Following on from the last blog, here is the second half of my ten suggestions for newbie gardeners who just want to to get on and grow something:
6 Plant some bulbs
Bulbs are an absolute gift to the new gardener; easy, virtually failsafe and providing the most marvellous of spring surprises. Start now, though, by getting some late summer flowering bulbs, like Crocosmia, or Gladiolus callianthus and sinking them into pots or a flowerbed for a stunning display when everything else in the garden starts to turn brown. The only rule with bulbs is to plant them at about twice their own depth, and to make sure you plant enough. Abundance, always.
7 Grow something delicious
Edibles, though rather higher maintenance than ornamental plants (and this is only because you have to prevent wildlife from chomping at them) are doubly rewarding as gardening projects, being both beautiful and tasty. Start with something ready-grown at the garden centre. You can buy all manner of baby fruit and vegetable plants, from courgettes and squash (great fun) to individual carrots (ridiculous, but also fun), grown from seed by experts, which you just plonk into a pot or a bed and water. Again, treat these first forays as experiments, rather than an ambitious stab at self-sufficiency - if you get a delicious cherry tomato, or a strawberry at the end, then go you. Harvest, enjoy and repeat until you’re an expert.
This is a fun, easy project for beginners who want to sow and grow something tasty that isn’t cress. Just fill a wide shallow container with multi-purpose compost, water it, and cover the surface with peas (from a seed packet, not a bag of frozen ones). Cover with a bit more compost and watch them erupt out of the soil and turn into delicious, sweet-tasting pea shoots complete with curly bits. Once you’ve got the hang of these, you can move on to sowing mixed salad leaves and hearted lettuces - you’ll never buy bagged salad again.
9 Plant an essential herb container
For many, keeping a little herb garden alive is the best introduction to gardening, especially if you cook regularly. Buy a selection of soft herbs, like parsley, chives and basil from a garden centre (not a supermarket) and plant them in multi-purpose compost, keeping them watered and harvesting the leaves regularly. Don’t get overwhelmed with differing soil or aspect requirements - just plant them, have them nearby so you can inspect regularly, and get to know each one, like a friend, until the end of the season when it’s time to say goodbye. Evergreen herbs, like bay, rosemary, thyme and sage can be planted in more permanent pots because they’ll stick around all year.
Most gardening isn’t pruning or digging, or sowing or watering - it’s actually tidying. If that makes you flinch then stay awhile, and consider that this is not tidying as you know or understand it; it’s compulsive, meditative, happy tidying. Still not convinced? Try this: Go out into your garden and pick one square metre, absolutely anywhere (although perhaps not in the middle of a lawn). If necessary, mark off this area with a hula-hoop or some canes and a bit of string, and start tidying it. Use a hand fork to remove anything that looks like it’s a weed, and take out any over-large stones, and use some secateurs or scissors to prune off any bits of plant that look dead, or dying or unwell. Do not look up, or outside your marked area. Do not stop until you’ve completed the job. Also, don’t linger - do it fast and loose, and be slap-dash. Don't agonise over decisions - if you make a mistake, and damage something, then that sucks but it’s not the end of the world. The important thing is to get it done. When you’re finished, if you don’t move on to the next patch, I’ll eat my gardening gloves.