The great thing about gardening is that no matter how expert you are, you never reach the end of your personal learning curve. To help you a little further along the way, we asked some of our favourite gardening bloggers for their expert tips – great gardening advice from green fingered folk.
Before you plant anything, take a look at your local green space, says Nadine from A Pentland Garden. That’s because local conditions have a big impact on what grows best where you live. Nadine’s top tip? Talk to your neighbours:
“Speak to them and see what really thrives. You may be able to take cuttings or gather seeds.”
There really is nothing better than seeing for yourself what grows well, says Julia from The Garden Gate is Open. She says the best thing to do is simply to:
“Get out there and visit another garden.”
It’s also important to network within your gardening community. Pete from Weeds Up to My Knees suggests trying out local plant sales arranged by allotments. He says:
“If you ever need anything in the garden (plants, seeds and tools), I always ask about. People are pleased to get rid of the stuff.”
If you don’t fancy spending most of your time in the garden weeding, Kev at An English Homestead says you should remember that “nature abhors a vacuum”, and act accordingly:
“I mulch with compost, cover with cardboard or use landscape fabric to help keep weeds at bay.”
As a smallholder committed to feeding his young family healthy, nutritious, home grown food, he says covering up is “the only way I can manage such a big vegetable garden.”
Another gardener who shares the view that exposed soil leaves the door open for weeds, is Geoff from Driftwood by Sea. His solution is to plant plenty of ground cover. He says “never be afraid to pack plants in.”
Alternatively, you could go no-dig, like Richard from Sharpen Your Spades. He tried it last year and now he’s hooked:
“It’s so easy to cover in the winter, there’s less weeds and fantastic crops. The whole allotment is no-dig this year.”
Giving your seedlings the best chance of survival by starting them indoors protects them from the elements until it’s warm enough to plant them out. But be careful you don’t let those tender stems get too hot, says Alicia from Botanical Threads. She recommends you take the plastic lids off your seed trays when it’s particularly sunny:
“It only takes half an hour baking under the plastic in the sun for a tray of thriving green seedlings to go to brown burnt ones!”
If you take seedlings straight from your window ledge and plant them outside, the shock can kill them. Make sure you acclimatise them gradually. Mark from Mark’s Veg Plot passes on his father’s advice on ‘hardening off’ his tomatoes:
“If it has been done properly, the stem will be a dark, almost purple, colour. Pale stemmed plants have not been sufficiently exposed to the outdoors.”
It’s true that some gardeners find weeding therapeutic. But Thomas from Thomas Stone Horticultural Services isn’t one of them. He prefers to get the job done and dusted, saying: “In dry weather, try and get the hoe around as often as you can.” He adds that with the right tools:
“5 minutes of weeding with a hoe can save 2-3 hours of hand weeding.”
Richard from Sharpen Your Spades says it’s best to make regular weeding your priority or it will eat into your gardening time. His advice is to get it done and dusted:
“It gets the ghastly job out of the way and makes the task of staying on top of the weeds so much easier”.
Alternatively, consider embracing your weeds like forager and print-maker Flora Arbuthnott who puts hers to good use. She says:
“Use yellow dock roots as a golden dye for textiles projects.” and for a coffee alternative that won’t make your heart race, Flora says to try “roast dandelion root.”
Do you have any gardening tips that you think we should know? We’re always interested to hear from our readers, so please drop us a line on our Facebook page and leave us a message.