Planting a garden: getting started
Does your green thumb only extend as far as testing this season's hottest nail shade? Do you want to grow your own, but don't know where to start? Or, is your space for planting a garden decidedly small? Gardening can be pretty intimidating, so we've talked to three grow-your-own gurus for a quick and easy gardening how-to. Dig in!
Supplies for planting a garden
Cherry Menlove of cool homes and crafts blog cherrymenlove.com recommends the following:
- Terracotta pots of all sizes
- Garden twine for tying back and training plants
- Bamboo canes for support
- A trowel
- We also suggest The Balcony Gardener Book: Creative Ideas for Small Spaces by Isabelle Palmer.
Where to buy
- The success of The Balcony Gardener means you can now buy a huge range of supplies from their website, thebalconygardener.com (we like the herb planter pots above, £20.95).
- Check out Anthropologie, or DIY shops for terracotta pots.
- Easy Living's Food & Homes Stylist Jennifer Haslam likes using leftover exterior eggshell or masonry paint to spruce up terracotta pots (like Trumpet Masonry Paint, £47 for 5l at Little Greene).
- A fan of vintage? Use old tins found at car boot sales for a retro look.
Where to plant your garden and what to grow
Window boxesSimon & Garfunkel were onto something. "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are all fabulous for growing in pots or in a window box, with the rosemary and thyme flowering during the year, too," says Cherry Menlove.
"You don't have to grow them from seed or anything complicated like that. In fact the best thyme plant I ever bought was from a supermarket. It's still going strong years later."
Containers or pots"With regards to vegetables, I always think that climbing peas and beans are fantastic for growing in pots or smaller spaces because they can simply go upwards, where there is no shortage of space," recommends Cherry Menlove. "Use two large plant pots and grow broad beans in one and flowering sweet peas in another. That way you will have food and flowers."
"Salad crops are incredibly easy to grow in a container," says Isabelle Palmer, director of The Balcony Gardener. "They are fast growing so you're quick to see results, and it makes life easy if you want a few fresh leaves for a side dish or sandwich."
Easy Living's Food Editor David Herbert recommends nerines and pelargonium as easy container flowers, while Cherry Menlove suggests clematis as a flowering climber perfect for container gardening. Which leads us to...
Easy vegetables and flowers for planting a garden
Vegetables"Choose small varieties of vegetables that won't grow too big such as baby carrots, cucumber, peas, salad leaves, tomatoes, zucchini and herbs," advises Isabelle Palmer.
"When space is limited, the best varieties are those that are easiest to grow and that get used the most," says David Herbert. Here's what made the cut in his garden:
- French beans and runner beans (try 'the prince' variety) will continue climbing and cropping, provided you keep picking them regularly. A good idea is to sow extra seed every 3-4 weeks to ensure a continuous supply.
- Courgettes 'Soleil' gives bright yellow fruits on mildew-free plants, while 'firenze' is a compact, yet plentiful variety of green courgette suitable for patio growing.
- Spinach Try 'perpetual' or 'space' varieties.
- Salad leaves Try rocket and lots of 'cut and come again' salad leaves from seed - again, sowing them every few weeks.
- Clematis "If you are looking for a flowering climber, then do some research into Clematis," explains Cherry Menlove. "They grow very quickly, are great left to mind their own business. If you follow three rules of thumb you should have success: feed well, keep the roots cool and allow the plant to catch the sun."
- Marigolds "Plant them next to tomatoes: the odor helps deter insect pests," says Isabelle Palmer.
- Roses "In my garden, the rose rules as queen of the flowers," says David Herbert. "They are not hard to grow, especially if you stick to shrub roses which provide plenty of hearty old fashioned blooms and require very little maintenance. If you have the space for a shrub, try 'Charles de mille' (gallica rose), or for climbing roses try the 'mme Alfred carriere' variety.
- "Nerines are equally good for containers or flower beds. They like to be congested and slightly crowded, making them perfect for containers with a few different flowers," advises David Herbert.
Three top tips for planting a garden
Pay attention to your location and growing conditions"Is it sunny, shady, or a windy spot? For example, salad greens flourish when shaded by bigger plants, and tomatoes grow well in a sunny position," points out Isabelle Palmer.
Maintain, maintain, maintain"All vegetables will thrive with a side dressing of potting mix once a month along with weekly fertilizer," says Isabelle.
Arm yourself with a small amount of knowledge"Do at least 10 minutes of online research about your choice before you go and spend money on it. There is so much information out there and you can be really specific about your own personal requirements. I recommend this strongly. If you don't succeed having spent time and effort, I think you will be discouraged and not try again - which is a small tragedy!" says Cherry Menlove.
The best thing about planting a garden
"Nothing smells as good as roses in your home that have been cut from your own garden. And nothing tastes as good as something you have grown yourself," explains Cherry Menlove. "You feel pride and sheer excitement when you observe something you've cared for grow, thrive and produce."
"But watch out, it's addictive. Before you know it your Sky+ box will be set to record Gardeners World every Friday night and the theme tune will play in your head. And shortly after that you'll actually be staying in to watch it. Don't say I didn't warn you!"