Archive | Novice Gardeners Advice and Pointers

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

Beginning Gardening Tips on Bulbs for Beginners


These short tips are designed to help you avoid failures and give you success without having to worry about too many rights and wrongs. You haven’t missed spring yet but to get going you need a quick win!

Quick Wins with Bulbs

It is hard to go wrong with bulbs. (The flower is already sealed within the bulb and they just need a bit of help and protection from you).
In February you can buy pots of daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinth and crocus that have been grown for you. It is easy to put them into bare soil, a container or bigger plant pot and wait for them to flower.
I would take them out of the retailers pot as they will have been grown tightly packed together but I wouldn’t try to separate them. Plant them at the same depth as they have been grown so you do not need to excavate a deep hole.
When planted in the ground or a new container water them gently.
Daffs and crocus will flower again next year but the tulips may not survive (it won’t be your fault, it is just nature)

Summer Bulbs

  • Summer bulbs are the next job to get great colour this summer with minimum know-how and effort.
  • In March or April clear weeds from a patch of garden  and you have made a flower bed.
  • Break up the top of the soil so water and air can get down to the plants then individually bury your bulbs twice as deep as the bulb . The soil on top of the bulb will be double the depth of the bulb.
  • I would start with some short stemmed Lilies and if I know my garden is very wet I would but some sand or gravel at the bottom of the planting hole. If you are not sure which way is the top and what is the root then lay the bulb on the side and let the plant choose.
  • Gladioli, Begonnias and Dahlia will all produce very colourful shows in summer. Glads have a nobbly bit at the top, begonias have a slight hollow and Dahlias have a twiggy bit to show which way up to plant them.
  • Read the instructions on the packet for general guidance but you do not need to slavishly follow everything they say.


Beggars Begonias

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Growing Pots of Grass

This is not an injunction to grow Pot, Hash, Skunk, Kief, or Marijuana all correctly forms of Canabis sativa relatives of which produce hemp. Rather my suggestion is to use a  pot or container to grow a collection of Grasses.
Contrasting colours, textures, habits and heights will provide long lasting interest. The grasses will be tactile and give a sense of movement in a breeze.The pot can be moved around to change the display.

The combination of plants are endless but this is a selection of easy to grow and obtain grasses that you could start with.

  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’
  • Carex flagellifera
  • Carex comans ‘Frosted Curls’
  • Stipa tenuissima
  • Festuca glauca ‘Golden Toupee’

How to Pot Up
Select a pot, 15″ diameter will hold the 5 plants.
Put broken crocks or stones at the bottom of a container with holes for drainage.
Half fill with compost containing slow release fertilizer and water storing gel granules.
Cram the plants in close together to get an instant effect.
Pack in the remaining compost around the roots and sides of the plants.
Put some pebbles or grit on the surface of the compost to retain moisture.
Water and enjoy the display.


St Valentine’s Flowers but Aubretia?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so keep an eye open for unusual sights on the 14th February. Rather than Roses or posies this Aubretia plant has decided to grow a heart shape all of its own.

Aubretia is a compact low growing plant that flourishes on walls and rockeries in full sun. Aubretia is easy to grow at the front of the border on any reasonably drained fertile soil and will spread naturally by seed.

Aubretia deltoides or rock cress is good for ground cover and is available in shades of blue and purple.

Grow from seed by sowing from late winter to early summer in a good free draining seed compost just covering the seed. Make sure the compost is moist and not wet and seal in a polythene bag until after germination which usually takes 14-21 days at 18C (65F).

Aubretia is an evergreen perennial plant that is attractive to butterflies.

Plants by Thompson Morgan

Seeds by Thompson Morgan

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Corms for Beginners

Crocus and Gladioli are easy plants to grow from corms. Plant some ‘Glads’ in March for summer flowering and some Crocus in Autumn for next spring. You may even find some Crocus in pots that will flower now and can then be planted out for next spring.

What is a Corm?
Corms are (underground) stems that are internally solid tissues with a fibrous outer. This differentiates corms from bulbs, which are made up of layered fleshy scales that are modified leaves. As a result, when a corm is cut in half it is solid, but when a true bulb is cut in half it is made up of layers. The Corm is the food store for the next generation of plants.

Crocus and Gladioli are two of the best known plants grown from corms. Also Cyclamen, Bananas, Diermia, Crocosmia, Liatris and Freesia are corm based plants.

Roots growing from the bottom of the corm are normal fibrous roots are formed as the shoots grow. The second type of roots are thicker layered roots that form as the new corms are growing, they are called contractile roots and they pull the corm deeper into the soil.

Corms of some species of plants are replaced every year by the plant with growth of a new corm at the shoot base just above the old corm. As the plants grow and flower, the old corm is used up and shrivels away. The new corm that replaces the old corm grows in size, especially after flowering is done.

Corms can form many small cormlets called cormels at the base of the plant and these can be grown on for subsequent seasons. They grow true to the parent plant and are a way of increasoing stock. A corm can be cut into wedges and grow a new plant as long as there is a bud on each part.

A description and graphic of a good corm is available from the University of Illinios


Beginners Seed Tips

Easy Annuals ‘Fairy Mixed‘    by Thompson Morgan

Beginners and novices can grow some colourful annuals quickly and cheaply. If the packet instructions says ‘can be sown direct outdoors then do so when the soil warms up.  If you want to get a quick start use a tray on a warm window ledge.

Starting  with Seeds

  • Always read the instructions on the packet of seeds.
  • Use a good quality seed or potting compost with a level surface.
  • Water with a fine spray and leave to drain.
  • Scatter seed evenly or place individual seeds in each cell and use a clear lid to maintain humidity.
  • Maintain an even temperature, generally 20º C will suit most seeds but again read the instructions.
  • Allow air to circulate once leaves start to appear.

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Gardening Jargon Busting

A product put around the roots and base of a plant to retain moisture and stop soil erosion. Inert material like gravel or glass beads may be appropriate for some circumstance whilst bark chippings, peat substitute or compost is often used.
Bark Mulch Cyclamen

This term confusingly covers two items. Firstly compost made from rotted down green and brown garden waste that contains natural nutrients and humus to retain moisture. Secondly purchased compost is a manufactured product sold in plastic bags as a growing medium. Thus there are seed composts, potting composts, general purpose composts and specialist composts for individual genus like Orchids, Cacti, Alpines etc.

digging your soil to produce a fine crumbly top to the soil for planting seeds.

Crops grown together to utilise space, light and water more efficiently like lettuce between peas early in the season or garlic between roses.

Catch crops
Filling seasonal gaps particularly in the kitchen garden with fast growing crops like radishes or lettuce.

Lettuce -  Bijou & Freckles

Companion Planting
Use of one plant to help another like marigolds in a greenhouse to suppress white fly or planting onions with carrots to deter root fly.

A plant that is meant to live for more than 2 years given the right treatment. It may be hardy and thus frost tolerant, herbaceous by dieing down into a root stock, or tender where it needs some winter protection.
 Perennial Heuchera

Annual & Biannual
Annuals last only one year (or part) from seed sowing, growing, flowering and setting new seed such as Antirrhinum, Alyssum and Lobelia. A biannial is sown one year to flower the next but then expire like Wallflowers or Sweet Williams


February Tips for Gardeners


Beginners Tips

  • In the UK it is still too cold to start most seeds and plants. Leave those tempting seedlings in the garden centres and wait until at least the end of the month to sow broad beans, early peas, leeks and sweetpeas.
  • On a fine February morning you can improve your garden with a spring clean. Cut down old annuals that you left in place for the seed heads, edge the lawn if it looks forlorn, and tidy up loose leaves.
  • Treat paths that have moss and algae built up and repair any raised or misplace paving stones.
  • Spread well rotted manure or compost on the top of your vegetable patch and around hungry shrubs like roses.
  • Review seed and plant catalogues and decide what you want to grow and where. If you are going to give each plant enough space you do not need as many plants as you expect so buy fewer good quality seeds and stock.
  • Keep feeding the birds, they will soon have young to feed

Advanced Tips

  • If you left your soil turned over in large clumps for the frost to break them down too a fine tilth, then wait a bit longer as February can have some terrific frosts.
  • With a heated propagator you can start fuchsia cuttings with a bit of bottom heat.
  • Remember all the early plants you start now will need space and protection from frost for quite a while yet. I always grow more than I can protect.
  • Look after your quality tools. Give them a clean and sharpen before they are pressed into really active service. Prepare an oily sand plunge pit so you can quickly oil and clean them in busy period.
  • Prune and reshape fruit trees but not stone fruit which need to wait until summer.
  • Check over and do any preventative maintenance jobs now so you can concentrate your efforts on growing show stopping plants later on.

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