The main thing is finding the right tool for you – that fits your grip, is balanced and in proportion to you. This is not necessarily the most expensive.
- good secateurs
- a hoe – one that works for you – the angle of the blade must be right and the handle the right length
- border fork
- hand fork
- edging shears
Whatever you’re comfortable in, but also think about what you want to have with you in the garden – perhaps a holster with secateurs would be useful, or maybe wear cargo trousers with lots of pockets, or belts with attachments that you can carry things with.
Watch to see what’s in your garden and plan in advance to stop them attacking. If, for example, you know that your garden has lots of slugs and snails, take a trip out at dusk to pick them off (don’t wait until they’ve been eaten), or if you have lots of pigeons about, put up buzz lines and deterrents that will flap about to scare them off.
If you are planting anything make sure its well-watered before you take it out of the pot, and that the ground you are putting it in is well watered too.
Find the right plants for your soil – see what your neighbours are growing! If it looks good in their garden, it will work in yours too. The more time you spend in your garden, the more confident you’ll get with what’s growing there. Try to resist things that just won’t grow in your soil, eg if you have alkaline soil, don’t even attempt to grow rhododendrons.
Read the plant labels – the description of the plant and the conditions that they like – and match that up to your garden. The web is invaluable to helping you to find things out about specific plants.
Its good practice to carry a notebook into the garden with you for all those jobs you see and think you’ll come back to, or to note something – eg the alliums are in the wrong place so I need to come back in the autumn to move them to a different place.
A notebook is also useful for planning – eg this combination of plants looks nice now, I’ll do more of it in the future. The same goes for vegetables – this is what worked well this year so I should do it again. Noting sowing dates is useful too (for if it has or hasn’t worked) to refer back to the following season.
Sometimes its worth just doing a job when you think of it (even if theoretically its not the best time for it)! Otherwise it won’t happen.
Take photos of your garden or allotment through the year because it gives you another perspective, but also gives you a reference for when you are planning your garden in the winter so you can see what worked, what should be moved, etc.
Timings and seasons – be instinctive as opposed to sowing on set dates, eg, if it still feels too cold and wet, don’t sow yet! If you’ve never done it before then use books to guide you, but once you’re more experienced, use your instinct.
At some point in the winter, sit and plan what you want to do and what you want to grow. It’s a lovely activity that gives you optimism in the depths of winter. And spending winter evenings looking at seed catalogues, reference books and exploring plants on the internet is fun.
Magazines – find one that meets your needs and gives the kind of advice you need – for example does it give advice about sowing seeds, or garden design. Look out for things that come free with magazines, you might get something like a free seed sample of a plant that you might not think of buying yourself.
A gardening calendar is useful, and you can buy posters that are useful especially for seed sowing and vegetables. You often get these free with magazines too.
Be prepared for things not to work! Sometimes things fail. Be patient & have fun!