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Expert tips for growing a great garden?

All of us who have a garden want it to be as perfect as possible, whether it is a vegetable garden or a flower garden. This hub has been written to provide all gardeners with some of the best tips for growing a great garden. Many of these tips are plain old fashioned common sense, but others may surprise you and give your garden a whole new lease of life.

I have been growing vegetables and flowers since I was about six years old. I am now in my forties and still successfully growing (and now showing) my vegetables (although I rarely get a chance to grow flowers these days). Having won various trophies and plenty of first prizes since I began exhibiting my vegetables, I feel I am able to share the secrets of my success here in the hope it will help other people to be equally successful.

Whether you prefer growing flowers or vegetables I am sure you will agree this is a very rewarding hobby that not only gets you fit, but can equally leave you feeling very relaxed and with a great sense of achievement. Just the joy of putting your own home grown vegetables on to your dinner plate, or sitting in your garden watching the butterflies flitting from flower to flower whilst you inhale the scents drifting around you are the 'tip of the iceberg' in terms of what gardening has to offer.

The keys to ultimate gardening success are below. Give as many of them as you can a try to you will notice a dramatic difference in your own success rates too.

Great Garden Tips

  • Invest in a good quality set of basic gardening tools and accessories.
  • Always prepare your ground thoroughly by digging it over in the autumn, mulching deeply with well rotted manure, seaweed etc and then leaving it for the worms to mix in over the winter season. In the spring dig the soil over again, rake it over to move lumps of earth and stones, and then re-rake it backwards and forwards until you have a consistency like fine breadcrumbs to plant into.
  • Before you even consider planting into your soil make sure it has warmed up properly. This is easy to check if you use your elbow in much the same way as you check the temperature of a babies bathwater. The soil should also be pleasantly damp but not wet.
  • Always check your seed packets carefully to make sure you are planting the seeds at the correct time of year.
  • Water the seed drills prior to planting, allow them to drain, and only then sow your seeds into them.
  • Make sure you only plant your seeds as deep as the seed packet suggests, otherwise the shoots are unlikely to make it to the surface.
  • If sowing carrot seeds sow them really thinly as you risk attracting carrot fly if you do too much thinning of the young plants. When you ultimately start to pull the young carrots for eating, always discard the top foliage as far away from your growing crops as possible because the smell of the bruised foliage will attract carrot fly otherwise.
  • If you are growing vegetables remember to stagger your sowing of crops like radishes and lettuces over a number of weeks, otherwise you will end up with a massive glut of one kind of vegetable ready all at the same time.

How to Design a Garden

  • As soon as your seedlings are about four or five inches tall mulch around them to prevent weed growth and conserve moisture. Use mulches like well rotted cow manure, fresh seaweed, straw, newspapers, cardboard and untreated wood chips.
  • If you have a rabbit problem on your vegetable bed put a chicken wire fence around the allotment, but bury at least six inches of the mesh below ground level as the rabbits won't bother to tunnel under it.
  • If you have a rabbit problem around flower beds and borders try hanging old tights or stockings stuffed with human hair around the garden. You can also urinate around your garden as both methods will leave the predator scent and deter the rabbits.
  • Never let your young plants become badly overcrowded. Always thin them out carefully before they get to this stage to avoid any check to their growth.
  • Whilst your plants are young make sure they don't go short of water or wilt. As soon as they become established this watering should not be necessary unless you are in a very hot climate or suffering a drought.
  • Watch out for signs of disease and remove infected plants immediately and burn them (do not add them to your compost heap).
  • Watch out for insect pests such as blackfly or greenfly, and either remove the foliage they are on, treat with soft soap solution or use other organic methods.
  • Remember many creatures in the garden are our friends, so encourage them as much as you can, and above all do not kill them, e.g. ladybirds/ladybugs, beetles, hoverflies (they look like small none buzzing wasps, and no, they can't sting), frogs (they eat slugs), hedgehogs (they eat slugs and snails too), butterflies (they help with pollination, although the Cabbage White butterfly is a nuisance to brassica crops like cabbages, broccoli etc) and worms (these help aerate the soil and break down manures and mulches into the soil).
  • If you haven't used a mulch around your plants just remember to make sure you keep on top of the weeding before it gets out of control. A Dutch hoe is ideal for this as it will skim the weed tops off with little effort on your part, and the rest of the weed should die (although deep rooted perennial weeds like dandelions will need to be dug out from the root). When the weeds are really close to the plants you may well need to get down on your hands and knees and begin manually weeding using a hand weeding tool or even just your hands to carefully remove them.

How to Design Your Dream Garden

  • Dead head flowers and roses to encourage more flower production.
  • Pick vegetables like runner beans, peas and mangetout regularly, even if you have to compost them because you can't eat them all. This will encourage the plants to keep producing flowers (and therefore crops) for longer.
  • Thoroughly rake your lawn with a lawn rake periodically to remove dead grass and moss. This process is know as scarifying and really improves a tired looking lawn.
  • Keep pulling the heads off daisies and buttercups growing in your lawn to prevent them setting seed and spreading further.
  • Don't cut daffodils back after flowering for at least six weeks to allow the foliage to provide nutrients for the bulb. If you cut the foliage back too soon you will most likely not get any flowers the following year (known as the bulb growing 'blind').
  • Grow plenty of flowering and scented shrubs to attract insects like butterflies and bees into your garden. These will not only act as pollinators, but they in turn will bring in birds which are another wonderful addition to your garden.
  • Use plenty of ground cover plants in your flower beds and borders to reduce the need for weeding, as well as adding further color and texture to the garden.

Tips on Shade Loving Plants

stone bird bath with statue

stone bird bath with statue

  • Conserve water by fitting a water butt/barrel in your garden to catch rainwater from your roof.
  • Always check how much sun your plants need before planting them. This way you can make sure you pick the right location to ensure they thrive.
  • Buy plants suitable for the climate and conditions you have to offer. Seaside locations for instance can be very harsh on many plants so choose carefully.
  • Prune shrubs, fruit trees and fruit bushes at the appropriate times of year for each variety to ensure plenty of flowers/fruits the following season.
  • Divide your garden into 'rooms' if at all possible. This makes people want to explore further to see what is going to be round the next corner or through the next archway.
  • Plant 'hot' coloured flowers and shrubs close to the house and soft pastel shades at the end of the garden furthest away. This will make your garden appear longer than it actually is.
  • Locate mirrors at eye level within hedges to create the illusion of more space (you might want to place statues in front of the mirrors to stop birds flying into them).
  • Add focal points like water features, statues, stone bird baths and sun dials for interest.
  • Try ageing your stone statues and bird baths artificially by painting them with natural yoghurt. This encourages lichens to grow on them and make the statues appear much older than they actually are.

How to Plant a Perennial Garden

  • Vary the heights of the perennials you grow, aiming to mainly have the taller plants at the back behind the smaller plants.
  • Think of your five senses when planting a garden and choose plants that will satisfy all your senses, in other words think about what they look like, what they smell like, what sound they make when a breeze blows through them, what they feel like when you stroke their leaves and what they taste like if you plan to eat them.
  • Find room for a least one garden seat or bench. If you have a large garden have several seats and benches in different places so you can follow the sun from seat to seat as it moves around your garden.
stunning garden at Butchart Gardens

stunning garden at Butchart Gardens

Above all remember to find time to actually enjoy your garden. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of spending so much time working on your garden that you forget to actually sit down and admire the results of all your efforts.


Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 08, 2013:

Thanks Ingenira, I bet you will end up with a lovely garden if you follow even half of these tips. Good Luck :)

Ingenira on May 08, 2013:

So many useful tips here to grow a beautiful garden. Now you have motivated me to do more work in my garden. Thanks so much !

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 19, 2012:

Delighted this has been so helpful to you Seeker7. I hope your 'neglected' garden is soon a picturesque haven :)

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on May 19, 2012:

Fabulous hub and so much information that I had no idea about - especially how to keep rabbits away!! I'm planning my garden now for next year as it's been neglected for a long time so I'll start from scratch. This hub has been invaluable - many thanks for sharing!! Voted up!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 13, 2012:

Thanks rbm, hope you can put them to good use :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 13, 2012:

Thanks Cleaner 3 :)

rbm on May 13, 2012:

Great tips! Thanks for sharing your experience.

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on May 12, 2012:

in which i am sure you will be a winner, as you already are, good luck, my sweet.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 12, 2012:

That is really sweet Cleaner3, sadly I am not a Mother, but thanks for the Mother's Day wishes anyway. Family good thank you and right now working on growing my vegetables at full throttle ready for the showing/exhibition later in August :)

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on May 12, 2012:

I have missed you to

happy mother's day to you

a woman like you is so rare

you make plants and nice flowers

grow up in the air

your growing talent knows no bounds

as many on the hubs have found

I have missed those beautifu eyes and that delightful smile of yours , you know that it makes my day to see them both, my darling misty. i hope you have been good. and all is well with your family.

Love ya,

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 12, 2012:

Always nice to see you visit one of my Hubs Cleaner3. That is a visit from you on this hub twice in 2 days, so I am flattered :)

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on May 12, 2012:

my sweet misty, I have missed you so

all those lonely nights without

you to keep me warm, you know

that you are a rare flower

so tender and neat

attracting all the bee's

because you are so sweet.

have you missed me?

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 12, 2012:

Thanks ducktoes, hope you can utilise some of these tips at least :)

ducktoes from Calgary, Alberta on May 12, 2012:

Really nice hub page. So much content I'll have to come back and read it again. And nice photos. Thank you.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 10, 2012:

Delightful words Cleaner3, nice to see you here, it has been a while. Thanks again :)

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on May 10, 2012:

Hello, my sweet misty

i have missed you so

just how much

you can not know

as i look at my plants

i want to sing

dirt and flowers

and a few bee stings

but with your wisdom

i cannot go wrong

soon all of garden

will be singing this song

a song of beauty

a song of light

and before i know it

i will have so much delight

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on May 10, 2012:

Thanks estellaeffects, I hope you do give planting some vegetables a try as it is such a rewarding hobby and the results are delicious :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 29, 2012:

If you do I just pray you have no nearby neghbours with adjacent balconies Nell lol (and yes, dead serious, they did used to use the buttock method.)

Nell Rose from England on April 29, 2012:

haha! Oh my God! did they really? I'll have to try it on my balcony! hee hee!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 28, 2012:

Thanks Nell, I am delighted you enjoyed this hub. Using your elbow to check the soil is warm is a good method, and beats the original method where they pulled down their trousers and sat on the soil to check the temperature with their bare buttocks! I can't see me doing that somehow!! lol.

Nell Rose from England on April 28, 2012:

Hi misty, what a great and comprehensive hub about gardening properly not like me I am afraid! lol! more like red fingers and not green. I especially liked your idea about warming up the soil like you would dip your elbow into babies milk! so simple and yet really effective, really enjoyed reading this thanks!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 16, 2012:

Gardens often end up 'evolving on their own I find Kathleen. You create the basic structure of it, and then over time as you add plants and other plants self seed around etc it evolves into something wonderful. So pleased you liked my article and thanks for your lovely comment.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on April 16, 2012:

I'm with Mary615. My garden kind of evolves on its own. I've been working on it for about 15 years, and it has taken on a life of its own. Good basic information in one place in this hub - thanks. I'm still learning.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 10, 2012:

Thanks dagny roth, good luck with your new herb garden. I am sure it will look wonderful when it is completed :)

dagny roth from Neverland on April 10, 2012:

What a great article! I especially loved the mirror idea and dividing into rooms! We just purchased 36,000 seeds for a medicinal herb garden as well as kitchen herbs and veggies so I am super excited to get them going!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 03, 2012:

Thanks so much 2Patricias, really delighted you liked this hub. I am particularly pleased with it myself as I know I drew on many tips and methods I had learned over the years when I wrote it.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 03, 2012:

This is an excellent hub, and you have covered a good variety of situations. Both of us garden - but Tricia primarily grows for the kitchen, while Pat specialises in ornamental gardening.

Last year Pat decided to grow herbs, but without any advice. Much time was wasted in planting too early in the year, so we particularly liked your advice about reading the seed packets carefully.

We'll both be coming back to this hub - and have voted it up.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 02, 2012:

Thanks Cleaner3, your rhyme is very fine :)

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on April 02, 2012:

my sweet Misty

To say a nice hello

to a woman so fine

tending to her garden

usually all the time

you look so good

in the morning dew

like the sweet flowers

you tend to.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 02, 2012:

Hi pstraubie48, I am so glad you enjoyed this hub and found it useful. You might find my hub on seed sowing helpful too from what you are saying. The link to it is:

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on April 02, 2012:

thank you sooo much for all of these tips. my Momma taught me so much about gardening but sadly i do not remember all of it. i love planting and growing things but do find growing things that begin with tiny seeds to be problematic. I am the problem!! i just cannot seem to get those to grow. i will try some of your ideas about seeds and many of these other awesome ideas...

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2012:

Thanks Pannonica, hope you can use some of these ideas this summer :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2012:

Thanks Mary, you can make your garden look the way you want it to if try a load of these tips and watch the videos. Just keep trying and experimenting and sooner or later you will be successful. Glad you liked the hub :)

Pannonica on March 31, 2012:

Hi misty, Fantastic hub thank you. You have given me so many great ideas for the approaching summer. Congrats on reaching 30/30 that's a wonderful achievement. Voted up

Mary Hyatt from Florida on March 31, 2012:

I love gardening, and I loved this Hub. My garden never looks the way I planned or wanted it to look, but I enjoy it anyway. Good luck with the contest. I voted this UP, etc.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2012:

Thanks Cleaner3,for your amazing poetry :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2012:

Thanks summerberries, I wanted to cross the finish line in style. Glad you liked this :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 31, 2012:

Hi Bob, lol, yes this tip for peeing on your borders does work in much the same way as the 'lion dung' pellets will give off a smell that scares away lesser predators and prey. I wouldn't advise actually pissing 'on' the plants though unless they are trees, you might kill a smaller plant so peeing on the soil or garden posts is a better option :)

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on March 31, 2012:

My dear Misty,

your green thumb is a treasure

your skill in gardening

we are not able to measure

the flowers are so fine

I can see them in the pictures

and in more than my mind.

Your writing is so stellar

Your talent is not only

in your skills to grow

you sure are a treasure

this I'm sure you know

diogenes from UK and Mexico on March 31, 2012:

I am on Google Earth over Guernsey to see if I can get a shot of someone piddling on the petunias! Love it, Missy, piss on the plants and keep the bunnies away...does that really work?

Another of your great hubs.

Some of the ships you passed in the night during your wilder past would never believe it!


summerberrie on March 30, 2012:

Mistyhorizon2003, what a beautiful hub to complete your 30/30 challenge! Voted up and useful!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 30, 2012:

Thanks Billie, I am delighted you enjoyed this :)

Billie Pagliolo from Laguna Hills, California on March 30, 2012:

AMAZING! I'll come back here again and again, I know.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 30, 2012:

Thanks ladeda, really pleased you liked this :)

ladeda on March 30, 2012:

Woderful hub with great gardening advice. Voted up!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 29, 2012:

Thanks so much Happyboomernurse, I really love that you loved this so much, and thanks for the votes :)

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on March 29, 2012:

Wow! What a wonderful, comprehensive hub with so many useful tips and beautiful photos.

Good luck in the contest.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 29, 2012:

Hi Kelly, I hope this will help you out, but you know where I am if ever you want to ask anything about gardening or growing that I haven't covered :) Thanks for your lovely comment as always.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 29, 2012:

No problem Sweetguide, I hated to tell you, but other hubbers would frequently just delete the comment and you might not know why, so I thought this way was better for everyone :)

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 29, 2012:

Impressive ideas as always, and you just make it sound so easy - like a walk in the park! (A pretty one:)

I love the tip about the colors making the garden look longer! I do not have much room for a garden but I do have some. I wanted to clear the spot right n'est to the house and plant a couple rows of something pretty...I'll be sure to keep that in mind:). Thanks!

sweetguide from River side on March 29, 2012:

Thank you

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 29, 2012:

Hi sweetguide. Thanks for the lovely compliment and I am glad you enjoyed this hub.

Just a little tip (and please don't think I am being mean saying it), but it is against HP's terms of service to post links to your own hubs in other people's comments sections without their permission. It is not an uncommon mistake, and as I see you are quite new here I will allow your comment (and link) to remain.

You might benefit from reading my hub on The Main Mistakes New Hubbers Make though.

sweetguide from River side on March 29, 2012:

A perfect hub. I love gardening. It's a perfect guide.Great hub.Voted up

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