5 top tips for novice gardeners and a planting schedule

The author of How To Grow Stuff shares five tips for the novice gardener as well as a downloadable planting schedule.


Gardening can be another language. There’s an awful lot of science involved in the practice of controlling and nature, and plants all have Latin names. Then there are terms that can seem difficult to understand, like “perennial”, “annual”, “germination” and “overwintering”. You can try to understand the process of something that seems quite simple, such as growing some herbs, and before you know it you’re being told about seasons, seed trays and soil. 

So I decided to try and write one myself, and document what I was discovering about plants and keeping them alive along the way. Instead of thinking about gardening, I’d learn how to grow stuff. If you want to know where to start, then download the what to plant when chart, which help you choose what you might like to grow. Below are some of my top tips.

Five tips for novice gardeners

1.  Many beginner gardeners will overwater plants out of love and concern, causing them to wilt - which can inspire more zealous watering - and die. If you’re unsure whether to water, stick a finger in the soil to check. If it feels damp, you don’t need to water. If it feels dry or dusty, you do.

2. Take a good, hard look at your growing space - if you’ve only got a balcony, then you’ll need to get large containers to grow vegetable plants. If you have only a windowsill, look out for dwarf varieties of plants. Even if you have a great big garden, you lucky thing, pay attention to the sunny and shady bits, and where space can be freed up that is best for what you want to grow.

3. Growing becomes addictively rewarding when you start paying a little attention. Before you know it, you’ll be rushing out to your plants the minute you get back from work or a holiday. Try to take a look at your lot every day to see how things are growing - this, more than anything, will give you the best way to learn about your plants.

4.  To keep your herbs bushy and beautiful, only take leaves from the top of the plant. Look out for the tiny new leaf nodules growing on the stems and cut or pinch off the stem and leaves that grow above them. This is called ‘pinching out’ and will encourage new growth outwards, rather than upwards. If you just pick leaves from the side of the stems, you’l end up with long, bare, woody stalks and fewer leaves.

5. The best way to keep your flowers in bloom is to get rid of its tired-looking flowers: this is ‘deadheading’ and tricks the plant into thinking it needs to grow more flowers. Sneaky! If you don’t remove the tired flowers, the plant will put energy into producing seeds, and eventually stop blooming. It’s a good idea to pull away yellow, brown or crispy leaves, too. These haven’t got enough sunshine. By getting rid of them, the plant will produce new green leaves in their place.

How to grow stuff

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