Want to know the plants from the weeds? Let Peter Dowdall take you by the hand
As more and more of us are making use of our outdoor space and developing a deeper appreciation of the green environment all around us, many are taking their first, tentative steps on this gardening journey.
If this is your first time dipping your finger which, up to now you didn’t realise possessed a slightly verdant colour, then let me assure you a beautiful journey awaits you.
For, once you have discovered a love of the garden, it stays with you forever and grows deeper the further down the road you travel.
The first bit of advice that I will give to any first-time gardener is this: Don’t be afraid. Put a plant in the ground, provide it with sunlight, and water and it will grow.
Everything beyond that is an extra and don’t be put off by terms such as aerial layering, herbaceous perennials and half-hardy annuals.
The first trip to the garden centre can be a bit like how I feel walking into a computer and technology store, a bit overwhelmed.
There seems to be so much to know and so much that you don’t yet know but fear not, for help is always at hand and unlike the newest touch-screen tablet or similar, plants, whilst some do come in and out of fashion, tend to be much the same each year and you don’t need a finance plan to purchase a few.
You will find that anyone who is working in a garden centre is most likely there because they love plants and gardening and us gardeners tend to be a friendly lot, I put that down to the connection with the natural world, and thus will be only too happy to help you with answers and suggestions.
To start off with there are a few must-have things that you need to have in the shed. Some good hand tools are essential and don’t reach for the cheapest if you want them to last. Like everything you will get what you pay for.
A good quality hand trowel made from Carbon steel with a wooden handle is the first essential, expect it to become an extension of one hand. In your other hand, you cannot be without a top-notch secateurs, for, after a while you will not be able to walk through your garden without seeing something that needs to be trimmed or pruned.
What is in your garden will determine what other tools you will need, shovels, spades, rakes, lawn scarifiers and aerators may all be necessary depending on how big or small your garden and to what level you want to maintain it.
There are plenty of different brands on the market and my only advice is to purchase good quality tools that you find comfortable to work with.
If you need a power tool such as a lawnmower, hedge trimmer or garden blower then do have a look at the battery-powered options. I use these now and not a drop of fossil fuel needed. They are cheap to run and environmentally a far better option.
When it comes to planting your outdoor room, the most important thing to focus on is the soil.
Good, healthy soil will lead to good quality plants with better immunity and resistance to infection and environmental stresses.
Often, plant foods may be necessary and with so many available it can seem daunting as to which ones to use. My choice is the Nature Safe range.
These are organic, sustainably produced Irish plant foods. They make a liquid seaweed deed along with a tomato food which is excellent for tomatoes, obviously, but also every other flowering and fruiting plant in the garden.
Once your soil is right then the next most important thing to get right to ensure a successful and low maintenance garden is “right plant — right place."
Look at aspect, in relation to the sun, exposure to wind and possibly frost and soil pH before you decide on what plant to put in the different areas of your garden.
Other factors that you need to look at in determining what to plant where are shrubs, seeds, bulbs, bees and edibles.
These are good for the garden and good for the bees: