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Starter tips for a complete newbie please?

(69 Posts)
GuyMartinsSideburns Thu 01-Oct-15 15:43:17

Ok so maybe not complete newbie - I used to garden with my dad years ago. But in a nutshell - just moved into our first house with a good sized back garden and a shed at the bottom. Dh was diagnosed with cancer just before we moved in and I'm at the point now where I'd like my own space and a hobby I can get stuck in to when I don't fancy running. So I'd like to claim the shed, make some raised beds to grow veg in, somewhere to 'switch off' for a bit when I'm done with worrying.

I plan to clear out the shed (dh is already stockpiling wood for 'when' we get a wood burner) paint inside and out, find something for flooring and replace the door. I'd like it to be a potting shed that I can also sit and read etc in, if you get me. The kind of shed I've always wanted!

I have literally nothing to my name to garden with, no idea where to start etc so I was hoping for some pointers please? Maybe a list of 'beginners' things? I find I struggle now with the simplest of decisions and I'm feeling tired quickly so I need a bit of an idiots guide, so to speak!

Thank you very much indeed xx

GuyMartinsSideburns Thu 01-Oct-15 15:44:45

Should say - it's an old concrete shed, god knows how long it's been there. I'm hoping the roof doesn't need replacing hmm

Bolshybookworm Fri 02-Oct-15 06:44:35

Ooh, your own shed! What a good idea as a place of release. A beautiful garden will be a lovely place to sit when your DH is feeling the brunt of treatment too.

My essential tools are:
A good trowel
Some Showa gardening gloves (their the best I've tried for everyday gardening)
A spade and a fork.
A couple of pairs of cheap secateurs (I'm too forgetful for expensive ones and leave them out in the rain blush)
A tub truck for mixing compost.

Other things that I find useful for specific jobs are pruning shears if you have a lot of shrubs, a lawn cutter (not sure what the proper name is, but it's semicircular with a sharp edge) for making new beds/tidying the edges of old ones, a hoe (no longer use this as I'm on clay, so trying to avoid breaking up the soil), a big dibber for bulbs/seedlings. Loppers are brilliant if you have a lot of overgrown shrubs to clear as well. Big Tupperware box for seed packets.

Phew, didn't realise I was such a collector of garden tools! Have fun, a new garden is so exiting smile I also think there is nothing more soothing than an afternoon in the garden, it's the best free therapy there is.

Bolshybookworm Fri 02-Oct-15 06:45:30

Oh, and a 2 watering cans- one big and one small (with a fine rose for seedlings).

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 07:26:23

Thank you very much smile I shall start making a list later. The garden is long and flat, with a bit of patio area next to the shed and just grass at the moment. I'm hoping to section off the bottom 1/3 of the garden to use for growing etc so the children still have some space to play in.

Think I might treat myself to a couple of raised beds rather than hope I stumble across the wood to make them at some point. Is it too late in the year to do this? Should I concentrate on fixing the shed up first and the raised beds in the spring?

I think it's the time for hyacinth bulbs and almost daffodils isn't it? Maybe I could buy a big pot and plant some of those to start with?

God I really am clueless aren't i! blush xx

Bolshybookworm Fri 02-Oct-15 07:47:55

Bulbs look lovely in pots, and you can always plant them out in the garden when they're finished. Big pot of tulips looks nice too.

I'll ask DH about the raised beds and shed (sheds are his domain), but I'm guessing he'll suggest making sure the shed is watertight before winter. I don't see why you couldn't put beds in- you could always cover them in carpet to keep them weed free until spring.

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 08:52:17

Ok thanks smile lots for me to be getting excited about!

shovetheholly Fri 02-Oct-15 08:58:13

I'm so, so sorry to hear about your DH's diagnosis. It sounds like a very stressful time for both of you. Gardening can be tremendously therapeutic. It's got me through some tough times, for sure. There is just something rewarding about watching things grow. I know there are many others on this forum who feel the same way.

Some questions about your plot before I leap in and give you loads of advice that doesn't suit your site: roughly what part of the world are you in? what way does your new garden face? (north/south etc). Are you shaded at all by any large buildings or trees? What is the soil like? (clay, chalk, sandy?) Are there any other conditions that might affect how things grow (e.g. being very high up, being by the coast, being very exposed etc?)

One of the first things to do (and this is a good time of year to get started) is to start improving the soil where you want to have beds. You can get big rolls of weed sheeting from ebay, which is a kind of black material that you weigh down with bricks. It looks bloody awful but over a few months, it kills everything underneath it, making it easier for you to dig out larger areas of former lawn or weeds. You could do this at the end of your garden where you want to grow things.

You can dump lots of well-rotted manure for free from local stables on top of the ground too, which is great for adding richness and some texture. Cheapo peat-free compost (the 4 large bags for £10 at the garden centre) and horticultural grit are also useful things to add if you have heavy clay. It seems a bit boring spending the winter digging things over and adding more black-coloured dirty stuff to dirt, but it is the most transformative thing you can do to get ready for planting next spring!

In terms of kit, you will definitely need a spade, a fork, a trowel and hand fork, some gloves, secateurs, a mower if you have or intend to have a lawn. One of the twisty hand rotavators can be useful when digging through a new site. Trugs are tremendously useful for absolutely everything. You can get decent tools on a regular basis in discounters - TK Maxx had loads of absolutely lovely, high quality wooden-handled tools last time I was in, Lidl and Aldi regularly have pretty good-quality starter equipment at rock-bottom prices. A compost bin would be good too - the cheapest place to get one is usually from the local council (£15-20).

Another great thing to do this time of year is to make leaf mould. Gather up all deciduous leaves in the garden, put em in a bin bag and then poke holes in it with a fork. In a year's time, you'll have wonderful black gold for your garden.

Oh, and you can definitely make raised beds over the winter too. It might be worth spending some time outside in the space where you intend to put them, though, as this may affect your ideas on what would be the best shape/size. My top tip with these is not to make them too wide. You should be able to reach the middle from both sides to weed and harvest, so 1.2 metres is usually about right for most people. Otherwise you end up having to walk on the soil, and that sort of defeats the object of having a raised bed.

bookbook Fri 02-Oct-15 09:01:56

Good advice from bolshy - a few really good tools as she suggests, and yy to getting the shed waterproof and dry
Mine are -
stainless steel fork and spade
trowel
secateurs
trug for weeds
watering can
kneeler/gloves
Gardening is such a great way to relax, just dont try to get it all done at once, so you don't wear yourself out.
You do have time to get up and running - for example , I grow herbs in pots and spinach in big plastic toughs

bookbook Fri 02-Oct-15 09:04:22

and a lot more good advice from shove smile

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 09:33:58

Wow! Thanks for the further replies, I'm enjoying reading them all smile

We are in the south west, near bath/Bristol. The garden is east facing. I have no idea what type of soil it is?! We aren't overlooked by anything, it's quite an open space, and dh tells me we are quite high up.

The black sheeting stuff - so I'd put some of this down where I want the beds to go? Or could I just mark out where the beds are going to go, remove the turf and start turning over that soil underneath, adding manure etc?

I was thinking of a few 6' by 4' beds? I'd like one for herbs and lavender etc, one for veg and one for salad? Is that the done thing? I'd like some fruit trees too. Ooh I'm looking forward to this smile

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 09:35:32

Oh and leaf mould sounds amazing,
I don't have any leaves in my garden but I feel a leaf collecting walk coming on this weekend wink

bookbook Fri 02-Oct-15 09:48:33

If you have the time, definitely mark out and dig up the turf where you want the beds, dig it over and add manure. It can be quite hard work, so once you have done one, you can decide whether or not to cover one with the black sheeting.
It will be best to have at least a couple of beds ( 3 or 4 is best) to rotate things, so diseases and pests dont build up You can also plant something like raspberries just by themselves, not in a bed, and get them going for next year. And it is coming up to tree planting time, just make sure you give each enough room - they come in different sizes for big to smaller gardens ( on different rootstocks)
But mainly try and add as much compost/manure /leaf mould as you can- it really helps the plants to have as good a soil as possible . We have a veg patch/allotment thread for help and advice as well smile

shovetheholly Fri 02-Oct-15 11:17:12

Guy - your sheeting strategy depends a bit what is there already. If it's a weed-ridden mess (as my garden was when I started) then my way (the lazy way!) is to put down the black sheeting over the whole surface, and leave it til spring. Everything underneath should die. Then remove the sheets, put out your raised beds, add manure to the soil in them by the trugful along with compost and possibly grit if it's claggy clay, and give it all a good dig. As bookbook says, the digging part is hard work but well worth it. grin At my allotment, I reused the sheeting on my paths, doubling it over and then covering with wood chips. Alternatively, you could sow grass paths.

However, if you already have decent grass down the bottom of your garden and you want to keep that and dig beds into it, then maybe think about removing the turf just in the area of the bed and then sheeting that smaller area so you're not fighting down weeds.

In terms of your beds, have a careful think about what you like to eat, as this will really determine what you want to grow. You will probably want to have more than a single bed for veg, for instance!! Most veg growers will do a rotation that goes roughly roots (carrots, beetroot that kind of thing), then brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), then legumes (peas, beans), then heavy feeders (courgettes, squash, tomatoes, potatoes).

This works well because each of those crops needs slightly different things. Roots like poor, thin soil that hasn't been enriched much. The next year, you add to the soil by digging in manure and lime and plant your brassicas. These deplete the soil a bit, so you add compost and leaf mould and plant legumes, which fix nitrogen. That gives you a bed that's ready for your heavy feeders, which like lots of richness (add compost AND manure before planting). And because they feed heavily, they deplete the soil ready for your roots again.

So a classic way to start would be to have four beds and to fit herbs sort of round the edges or in spare space (many are quite ornamental so work in flower gardens too). Salads can be grown as a 'catch crop', which is a really quick-maturing crop that you shove in around other things while they are still small, or put in troughs like book does with her lovely spinach.

Ideally, you want your veg beds in the area of your garden that gets maximum sunlight. For shadier areas, fruit is great to do -it's very easy and low maintenance and simply delicious! I'd think of it as a bit separate from the veg, though because in most cases it's more of a permanent crop. You won't want to be moving around your raspberries or rhubarb much! (The plants don't like it!) And, as I said, they do tolerate and even enjoy more shade.

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 12:22:56

Thank you shove that's all really helpful and interesting. I've got a few weeks until I've got the cash tbh so lots of time to think about what I want to do and plan etc (and start removing turf maybe!)

I'm going to plan where I want the beds, then the shadier areas for my fruit trees, then whilst I'm waiting for raised beds Id like to try planting some things in pots as this shouldn't be too expensive to do should it.

I had an hour to myself earlier so I walked into the local town and bought a few gardening books in the charity shops. Ones called 'the gardeners year' and looks interesting, I'm going to have a browse through that later grin dh is in hospital all next week for chemo so il be glad to have something to take my mind off things a bit and keep busy. I'm thinking now I should section off a bit more of the garden so I've got room for flowers and a bench too. Il have a read through the other threads when I can too. X

shovetheholly Fri 02-Oct-15 12:46:47

Pots are a great way to do spring bulbs while you design a garden. Not only do you get to enjoy them next spring, but you can plant them out once you've got beds ready. Ikea do decent cheap containers of various shapes and sizes.

Fruit trees and bushes can be really cheap in Aldi in the spring - less than £3 a tree, or £1.79 a raspberry plant.

Keeping fingers firmly crossed for your DH. Chemo is rough. But amazingly effective these days. flowers

GuyMartinsSideburns Fri 02-Oct-15 13:10:24

Thank you v much xx

bookbook Fri 02-Oct-15 20:27:30

I do hope all goes well with your DH next week.
shove is amazing - such a lot of sound advice
Spring bulbs are lovely in pots - I do them every year, and plonk pansies and primroses on top smile and when they have finished flowering, I plant them around the garden, and do more the next year!
Gardening books are great for getting ideas- so don't forget to look in the library as well.
One bit of advice - Measure the area you are going to use, that will allow you to put a plan on paper smile

shovetheholly Sat 03-Oct-15 11:09:08

Awww, I'm not so sure - I get things wrong loads!

And very much still learning!

I just want to get everyone gardening because I love it so much! What's that you say? Not everyone enjoys it? I refuse to accept this. Everyone must garden!! grin

I am not an Alan Titchmarsh fan, Guy, but the 'How to be a gardener' DVDs are a really good starting point. You will watch them and all the memories of gardening with your Dad will flood back! There is a kind of deep memory, I think, for those who gardened with relations when small, where you know far, far more than you think - and you've absorbed it by osmosis.

GuyMartinsSideburns Sat 03-Oct-15 19:18:23

Thinking back I'm sure my 'gardening with my dad' consisted mainly of going up the allotment and stuffing my pockets with his peas grin blush

I've had a lovely day! Went to a garden centre and bought pots, compost, some bulbs, plants, a fork and a hanging basket! Dh bought me a trowel and some gloves whilst I wasn't aware so that was v kind. I've spent the afternoon having a crack at planting stuff, il see if my attempts at the bulbs are any good come the spring, my pot with Ivies (?) and heathers in looks lovely and my front door looks great with the hanging basket of pansies next to it!

Dh made me a compost bin using dd's old bed (we had to replace it recently) and a workbench for my shed using the rest and the drawers that were underneath. We then measured up a rough idea of the space I can have and reckon it'll be around 30ft by 20ft which should be enough for the raised beds I want and some space for fruit trees, though now I'm thinking I might like a bit of a spot to sit in too. Forgot that.

I've not long come in from the garden, with dirt under my fingernails and mud on my face and I feel really happy. So thanks all for the advice and encouragement. Xx

bookbook Sat 03-Oct-15 22:18:11

Gardening is just a joy isn't it, and the sense of achievement is great !
So glad you enjoyed it, and how lovely to start off with such a lovely day - it may be the start of a lifelong hobby smile
30' by 20' is a goodly size as well - plenty to keep you occupied !

funnyperson Sun 04-Oct-15 04:38:23

The shed sounds brilliant ! Have you looked up sheds on pinterest?

Your tools sound fine, I second a trug and apart from the plastic trugs I do think a sussex trug is a gardening essential: you could put it on your hristmas list!
Other possible tools are
a hoe
a half moon edger
vine eyes and wire for training pants agains walls/fences

YY to spring bulbs in pots and

YY to seating
In fact I sometimes think seating is the essential

choose seating you can leave out, seating with a place/table to put your drinks/food/newspaper, think about 2 areas for seating, one for morning sun and the other for afternoon sun

It sounds like it wold be nie for you to have romantic seating ie with roses and scented thyme and lavender

Once you have sorted seating you will know where to place your pots and flower beds!

Also think about your compost heap!

funnyperson Sun 04-Oct-15 04:39:24

oh dear....not training pants, training plants! lol

funnyperson Sun 04-Oct-15 04:40:46

If a small garden think about espaliered or cordoned fruit trees

GuyMartinsSideburns Sun 04-Oct-15 07:27:12

Thank you for the replies! Lots more for me to think about, and the seating idea sounds perfect. Yes I have spent ages on Pinterest, some of the ideas on there are amazing! Dh is in hospital later today and staying in for the week so I shall use the time to plan and make lists etc.

Reckon I'm going to need to have more space than first planned, to ensure the seating is nowhere near the compost bin! Where do you keep yours? Also what width of walkway between the raised beds do you suggest?

I'd like to have an archway and some kind of fence that separates off the gardening section, ideally would like to have lovely things growing up it but reckon this would have to wait for now as its prob a bit costly at the moment and we've got a few fence panels to replace as it is.

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