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The uncertainty of gardening

Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453


I've posted a number of questions over the last day or so on various topics and I thought I would start a thread here to see how many others there are like me, sort of newish to gardening that goes beyond just weeding, but slightly underconfident about what to do sometimes

I do have a habit of over-thinking things at times, and doubtless lots of folk just plough in with the secateurs, or plant things in deep shade without a second thought, and end up with nicely trimmed shrubs that flower profusely, or plants that thrive whatever the situation.  I'm happy to do that sometimes, but there is such satisfaction from growing things, helping them to thrive and thinking it's something I did, and it makes gardening a pleasure when it works, so I'd hate to get it wrong and inadvertently set things back a season

Some people seem to have a knack of just getting it right, proper green fingers, though I'm sure it is knowledge acquired over years and years of trial and error, or learning from others such as I have done on this forum

So I'd like to know if others have the same sense of hesitation, of wanting to know how to do it properly to get it right, and also of being perplexed at the range of plants, pests, weeds, tools and techniques that go into making a nice garden.  Having a go is good, and I guess it depends on the cost of the consequences if it goes wrong. My main concern at the moment is that our garden is really starting to come together, I'm learning lots of new things, becoming confident about certain things and I would hate to jeopardise that progress by doing something a bit dim.  Hence the lots of questions....

I'm hopeful I will find I am not in a minority of one......And I should add that I am happy in my garden and happy with my progress, just wish I knew more!!



  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,776

    I think almost everyone feels like you do at first and often a lot later than that! But almost everything in life involves learning and that may include making mistakes.If the worst thing you ever do is put a plant in the wrong place you will have got off lightly, so try not to take it too seriously and enjoy the ups and downs. Be flexible and open minded, too. Sometimes your mistakes will turn into your best bits! You will lose plants, we all lose plants, so choose what you can afford to lose and relax.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 3,754

    It doesn't matter how long you've been doing it, there are still things you don't know! New plants, or ones you haven't grown before, or new thinking, or better ways to do things, new tools, techniques, etc

    Plus you are always trying to second guess the weather and, for many people, certainly for me, the way plants respond in my garden doesn't match the standard advice. I've nearly lost a couple of things by following standard practice, so now I err on the side of caution and follow my own instinct and keep my fingers crossedimage

    The results may not be perfect, but I'm a simple soul and easily pleased and can still be made to feel ridiculously happy by a couple of flowers or fruits on something I've grownimage

  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453

    Posy - I think your last sentence is very apt, and I do use that as a marker really - how much time, care and money have I invested in that plant and how upset will I be if I make a daft mistake, or indeed if the unpredictable Scottish weather means the end of it.  

    I used to try to save every plant in the garden, but as I have put more of me into it I feel more confident about deciding to pull something up because I don't want it.  We have a very old established garden which only had minimal attention for ten years while we couldn't live full time in the house, so as I worked to get it into shape I tended to feel the old plants were part of the furniture as it were.  But they don't have to be.  My newer plants, particularly those I have grown from seed or cuttings, well they mean more to me because they are a result of my work, which is hugely satisfying.  I'm currently ridiculously pleased at how some mahonia cuttings have taken.  I'll be even more chuffed when they are in the ground and producing lovely scented winter flowers.  That's a good way off yet but I'm really happy with my first little step.

    Buttercupdays - I'm glad I'm not the only one whose plants don't always do what they are meant to do.  I do use instinct sometimes, and back to the above about what do I mind losing, I'm more adventurous with the things that won't matter too much if they keel over.

    Gardening is therapeutic, satisfying, frustrating and character-building! Long may it last!

    PS does anyone know how to type in a forum member's name such that it comes up as a link so that member knows they have been mentioned? I know how to use a quote from a post but not to get the name in lights

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,776

    When anyone comments on a particular thread they receive a notification each time another comment is made. If this isn't happening for you, look at the tick box under the message. Some people will receive personal messages, too. I think you have to click on your own little symbol at the top of the page and select the appropriate option.

    I feel very much as you do about my gardening but I have learned to take the rough with the smooth and also to know my limits! When you read the labels in garden centres it seems like you can grow anything and failure feels personal. But you will learn over time what does and doesn't work for you in your garden with your conditions and the trick is to make the best of that and enjoy it. 

  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,949

    I over think everything. I always have done. That five year old that can describe sixteen ways you'll kill yourself if you climb the tree? That was me. 

    The important bit is to climb it anyway and not be too harsh on yourself if things don't turn out the way you had hoped.

  • herbaceousherbaceous E. BerksPosts: 2,257

    I am neither a tidy nor an experienced gardener and I agree with all that has been said. The joy of growing stuff cannot be explained it has to be experienced, and gardening teaches patience. I could go on holiday tomorrow, get a fridge delivered, shop without leaving the house, make coffee in an instant but if I want to eat my own veg I must wait. If the weather is against me or I forget to do something or Murphy has been in my garden, then I must wait 'til next year.  It is lots of hard work with moments of absolute ecstasy and I love hearing my wonderful Dad in my head directing my actions.

    "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."  Sir Terry Pratchett
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,160

    the uncertainty is what I love. Even the same plants are different every year. You grow something new from seed, something dies and opens up a new space, never boring.

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 4,723
    herbaceous says:

    and gardening teaches patience.

    See original post

    It does but it also fosters optimism. The act of sowing seeds is a hugely positive one - "this year these seeds WILL germinate, I'll manage to get the timing right to pot them on, the weather will be kind and I will have carrots/cosmos/a rose hedge/whatever". I am convinced that having something to look forward to is one of the key bases for good mental health. The reason gardening is calming, helps to lift depression and heal heart-break - it makes you look forward with hope. Even if that hope is only that this will be the year you don't lose all the spuds to blight.

    I think, Stephanie, that you have caught the essence of gardening and the only thing that years of experience will change in you is the fear of failure will diminish, though never disappear.  And not because you stop failing, but because you find that you overcome the failures and often it leads to something better. It will still be therapeutic, satisfying, frustrating and character building in 30 years' time and you'll still be finding new plants, new ways to grow old plants and be mesmerised by the process of making new plants and watching them thrive. You will still hesitate with the weeding fork in hand and wonder if that is a weed or is it something you planted and have forgotten? You will still approach a shrub with your pruners and a sense of misgiving that you might kill it this time. That is your nature, don't expect it to change image. It makes you a better gardener than someone who just crashes in. Yours will be a finer, more interesting patch and it will be much more 'you' and much less the wholesale output of the local garden centre. Craft takes care and thought, even overthinking.

    You're being too hard on yourself 

    “There is no military solution
    Doesn't always end up as something worse”
  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 4,098

    It has been said may times before but in Gardening you never stop learning that's why lots of use love it so. Quite a lot of it is about confidence. After many years of mostly Allotment gardening & saying to people "if you can't eat it I don't know about it"  I finally had the time to do the RHS level 2 course. I quickly realised while I may still struggle with Botanical Latin  I knew far more than I thought I did. Even if you don't want to take a course or read lots of books you will learn lots just by doing it, but a bit of background knowledge will help you do it even better.  The Beechgrove garden programme is ideal for you though some of the best gems are said in passing you have to be quite astute to pick them up.

    Books such as Right Plant Right Place are invaluable but remember that plants don't always follow "our" rules. We have an Acer in our garden that according to the books is in totally the wrong place but it's the best one we have!

    Keep doing what you are doing have a go & don't beat yourself up.

    AB Still learning

  • ClaringtonClarington Posts: 4,949

    Before I moved in the elderly couple and their family had lived in this house since it was brand new. It was built in the early 1950s and sometime during this the family planted a tree to take pride of place.

    The garden was lovingly tended, it provided food for the family for years, and the couple were very proud of it.

    In fact they spent more time showing us around the garden than the house. They told me how to prune the trees when the lawn was last fed. They seemed to know it all.

    They could not tell me enough about the tree that stood pride of place in the garden, how it had grown with their family, how it made THE BEST APPLE pies. Thry even offered to leave receipes to help us use up the glut of APPLE'S that were always so bountiful.

    To me as a basic new gardener I thought they knew it all.

    So imagine my surprise when on the first year we got a wonderful harvest of...


    Definitely not apples image

    They do take good though!

    Don't stress about not feeling like you know enough. Sometimes those you look up too trip up on the simplest of things.

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