Essential tips for gardening success

If you suffered any gardening disappointments last year, I want to help you improve your growing techniques, so you’ll experience the uplifting joy of gardening success, this year!

Gardening is such a positive hobby, growing plants truly enriches our lives; yet it can be utterly disheartening when seedlings die, our plants decline to flower or fruit, or don’t perform as well as we hoped.  There can be a multitude of explanations as to why a plant has deteriorated or failed to thrive.  When buying plants or seeds, give yourself every chance of success – check whether the plant you’re considering is suited to the soil, light levels, and climate, you can provide.

I took this photograph on the 24th May 2020, Iris pseudacorus and Ranunculus aquatilis are in bloom in my pond. While ivy (Hedera helix) provides a lovely backdrop that’s good for insects and wildlife.
This is Nymphaea ‘Chubby’, a waterlily with flowers that are a subtle shade of pink. I took this photograph of my pond on the 4th August 2019.

The Great British weather isn’t always great!  Flooding and drought can be serious, persistent enemies that will obliterate plants.  If your garden is prone to flooding or becomes waterlogged after heavy rain, why not capitalise on this by creating a pond or bog garden?

The pink flowers of Lychnis flos-cuculi and Silene dioica, grow well in wet soils.

Alternatively, alleviate extra moisture by installing raised beds, which will lift your plants up and improve drainage.

The feature raised bed in the Silent Pool Gin Garden is edged with hammered copper to tie in with the garden’s hammered copper rill and reference the sponsor’s use of a copper gin still and Silent Pool’s branding. This is the main bed in the garden, it’s planted with Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, which is named in honour of the legendary Surrey gardener, and Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’, which is named after Gertrude Jekyll’s home, in Godalming.  The roses are planted with Geraniums and Stipa gigantea, to create a fragrant feature with a relaxed and rather charming softness.
Pennard Plants’ exhibit shows a reimagining of a typical wartime garden, from 1939. Visitors to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 could see celery, peas, broad beans, tomatoes, salads, and herbs, all growing on Pennard Plants’ exhibit.

If your soil is at the other end of the spectrum and tends to be dry and free draining, why not create a dry garden, planted with beautiful drought tolerant plants that won’t need any additional watering in summertime?

The yellow flowers of Isatis tinctoria, Zizia aurea, Foeniculum vulgare, and Euphorbia cyparissias provide highlights to the romantic, yet drought tolerant planting of the M&G Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018.
Achillea millefolium is a drought tolerant perennial.
Sempervivums are drought tolerant plants that thrive in free draining soils and composts. These plants were grown by Sunray Plants for the RHS Wisley Flower Show.
If you plant blackcurrants from autumn to early springtime; after planting, prune your plant’s stems back to leave 2.5cm (1 inch) stumps remaining. This is to encourage new strong, healthy growth. The prunings you remove can be used as cuttings, to increase your stock.

Growing plants can be such an exciting and uplifting experience.  We’re all keen to get started but do remember that it’s easy to falter and waste resources by sowing seeds too early.  Without a glasshouse or cold frame, early seed sowings cannot be guaranteed to succeed.  However, we can plant Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, roses, and trees, outside in our gardens and allotments this month; these plants shouldn’t need any protection.

Jerusalem artichokes form tall plants. These vegetables are ideally grown as a permanent crop that’s grown in the same area of garden every year. If you plant Jerusalem Artichoke tubers in February, you’ll be able to dig up your own harvest of Jerusalem artichokes next winter.
Jerusalem artichokes grow very tall!
Jerusalem artichokes are related to sunflowers, they often produce these lovely small yellow flowers, from late summer to early autumn.

Always water your seedlings with tap water.  Water butts contain fungi and pathogens that cause damping off disease, which kills seedlings.  Seedlings need a good source of light above, otherwise they quickly become straggly.

Compost and soils can be overlooked but they’re of fundamental importance.  When visiting your local nursery or garden centre, compost may seem like a rather dreary thing to purchase; whilst a new rose might feel like a more attractive acquisition.  However, without a good quality growing media, your summer won’t be decorated with as many rose blooms.

Every year, I run Compost Trials to discover the best composts on the market.  Dalefoot Composts produced the top performing composts in my Broad Bean Compost Trial and French Bean Compost Trial, but other compost brands also performed well (see all of my Outdoor Trial Reports, here).

Making compost is a wonderful thing to do!  Compost heaps are beneficial for wildlife, plants, and our gardens.  Home-made compost saves us money, too.  It’s a myth that a garden can be too small for a compost heap.  A compost heap is essential; it’s something every garden should have!

Compost is easy to make, it’s a great resource, compost makes a wonderful mulch.

This article was first published in the February 2021 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.

To see my calendar of snowdrop garden openings, please click here.

For more gardening advice for February, please click here.

For information on growing a wide range of vegetables, please click here.

For houseplant ideas, please click here.

For information on beautiful plants for bees, butterflies and pollinating insects, please click here.

To see all of my Outdoor Trials, please click here.

To see all my Compost Trials, please click here.

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