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Achieving a thriving and flourishing garden is no mean feat. Getting the garden of your dreams takes work and dedication (but it’s oh-so worth it in the end). There are many common problems and pitfalls that novice and expert gardeners come up against season after season. These range from ‘How to test your soil quality’ to ‘Which plants should I grow’; don’t panic, we’re here to answer the most commonly asked gardening questions.
Common gardening questions:
- How can I tell if my soil quality is good?
- How do I use fertiliser?
- How do I identify a pest problem?
- How can I prevent a pest problem?
- How do I choose the right plants?
- How do I water my plants?
- How do I maintain my plants?
- How should I lay out my garden?
- How do I maintain my garden?
Soil Quality and Fertilisation
First things first, before you even begin to think of planting, you need to know that the soil you’re growing in is good enough. You should also think about what fertiliser to use.
How can I tell if my soil quality is good?
Your plants need good-quality soil to thrive. Good soil is filled with nutrients your greenery needs to thrive; it will also have good drainage, allowing plants to get the water they need without the threat of fungus or decay from too much water.
You can test your soil quality by eye. A rich black/brown shade, crumbly texture and lots of bugs are sure signs you have good-quality soil. Clumpy, clay-like texture and lighter shades indicate you need a better planting base. Alternatively, you can purchase a DIY soil pH testing kit. This will be a strip or stick that you place in the soil that will indicate the pH level. You should follow the instructions but as a rule, a good soil pH level is between 5.5 and 7.5.
How do I use fertiliser?
Fertiliser enriches your soil, ensuring plants have the nutrients they need to grow. You can use shop-bought fertiliser, known as ‘complete fertiliser’, or make an at-home composter using organic waste from the kitchen.
Fertiliser should be scattered evenly amongst your borders and plants. If you’re using chemical fertiliser, you can activate it by watering it – be sure to rake gently over the soil first to make sure it’s even. For home compost, simply use your hands or a rake to blend it into the first layer of soil.
Once your garden is up and running, you’ll want to keep it safe from pests. From spider mites to gnats and whiteflies to slugs, common pests can eat away at your plants, making them lose their lustre and even killing them.
How do I identify a pest problem?
Pest problems are usually easy to spot. Your plants will tell you if they’re being attacked by way of wilting or discoloured leaves. You might notice holes in the foliage where pests have begun eating away at them. Another sure sign is a substance left behind on leaves or eggs laid under the leaf near the stem.
How can I prevent a pest problem?
Infestations can occur quickly, so it’s vital to look out for signs of pests. You can also put measures in place to stop them from occurring. These include:
- Companion planting – Plant a species that attracts good bugs, like ladybirds next to a species that attracts pests. The good bugs will eat the pests, preventing an infestation.
- Use shields and covers – Use gardening netting and shields to prevent pests from accessing your plants and crops.
- Set traps – Use fly paper and sticky sheets in the greenhouse or near plants that attract pests.
- Use pesticides – It’s better to use natural pesticides that won’t harm helpful pollinators. These include organic sprays, like neem, which kill off pests.
Plant Selection and Care
One of the biggest secrets to a glorious garden is plant choice. It might sound simple, but choosing the right species for your space and climate is vital for successful growth. Once you’ve made your selection, maintenance is key.
How do I choose the right plants?
Before you dive in, think about your space and research the species you want to plant. What you plant will depend on your soil quality, how much direct sunlight your garden gets and what your local climate is like. It’s best to choose local species; these will have been cultivated in your climate for decades, so will be hardened to local weather conditions and pests.
How do I water my plants?
Watering can be tricky, water too much and you could end up with root rot, water too little and you could end up with wilting, yellow leaves. As a rule, your garden doesn’t need as much water as you think! Unless you’re going through a period of drought, rainwater and a weekly top-up should be enough. It’s worth researching the watering needs of your chosen plants and creating a schedule based on that.
How do I maintain my plants?
Your garden will need maintaining regularly to encourage growth. Common maintenance tasks include…
- Pruning – taking off the dead ends of plants to encourage healthy growth
- Re-potting – ensuring your plants have the room they need to grow
- Mulching – turning over the soil to ensure it’s optimal for planting
- Weeding – getting rid of weeds that could restrict root growth.
Garden Design and Maintenance
As you start to plan your garden, you might be tripped up by just how to design it. A healthy garden depends on the appropriate use of space and regular maintenance.
How should I lay out my garden?
When designing your space, there are a few things to consider…
- Space – do you have a large or small space? Large gardens will need sectioning to aid growth and maintenance. Smaller gardens will need some ingenuity like hangers and raised beds to create the illusion of a bigger space.
- Light – how much direct sunlight and shade your garden gets will depend on which species you can grow.
- Purpose – is your garden to be used for entertaining, relaxing or growing veg? Each purpose has different requirements and maintenance plans, so it’s worth thinking before you plan.
How do I maintain my garden?
As well as the tips mentioned above, it’s a good idea to create a season-to-season schedule of what needs doing in the garden. This will include sowing and harvesting times, cutting times, and soil turn-over times. By creating a month-by-month guide, you can break up the gardening work, making it less daunting and more achievable.
Growing and maintaining a garden you can be proud of is easy to achieve. All gardeners occasionally stumble into pitfalls, whether over-watering or planting the wrong species, but most problems are avoidable or reversible with a little careful consideration.
Now that you have answers to the most common gardening questions and problems, you can get planting like an expert.