Gardening Tips for Beginners

Not everyone is born with a green thumb. But that doesn't mean that you should be put off from learning how to look after your garden. Here we will look at some of the basic techniques for creating a fantastic garden that everyone should know.

The benefits of gardening

There are so many wonderful perks to gardening. Studies show that gardening can provide real benefits for both your physical and mental health. The physical movements involved in tending to your garden can help to reduce stress, depression and anxiety, while also lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure.

If you decide to create a vegetable garden then you're also going to make a big impact on your health. Rather than buying fruit and veg from the supermarkets (often pumped full of preservatives and growth hormones and flown half way around the world) you can take your organic fruit and veg straight from the ground onto your plate – minus the nasties. You may find it difficult to grow some specific vegetables yourself due to the climate in the UK but work with what you've got and read our section on 'growing your own fruit and vegetables' for tips.

Gardening also has a positive impact on the environment, albeit a small one. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air making it cleaner for everyone else. They also reduce chemicals and bacteria in soil preventing them from damaging the ecosystem around them, or making their way into streams and rivers. So you can be confident that the work you are doing is benefitting more than just your own life.

Beyond the environmental and health impact, gardening is favoured by so many people simply because it is a fun thing to do. Gardening is among one of the most popular hobbies in the UK. It provides people with a physical activity that gets them away from the computer or TV. It also channels creativity, allowing them to show their personality through choices of flowers, arrangements and other techniques. And finally, rather than providing instant gratification, gardening rewards patience, taking weeks, months and sometimes years to show the fruits of your labour, but always guaranteed to bring a smile when it does.

Getting started

Despite the many benefits of gardening, people sometimes find themselves put off the idea. A common reason for this is that they think that they might not have the physical stamina to weed and dig and spend lots of time crouched down on their feet. However, while it might be difficult at first, tending to your garden and using all the ranges of motion required to do so will do wonders for the strength of your joints and tendons in the long run. And don't forget that there is no one rushing you! You are your own boss in the garden and you can go at your own pace. Gardening is for everyone and no matter how young or old you are or how big or small your garden is there will always be something for you to do.

Essential equipment

When it comes to purchasing equipment for gardening, you don't need to spend lots of money to make an impact. Here are some of the most common tools which you will come to rely on as you potter around your garden.

Gardening gloves

Thorns, mud, slime, nettles – there are plenty of hazards to watch out for in the average UK garden and without a strong pair of gloves you are likely to end up with dirty and damaged skin. You should try a few pairs on before you buy them and find a pair that will give you protection but aren't so bulky that you end up fumbling around.


After gloves, the tool that you will likely use the most in your garden is a trowel. They are perfect for planting, weeding, poking and some light digging. Opt for one with a non-slip handle to give you extra control over what you are doing.


Another garden necessity that you will almost certainly use is a spade. A spade is used primarily for digging holes and moving soil around your garden. While spades can be on the costly side, they are the kind of tool that rarely break and should last you a very long time. Depending on how tough the soil in your garden is you may want to purchase one with a reinforced steel head that will make easy work of stony soil.


This gardening tool will be unlikely to leave the shed in the summer months, but come autumn and winter the rake will become your best friend and possibly one of the only tools you'll be using regularly. You can use your rake to gather up leaves and debris that accumulates in your garden once the weather begins to turn.


Pruning shears or 'pruners' as they are also known are used to trim and shape the plants and foliage in your garden. There are two key types of pruning shears – bypass pruners and anvil pruners. Bypass pruners use two curved blades which move past each other like a pair of scissors to make their cut. Anvil pruners have one long straight blade and are bulkier and less forgiving than bypass pruners, so if you are only doing some light pruning then you are generally better suited to bypass pruners.


Weeds can quickly begin to overrun your garden and undo all your good work. Hoes are a weed's worst enemy and can be used to drag them up from the ground. As with many gardening tools, the most durable are made from stainless steel.


You'll need something to transport all of your gardening debris, and most people will opt for a wheelbarrow. However, if your garden is only small then a plastic flexi-tub (similar to a washing basket) may suffice and can be easily cleaned. Finally, don't forget to buy a watering can which will make sure your plants get all the sustenance they require to grow up strong and healthy.

Grow your own

Growing your own vegetables doesn't need to be complicated. Here in the UK it's relatively easy to grow vegetables even if your garden isn't very big. As a rule of thumb, you should opt for crops which are expensive to buy in the supermarket, rather than cheap fruit and vegetables which won't save you much money by growing yourself. Here are some good options:

Salad plants

Salad leaves like rocket and lettuce are one of the most frustrating types of vegetables to keep fresh. How many times have you bought a bag of salad only to return to the fridge a few days later and find it has turned dark and slimy? By sowing seeds every few weeks you can create a plentiful supply of salad for your meals.


Peas require plenty of sunlight and nutrient rich soil to grow properly and peas that are grown in poor soil will start to rot. If your soil is of poor quality then you can improve your soil by adding compost throughout the year. To support your peas as they grow, prop them up with trellises, netting or bamboo canes.

Broad beans

This popular home grown vegetable is a fantastic source of protein and they are packed full of vitamins A, B1 and B2. What's more, they are very easy to grow. Dig over your soil to create a seed bed and sow your beans around 2inches deep and 9 inches apart from each other. Plant them from October onwards but be cautious of the weather getting too cold; you can always use an incubating material such as polythene to law down and keep them from freezing.


A staple part of so many different dishes, having your own supply of potatoes to turn to is likely to make your meal times a much easier affair. In general you should opt for early type potatoes as they are ready for harvesting sooner than other types of potatoes, which makes them less susceptible to pests. Potatoes need 'chitting' before they are planted which means you leave them in egg boxes or trays with plenty of light (perhaps on the kitchen window sill) and wait until they sprout before you plant them in mid-March, ready for harvest somewhere between June and September.


Believe it or not, radishes can be ready to harvest in as little as a month from sowing. The perfect addition to a crunchy salad, you simply need to sew them 1inch apart in moist soil. Keep sowing them every two weeks for a plentiful supply.


Another quick growing vegetable is beetroot. Beetroot is best suited to moist soil with plenty of sunshine but it can also be planted in pots or beds without any issues. Sew your beetroot anytime between mid-December and early spring. You will know they are ready to be harvested when they grow to the size of a tennis ball.

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are a great choice of crop if you're short on space. Even if you don't have a physical garden with soil you can grow cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket. Plant your tomatoes in a lined pot and water every day.

Click here for more tips on growing vegetables:

Looking after your lawn

After gorging yourself on all that fresh organic produce you've gathered from your garden, you'll probably want to have a lay down. If you're hoping to create a luscious lawn in your back yard then you probably want to begin sowing sometime between late July and mid October. This will guarantee that your soil will be warm but slightly damp from the occasional showers. If you fail to find time during this period to sow your seed then you should try and aim for mid-spring but you'll need to give it plenty of water to prevent it from being dried up in the summer heat.

Every garden is different and it's important that you pick a mixture of seed that is suited to yours. A knowledgeable supplier should be able to advise you on the best type for your garden dependent on things like how much sun it gets throughout the day, how much shade there is and how tough the soil is.

Out with the old in with the new – your next step is to prepare the soil for the new grass seed. This means clearing it of any debris, big rocks, plant matter and old grass. Next, level out the grass by forking and raking it several times and walking over it to firm it up, then scatter some powdered fertiliser. After waiting 48 hours you can begin to sow the grass seed. You want to try and make the spread as even as possible, so always read the manufacturer's instructions on spreading. If the weather is dry then give it a gentle water with a sprinkler to keep up the moisture in the early stages of germination. Once the seedlings are beginning to rise around 2-3 inches you need to be on the lookout for any lumps and bumps. If you spot an area which is raised you should lightly tread on it to flatten it down. A few days later give the grass a cut with a cylinder based mower. Then it's just a waiting game until your lawn begins to flourish. Of course you'll need to keep a firm eye on your lawn as it grows as pests might try and eat the seed and weeds might try and move in!

Petal power

So far we've covered two out of three of the most important areas of gardening. The final and possibly the part which you will spend the most time doing is potting plants and looking after them. Creating a garden that is full of bright colours and interesting textures is a brilliant way to leave your stamp on a garden and transform it for the better.

Potted plants are a good option if you're a little bit fussy and like to move things around. By planting in a container you are able to satisfy your need for change by moving colourful species into different areas of your garden whenever they start to look a bit dull. When choosing pots you have lots of different options. Plastic pots are cheap and retain moisture well but they are also more likely to crack and won't keep a plant warm during the cold months. Terracotta pots on the other hand will keep a plant warm but won't retain as much moisture so will need to be watered more regularly. To get started add some broken pots or polystyrene to the bottom of your container then add some compost, filling it up to around 2-3cm level to the rim. Next water your plant and then dig a hole in the centre of the compost large enough to contain all of its roots then firm it in by replacing the compost around it with your fingers. Now, once you're satisfied it is stable add some slow-release fertiliser granulates and give it another quick water. Remember that every species of plant is different and you may need to use specific types of compost and fertiliser to get the best results.


Most garden plants require a certain level of upkeep and care, but don't be tricked into thinking that you need to spend hours every day looking after your garden. Unless you're planning on winning awards for your garden then just a basic level of care should suffice.

As the saying goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and with this in mind, you should always do your research before purchasing a plant for your garden. Make sure that the roots look healthy and strong. They should be white and spaced all over the bottom of the plant and easy to see. Be wary of roots which are sparse and mushy in texture as they could be diseased.

Creating your own compost is a fantastic way to help the environment and cut down on your household waste, but you need to make sure that it fully composted before you introduce it into your garden. Potting plants with compost which hasn't fully degraded can lead to nasty bugs building up among your plants.

Garden bugs are the arch nemesis of gardeners and it can be infuriating to find that a plant you've nurtured into fruition has been chomped to pieces by a hungry caterpillar. There are plenty of ways to deter slugs and snails. You can create barriers with netting and there are plenty of eco-friendly repellents on the market which can warn them off.

If your plants make it through the warmer months then you've been lucky but you should be on the lookout all year long for dead plant matter to remove from your garden as well as keeping a strict regime of pruning to remove dead limbs from your plants and shrubbery. If it lingers too long it can act as a honey trap for all manner of creepy crawlies and hinder healthy growth of your other species.

Finally, it might seem like a no-brainer but you should always make sure that your plants are getting enough water. Try and make watering the plants a fixed part of your daily routine, when you wake up or before you go to bed or even better pass it off to your children as one of their daily chores!

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have any special tips on growing your own veg or creating a garden sanctuary? Tweet us @TimeForYouGroup and let us know, or alternatively visit us at for more tips and advice.