the Scheme

Companion Planting

  • Waitrose, Marshalls, Dorset Cereals and the RHS are promoting a Campaign for School Gardening. The aim is to provide pupils with hands-on learning opportunities in school grounds to grow plants and garden sustainably.

Continue Reading →


What does Self-Sown Mean?

Hesperis matronalis Alba

Seeds are self sown when seeds germinate and grow without the help of a gardener. The majority of plants grow, flower, get pollinated then set seeds. If seeds are then distributed naturally from the plant they are self sown.

What Plants are Self Sown

  • Weeds are among the most common self sown plants. I am thinking of Dandelions, Daisies and Buttercups but unfortunately there are lots more.
  • Before cultivated gardens anything not grown for food was probably ‘nature sown’ in that the plant did it for it’s self.
  • In a broadleaved wood you may get Oak trees growing from self sown acorns whilst Rowan and Elderberry are sown by birds eating berries and dropping seeds.
  • Garden flowers that are commonly self sown include Foxgloves, Nigella, Candytuft, Poppy, For-get-me-not and Nasturtium.

How are Seeds Self Sown

  • Wind distributes seeds that are very light or have a float mechanism like a Dandelion clock or Sycamore seed’s wings.
  • Some seeds are expressed from seed pods by firing. Pansy seedpods tighten up and the ripe seed is squirted a good distance from the parent plant.
  • Birds and animals including humans can be responsible for spreading seeds. Some stick to your clothing others are eaten but not digested like Tomatoes.

Top Ten Self-Sown Garden Plants

  1. This list was compiled with the help of Crocus whose first choice was Alchemilla mollis aka Lady’s mantle, good for edging sunny and shady borders and filling cracks in paving.
  2. Aquilegia ‘Nora Barlow’ or Columbines self-seed readily and are very easy to grow in sun or partial shade.

Continue Reading →


Chionodoxa – Glory of The Snow


Chionodoxa are beautiful, hardy spring flowering bulbs that are easy to grow. They grow 6inches tall from small bulbs and have pretty star-shaped flowers with long narrow leaves. (Also spelled Chinodoxa and common name Glory of the Snow). The blossom has a central line on each of 6 petals.

Cultivation 0f Chionodoxa

They do well in most garden soil. Plant 2-3″ deep.
Chinodoxa are most effective when planted in clumps and allowed to naturalise.
Suitable for rockeries and growing in pots.
Flowers lasts for 3-4 weeks, after which both the flowers and the foliage die back.

Chinodoxa Varieties

Chinodoxa Lucilliae is widely available and flowers bright blue
Chinodoxa Luciliae Alba is a clear white with star shaped flowers in March.
Chinodoxa  Forbesii Pink Giant produces a wealth of pink flowers.
Chinodoxa Forbesii is bright blue with a white centre.

Chinodoxia Alba

Continue Reading →


Help with January Gardeners Jobs

The new year gets gardeners all enthused but it is also a time to show patience. The gnomes wont rush to help you anytime soon Hi-ho.

Helpful Tips

  • Beware experts – book learning may not translate into a better garden.Most experts make me worry.
  • Worry less about experience. Applied experience as a result of your own gardening is better than the secondhand variety.
  • Maslov’s hierarchy of needs applies to garden plants as much as gardeners. The basic needs of food, water then shelter in an appropriate home need to be taken care of first. No need to rush into being an exotic all knowing gardener.

Guardians of the Mint








Jobs left from Last Year

  • Clean pots, ornaments and seed trays, insulate outdoor taps and do those maintenance jobs you have avoided.
  • Build compost heaps, raised beds and hard landscaping when weather permits.
  • In dry weather treat wooden furniture and structures.

Plant Matters

  • Prune soft fruit bushes and apple/pear trees.
  • Force rhubarb by covering with a bucket filled loosely with straw.
  • Sow alpine seeds and plant winter flowering clematis cirrosa or napaulensis.
  • Check over wintering tubers, cold greenhouse plants and pinch out the tops of sweet peas to get bushy well rooted plants.
  • Prune grape vines before the sap rises to avoid bleeding.


  • Keep taking the green and look after the sprouts.
  • Bring hyacinth bulbs indoors for scent and flowering.
  • Gather leeks and root veg roughly clearing the ground.

Month by Month Gardening for Guru & Novice

Book Cover

The Royal Horticultural Society produce many books and this one, RHS Gardening Month by Month by Ian Spencer contains over 1,300 seasonal tasks. Covering tasks for every part of the garden, expert plant advice and lists of star plants from January to December it is a great confidence booster. When you have finished those tasks it will be time to start a new year!

Whether you are a green-fingered guru or are just starting out enjoy 12 months of successful gardening. With help on what to do when to ensure your plants are well cared for and your garden blooms all year round.
Easy-to-follow, this guide not only tells you what to do when, but shows you how to do it.
You only need to browse and not follow slavishly.

Continue Reading →


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes