You may have heard about the green thumbs and the brown thumbs. The people that seem to have a magical knack to be able to produce beautiful, healthy plants, and the others that turn them into wilting brown husks.
No worries which group you identify yourself with because anyone can become a gardener, and move from a brown thumb to a green thumb. Gardening is like any other interest that is worth pursuing, it requires enthusiasm, experience and knowledge. Even if you consider yourself already to be in the green thumb camp, you will undoubtedly know that you’ll never finish learning about gardening and that it never ceases to pop up with surprises.
How To Make Your Plants Survive!
Plants are like other living things, they have certain requirements for good health. They require the right amount of light, nutrients, moisture and temperature.
When selecting plants, the best approach is to work with what you have. Get to know the conditions of your garden and then choose the plants that will thrive there. The more suited plants are to your garden, the longer they will live, the better the plant will look, and the less watering, fertilising, pruning and pest control you will have to do.
If there is a favourite plant you really must have in your garden, then you can do your best to alter the growing conditions in your garden to meet its needs. You can change growing conditions by adding irrigation, fertiliser, fresh top-soil and prune other shrubs and trees.
Climates and Microclimates
The plants we sell today originate from countries all around the world, climates vary enormously around the world, and plants have adapted to suit. Understanding your climate is a huge step towards successful gardening, and you need to match plants in your garden on both a large and small scale.
The large scale is where a plant needs to adapt to the general climate of the area it lives. Can the plant withstand a cold winter or a scorching summer? Will the plant need watering or is the annual rainfall enough to keep it alive?
The small scale is the localised climate of your garden or the particular spot where you want the plant to live.
Let There Be Light!
All plants need light to grow (remember photosynthesis in science at school?), but the amount of light that a plant needs varies. The main terms to determine how much light a plant needs are full sun, partial shade and shade.
A plant that requires full sun, needs at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Plants that do not get enough light, stretch out for more sunlight and become leggy. A garden facing south or south-west will get full sun.
A plant that prefers partial shade, needs several hours of sun but not enough to bake it. A garden that faces east or west to northwest is best suited for plants that need partial shade. Large shrubs and trees can also create partial shade.
Some plants prefer to be out the sun completely and grow in shade. All day shade appears in a north facing
Healthy soil is essential to successful plant growth, it physically supports plants and supplies them with air, water, and a range of nutrients. If your soil in your garden does not appear to be ideal at first, there are a range of possible solutions to improve the soil with a little time and effort.
For example, if the soil is waterlogged, adding garden compost or well-rotted manure will improve the soil’s water holding capacity and its structure. Lime can be added to make acid soil more alkaline. Extra nutrients are easily added to the soil with fertilisers and top dressing and mulches can improve plant growth by preventing weed seeds from germinating and reducing water loss from the soil. For plants grown in a container, there is a wide range of potting composts to suit every purpose.
The type of soil in your garden is closely related to soil moisture. For example, if your soil is free draining (not holding water for long, sandy or stony), you are advised to go for drought-tolerant plants. Similarly, heavy, wet, soggy clay soil is very difficult to correct, but moisture-loving plants can thrive under these conditions. Choosing plants to fit existing soil conditions is a great deal easier than altering the soil conditions themselves.
There are six main types of soil:
Chalky soil is usually stony and free draining, which often overlays a chalk or limestone bedrock. This means some minerals, such as iron and manganese, become unavailable to plants, causing poor growth and yellowing of leaves. This can be cured by adding fertiliser.
Clay soil feels sticky when very wet and rock hard when dry. It warms slowly in spring and is heavy to cultivate. Clay soil drains poorly, but if drainage is improved, plants will grow well in clay as it holds more nutrients than many other soil types.
Loamy soil is the perfect soil and you should consider yourself very lucky if you have this soil in your garden. It has a good structure, that retains moisture and is full of nutrients. Loam soil warms up quickly in spring and doesn’t dry out in the summer.
Peaty soil is dark in colour and contains a much higher proportion of organic matter (peat). This is because of the soil’s acidic nature inhibits decomposition, meaning there are few nutrients in the soil. Peaty soil is a fantastic soil though if fertiliser is added. Peat also warms up quickly in spring and is highly water retentive and may require drainage if the water table is near the surface.
Sandy soil is gritty to the touch, well-draining and easy to cultivate. It is often called a hungry soil, because of the lack of nutrients it contains and that it dries out quickly.
Silty soil is smooth to the touch, well-draining and easy to cultivate. It retains moisture and is more fertile and heavier than sandy soil. Silt is easier to cultivate than clay, but its structure is weak and easily compacted. A very good soil if well managed though.
Regular watering is essential for newly planted shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants as well as summer bedding, pots and hanging baskets. It is best practice to apply water to the base of the plant, where it can soak down to the roots. Also, wet leaves can become diseased if kept wet overnight and leaves that are made wet in the sun can develop slight burn marks.
Always water your plants very early in the morning or in the cool of the evening, rather than during the day, as most of the water will evaporate before getting to the plant’s roots if watered in the hot sunshine.
In hot weather give your garden a good soak at two or three-day intervals, rather than a quick sprinkle every day. To help thirsty plants, like the tomato plant. Bury a flowerpot alongside it, as this then can be filled with water, where it will soak into the soil. Water-retaining granules can also be added to compost when planting summer bedding in pots and hanging baskets.
To avoid shock to plant roots, store as much rainfall as possible in a water butt that is collected from the roof of your house, garage or shed. This water will be warmer than water from the mains, thus causing less of a shock to the plant.
The most strenuous workout in your garden is the initial preparation. But regularly loosening the soil will become easier each year before planting, if you continue to add organic soil amendments to your garden. Only work the soil when it damp or dry, not wet. Avoid compacting soil by not walking on the beds.
Drawing a rough planting scheme on a piece of paper, and use the plan to figure the amount of plants you will need to fill your garden. Match plants to suit the growing conditions in your garden, the most important being the amount of sun or shade available. Group plants that have similar needs for light, soil and water.
Selecting colours for your garden
Choosing colours for your garden is up to your personal taste, but as a rule of thumb up to five colours can be contrasted before it gets too much for the eye. But this needs to be carefully planned, choose a dominant theme colour and then work the rest around it.
The colour wheel can also be a gardener’s friend when it comes to choosing a colour palette for your garden. Which is based on three primary colours; red, yellow and blue. The full-colour wheel resembles the colours of a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet).
Use two or three adjacent colours, for example red, orange and yellow to create a harmonious effect. Create a striking combination by using complementary colours that are directly opposite on the colour wheel, purple and yellow for example. Or use contrasting colours based on colours that are spaced at equal distances on the contrast work best in groups of three, purple, green and orange is an example of three contrasting colours.