Adrian Peel gives some advice on creating your perfect garden
Suddenly being faced with a garden - of any size - after not previously having to maintain one can be a challenging prospect, though rather exciting at the same time, even for the most adventurous of home-owners. Deciding whether to keep it simple or work hard to produce a horticultural masterpiece worthy of the Chelsea Flower Show may also depend on the amount of time at your disposal.
Start off by formulating in your mind the kind of garden you wish to create.
Will your recently acquired patch of land be a flower garden, a vegetable garden or a herb garden? If you want flowers, will they be annuals (blooms that need replanting each year, providing a lovely splash of colour during the summer), or might you prefer perennials, which have a shorter bloom time but come back year after year - or maybe a mixture of both?
"They are many horticulturally correct ways to garden,says Andrew Bowler, deputy store manager at Polhill Garden Centre in Coton."Certain plants need pruning in a particular way, for example. However, most of the time give it a go. Try things out. If you asked 10 gardeners how they garden, all would give different answers. Find what works for you and ask for advice in your local garden centre. It's fun, rewarding and good exercise."
"A vegetable garden requires more work,he continues, mulling over the aforementioned options."However, you get to eat the result. I would start with salad crops such as lettuce, radishes, etc. They grow faster and that way you can build your confidence up.
Andy also has some advice for people deciding to opt for flowers.
"Grow perennials. Most of them are easy to grow and they'll give colour for years to come, not just for one season. Perennial geraniums, aquilegias and verbena are some of my favourites,he says.
It is important to know exactly where to plant your purchases. Almost all vegetables and most flowers need about six hours of direct sunlight each day. Spend a day watching how the sun moves across the space - your flowers or vegetables might receive more sunlight than you think.
But if the sun doesn't shine on your chosen area as much as you'd like, do not despair, as many plants can tolerate the shade. Check online or ask at your nearest plant emporium to find out how much sunlight a specific shrub requires.
It is also vital to put your plants where they can be seen (so you can keep an eye on their wellbeing, of course) and within easy reach of a garden hose.
"Many plants will grow well in the shade,confirms Andy,"such as hostas, ferns, rhododendrons, pieris, hellebores and snowdrops."
Before you start doing anything, however, it is essential to clear the garden and remove all weeds, compost and sod (grass-covered soil). To learn more about your soil and its prospects for successful growth, soil-testing kits are available, which will help you to discover which vegetation is best suited to your garden.
"We do a quick one-use kit and a multi-use kit from Gardman,explains Andy."The quick one-use kit is the best for me. Simply put a sample of soil in the solution in the test tube, shake and leave. Then match it to the colour chart."
If you choose to go with annuals, some easy-to-grow options are: cosmos, marigolds, impatiens, geraniums, sunflowers and zinnias.
Whatever you decide to nurture, don't forget to water! How often you need to do this depends on your soil, humidity levels and, obviously enough, how often it rains.
Water slowly and deeply so the water soaks in - and preferably do it in the early morning in order to minimise evaporation. If, after careful consideration, you decide not to grow anything, make sure your lawn remains mown and tidy. Don't allow it to turn into a dumping ground for tools, car parts and other such items - and try and stay up to date with the weeding.
Probably the best piece of advice is be bold, be patient and don't give up. Running and maintaining a garden requires a lot of dedication and hard work, but the benefits can be both satisfying and deeply rewarding.
Andy admits it's being outside in the fresh air watching things grow that particularly appeals to him.
"Raise all the borders to make it easier to garden,he says, when quizzed as to what he'd do with his land if money were no object,"and fill them all with plants using stem colour, foliage colour and flower colour."
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