10 top tips for budding gardeners

I know I’ve said it before, but I kill plants. I don’t intentionally set out to kill, but that is the result – every time.

My parents bought me a big green thing in a pot (don’t ask me for names) for my last birthday, which they chose with great care and attention. I was given strict instructions to water it little and often. Which I did. It is now nearly dead.

We have a large garden, by London standards. Having two growing and active boys, our priority is a lawn for kicking a ball around, and a patio for the adults to enjoy what little sunshine we can get.

But gardening, for both me and the hubster, is like housework. It’s a chore.

If, like me, you can't keep anything alive in your garden, check out these 10 top Gardening for Dummies tips from gardening expert Katie Rushworth

This photo was taken last Summer and represents what it ‘should’ look like

We’ve mown the grass once this year. And since Coco the poodle arrived in our lives, our flowerbeds are full of holes and the flowers have all had their heads bitten off.

It’s all a horrible mess.

Just as we were thinking about tarmacking over the whole plot,  the lovely team at Tesco asked if I’d like to write about gardening.

They sent me this amazing hamper of goodies, including plant pots, seeds, a lantern, some scary looking tools and a string of lights for the garden; plus a beautiful jug, wooden board, ice tray and a bottle of booze for al fresco dining. The latter might be seeing more action than the gardening tools.

If, like me, you can't keep anything alive in your garden, check out these 10 top Gardening for Dummies tips from gardening expert Katie Rushworth. It's gardening 101.

In addition, they offered me time with gardening expert Katie Rushworth, who presents ITV’s Love Your Garden, to come up with solutions for my specific gardening woes.

If, like me, you can't keep anything alive in your garden, check out these 10 top Gardening for Dummies tips from gardening expert Katie Rushworth. It's gardening 101.

Katie Rushworth

Unfortunately for Tesco, I lack even the most basic knowledge and vocabulary to formulate questions for Katie about my garden. So instead, I asked her to provide me with her 10 top tips for gardening.

Gardening for dummies, if you will.

Here are Katie Rushworth’s top 10 gardening tips on how to get your garden ready for the summer:

1. Plant out summer bedding, half-hardy annuals

Spring is the perfect time to dust off your trowel, get planting and give your garden some love.

When you start, try to plant and stick to a colour theme throughout your containers and baskets. Maybe a mix of hot colours and the odd chilli plant thrown in to your window box might spice things up. If you fancy something a little more ‘cottage garden’ in style then stick with pastel shades and add some herbs to the mix. Half-hardy annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnia, Cleome and Nicotiana can all be sown straight into the ground at this time of year and are fantastic colour fillers.

2. Pressure wash, or hose down and scrub

A great and easy way to get your garden looking its best is to get the pressure washer out and give that patio, path or deck some TLC. Just removing any dirt and moss from your seating area will instantly make your garden appear smarter. They are also great for cleaning down garden furniture and children’s play equipment, often they look brand new again.

3. Paint a fence or wall

It’s a great time of year to treat any wood that is in the garden. Whether that be fencing, a shed, garden furniture, wooden planters or a children’s climbing frame – all will last longer if given some added protection against the elements, and it will also give them a new lease of life. If you’re feeling brave, add some colour! A brightly coloured wall can make a fantastic statement all year round, a steely grey coloured fence can add a contemporary feel.

4. Stick to your budget

Have a plan for your garden and stick to it. Keep an eye out for retailers and garden centres who will have a wide range of deals available in the lead up to the summer months. Tesco is offering some great deals on its garden range.

5. Lawn care

Don’t forget to look after your lawn. One of the top gardening mistakes Brits make is letting the lawn become unruly and overgrown. Make sure you remove any bare patches by getting rid of any dead grass and moss from the area. Then sprinkle some topsoil, followed by some lawn seed. A final fine dressing of topsoil will keep any wildlife from eating the seed, as well as ensure that the seed comes into contact with the soil. Lightly water to prevent any of the seed from being disturbed.

6. Stake and support plants

Any plants that you know need support to look their best will benefit if you get those supports in now. Even if they are weeks from flowering and still have lots of growth to put on, getting those garden canes in and tying things up, is much easier to do when you don’t have to navigate excess foliage and other plants in flower. As the plant continues to grow, it will also naturally disguise the canes or framework you have put in place and leave you with beautiful looking flowers.

7. Lighting

Garden lighting is often overlooked, but it can really extend the use of your garden and add ambience and atmosphere to any outdoor spaces. String lights always look fabulous and add a festival feeling, whilst clusters of lanterns on steps and tables add charm and elegance. Up-lighting a tree can add drama and give the garden an evening focal point, as well as give that holiday feeling. Don’t forget the fire pit, which also gives warmth as the evening draws in.

8. Hoe down

According to Tesco’s research the most dreaded gardening job for over a third of adults with a garden is weeding. However this task won’t seem so daunting if you find yourself a hoe (this is my favourite garden implement). It makes easy work of keeping on top of those weeds. On a dry day, slice the top of the weed off just below the surface of the soil. This will prevent the weed from photosynthesising and the root will dry out and die. Sometimes the weed may eventually regrow, but this definitely weakens the plant so it is much less likely to make an appearance. For more persistent weeds, removing the whole root may be necessary. However intermediate hoeing can make weeding a much more manageable garden task.

9. Prune spring flowering shrubs

Any shrubs which have flowered this spring can be pruned now if they are getting too big and unruly. Remove any dead or damaged growth first, then any growth which is weak or crossing over one another, causing stems to rub together in a tangled mass. Always cut the branch on an angle and to a new outward facing bud to increase air circulation. Shrubs can tolerate being cut back hard now, so removing half of the plant may seem brutal and look a little drastic, but it will recover over the summer months and reward you with lots of fresh new growth.

10. Dress it up

Cushions, throws and outdoor rugs are the finishing touches that really make your garden feel like an extension of your house. Tie the colours in with colours you have in the home as well as colours you have used in the garden to create a unified and cohesive design. You don’t need green fingers for this, and it’s amazing how much more welcoming a garden becomes when it has a seat with a lovely cushion and a throw on it. Also, don’t forget to invest in a decent BBQ – this is essential to have, especially if you are planning to entertain friends and dine alfresco. Check out the wide range of outdoor essentials and BBQ’s available at Tesco.

Thanks to Katie for the tips. I’ll put the tarmac away for now and will of course keep you updated on our gardening journey.

Tell me, how does your garden grow?

Much love, Vx

[Disclosure: my thanks to Tesco for partnering with me on this post]

If, like me, you can't keep anything alive in your garden, check out these 10 top Gardening for Dummies tips from gardening expert Katie Rushworth. It's gardening 101.If, like me, you can't keep anything alive in your garden, check out these 10 top Gardening for Dummies tips from gardening expert Katie Rushworth. It's gardening 101.