Easy and economical gardening tips for beginners


There is a moment in a person’s life when the void into which a small plant has been plunged or a seed pinched responds. Hunched over, eyes wide, he usually stirs the words “I discovered gardening.”

Growing things remains uncharted country for many of us.

Finding the right guide to nurture that latent interest can overcome presumptions of blocking, plans informed more by social expectations than desire, intimidation at what’s come before, and deftly carve around the reality of spending that gardening may require.

Pick up the right book and you could forever alter that annual calendar of your life, as it becomes less focused on the white noise of everyday life.

Writing, producing, broadcasting and above all gardening, Ellen Mary speaks regularly about how gardening and the natural world can benefit our well-being.

She has appeared on WCNC USA, BBC News, Mustard TV, BBC country newspapers, and filmed with the Royal Horticultural Society. She hosts a horticultural radio show on Future Radio and The Plant Based Podcastand is the founder of what would have been the first live interactive online gardening experience with Michael Perry, No Fear Gardening.

Ellen also finds time to lead community projects at the Grapes Hill Community Garden in Norwich City and her highly anticipated second book, How to grow a garden just hit the shelves.

The return of gardening

Describing her own garden as a place of “random mess and obsessive planning,” Ellen explains why in these difficult pandemic years, the lure of gardening proves so powerful and returns after a lost generation.

“Over the past two years, many more of us have realized how important nature is for well-being.

“When everyday life as we knew it was removed, we found ourselves more connected with the natural world.

“We are nature after all. When we garden, we are directly connected to the earth, to the plants we need to eat, drink and breathe. Gardening can be a moment of relaxation alone or a family activity, it is a physical exercise, brings hope, responsibility and teaches us the importance of education.

Ellen boldly left a successful career in human resources and business management to pursue her dream of simply being a gardener and experiencing her most authentic self. She’s modest about her media impact, spreading the message that gardening is good for you and good for the wider natural world.

“Plants are everything to me”.

With happiness in horticulture, this can be manageable for anyone. She now enjoys a vibrant, consuming lifestyle that took root in her parents’ garden where she picked fresh, hard glass peas from the pod and checked the underside of their shed for fairies as soon as the two years old.

In a summer Instagram post, she publicly shamed her overly prickly gooseberry bushes on her lot — irresistible, if you ask me.

Ellen, as an influencer and first and foremost a gardener, demonstrates through her writing and social media, a daily connection to her own garden – something that is potentially buried deep within us all.

She is determined to share everything she has learned and has not been shy about writing. She talks about the impact that gardening and even being outdoors can have on even serious mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

If all you have is the public park for a walk – she encourages everyone to take a soulful walk.

New chapter

Ellen Mary says her new book is designed to make you feel comfortable about stepping out into your garden and enjoying it to the fullest.
Ellen Mary says her new book is designed to make you feel comfortable about stepping out into your garden and enjoying it to the fullest.

So why this new book?

“My first book The joy of gardening: the daily zen of mowing the lawnwas about how to garden mindfully, guiding the reader through their journey in the garden and linking gardening activities to life lessons,” she continues.

“The new book How to grow a garden is a beginner’s guide to gardening with practical tips and some botanical basics to encourage more people to garden.

How to grow a garden is a beautifully illustrated practical manual (without photos) for running any garden space.

Simple and thankfully well-organized, it takes us through multiple motivating and easy-to-follow projects, from understanding our soil, to choosing trees, to growing beautiful edible flowers to scatter on salads, and includes 10 plants to help wildlife in and around our very individual outdoor space.

How to grow a garden is a guide for beginners.
How to grow a garden is a guide for beginners.

While most of us have stared at that pristine hard patio or unloved patch of lawn, does Ellen have any advice for overcoming that initial fear of digging and making friends with our gardens? Can we handle new small spaces in a typical home or yard where space is limited?

“I think there are many reasons why gardening can seem daunting, from not understanding gardening terms or plant names to not knowing how to get the most out of a space,” Ellen says.

“I always suggest observing your garden first, seeing what is already growing well, then thinking about how you can work with it rather than trying to control it. Then think about what you would like to develop and do it step by step.

Think vertical: use walls and fences for climbing plants and hanging baskets. Small spaces can be just as productive as large gardens and spruce up a patio with containers full of plants.

Best tips

“Lettuces are easy to grow,” says Mary.

Could we just start with containers, rather than tackling the whole garden? What are Ellen’s top tips for going there without fear?

“Sure. Make sure you know where the sun/shade is in your garden before you plant your containers to ensure the plants will thrive and use good quality peat-free compost. Remember that the containers can dry out quickly in hot weather, so have a water catcher handy.

Garden cut flowers are a growing trend, and Ellen gives me her deliciously fragrant best varieties to grow in a garden as pinched as a city balcony that blooms until late summer.

Cosmos is easy to sow and grow, Sweet Peas which are almost everyone’s favorite, and Nigella which is another easy to sow and grow annual.

There has been a popular move away from lawn care, especially in the suburbs. No-Mow May, lifting blades and cutting footpaths through expanses of wildflowers has had an impact, but over time the landscaped, easy-care garden is on the rise.

Ellen pleads for a little more of the sweet stuff if you’re planning a new garden or sprucing up an old one.

“The lawns are ideal for walking barefoot, important for wildlife and biodiversity in general. There is so much life in the ground.

“They don’t need to be perfectly cared for; in fact, they’re better for the environment if they grow longer.

“Left to their own devices, you never know what beautiful wildflowers will grow.”

Even a small garden can play smallholding, providing nutritional benefits from just one raised bed.

Cost reduction

With a cost crunch influencing everything we do, are there any price-cutting or even free things we can do this summer and fall to improve and expand our cultivation?

“The key to harvesting as long as possible,” advises Ellen, “is successive sowing, anticipation and growing varieties that can be harvested even in the coldest months.

“Sow seeds every few weeks to keep harvesting longer rather than all at once, make sure you have planted winter vegetables such as leeks, kale, cabbage and cabbage. You can even grow potatoes to harvest for Christmas and winter lettuces.”

If I wanted to start growing my own food this weekend, what should I do?

Zucchini and geraniums are low maintenance plants.
Zucchini and geraniums are low maintenance plants.

“Salads are easy to grow,” Ellen replies, “and can still be sown now. Even if you’re not a fan of turnips, try some of the newer varieties and only grow them to bale size. golf They can be eaten raw and are delicious.

“Other plants to grow right now include radishes and spring onions.”

With the changing climate and so many of our native animals and plants under pressure from our expanding cities and industrial-scale farming practices, a garden can provide a moment of shelter for so many creatures and their supporting habitats.

Ellen adds: “The most eco-friendly way to garden is to remember that everything you do has an impact, so always make sure it’s positive.

“Making your garden as biodiverse as possible is a great way to support wildlife by planting for pollinators, setting up birdhouses and bat houses, a hedgehog house and even a mini pond. Collect rainwater and make your own compost if you can.

  • You can find Ellen Mary on Instagram at @ellenmarygardening, Facebook at @ellenmarygardening1 and on Twitter at @ellenmarygarden/ellenmarygardening.co.uk.

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