Eyeing your neighbour’s perfectly edged garden? You know — the one brimming with lush perennials, stunning hanging baskets, and not a wilted flower in sight? Even if you’re new to the horticultural scene, you can banish garden envy and start your own prized oasis. Not so sure? Trust me, I’ve been there. Over ten years ago, I decided to tackle my front and back gardens (or lack thereof). At the time, I didn’t know the difference between top soil, peat, loam or mulch. But I was determined, and I succeeded by following just a few simple steps – many of which I learned from gardening guru Mark Cullen.
Here are some top tips for beginning gardeners
Luckily, gardening inspiration is all around to help you achieve your vision. Take a look at gardening magazines and websites (including Pinterest boards). You can also stroll through your neighbourhood, taking note (or even snapping a few pics) of flowers and shrubs that appeal to you. Also talk to gardening staff for their recommendations (bring photos of your garden bed so they can see what you’re working with).
You don’t need to spend a fortune, but before you dig in, you’ll need some basic tools. I remember my grandfather using a garden fork for everything — from digging to lifting and even weeding. Well, let’s just say that I’ve learned there are different tools suited for different needs. So I’ve invested in shovels, a weeder (because it’s almost impossible to grab roots with your hands), a hose, gloves and an edger to give my garden beds those well-defined lines. Not sure what to stock your shed with? Check out our interview with gardening genius, Mark Cullen, as he counts down his favourites tools.
As my eyes met the mother of all hanging baskets brimming with begonias and fuschia, I was determined to take a risk on the “shade” baskets for my sun exposed front yard. Fast forward to mid-July and all that remained were the shrivelled memories of what were once big-blossomed magenta beauties. Lesson learned — don’t assume the flowers will grow just like the picture on the plant tag and know how much sun your garden gets daily. Also, get to know Canada’s plant hardiness zone maps . This indicates the climate in your region, which will help you to choose the plants, shrubs and flowers that will do best in your garden.
Instead of undertaking both the front and backyards (with grandiose ideas of instant blooms and emerald-green foliage), start small. Pick an area under a front window or at the side of your house. Start with a few hanging baskets and one or two shrubs for greenery. Then, work your way up.
Love ’Em; Don’t Leave ’Em
Now that you’ve planted your perky perennials, awe-inspiring annuals and head-turning hanging baskets, some basic maintenance is required. Mark Cullen recommends mulch. “Spread a 5 cm layer of shredded bark mulch over the soil surface to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth,” he suggests. Also, walk around your garden daily and use a sharp hoe to knock down young weeds as they appear. And, water deeply once a week allowing the top 2” of soil to dry between watering.
Gardening is a journey; it’s about testing and learning to see what will flourish in your region. You’ll try. You’ll fail. You’ll try again and then you’ll succeed, especially if you’re willing to learn. It may take a while, so be generous with the TLC (to yourself and your plants), nurture your green thumb and get growing!
What other tips worked for you when you were just starting your garden? Let us know in the comments box below.