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Newbie gardener looking for advice and suggestions please!

Good evening all  :)

We've (myself, husband and my 2 small children, 3 and 6yrs) recently moved and we now have a lovely large garden for the first time!

Something I've always wanted to get into (and do with the children) is growing flowers and foods from seed, so here I am  :)

I'd love to hear any advice given about what sorts of things we should start with (I have a few ideas but I like to seek advice and plan before diving in).

Particulars:

•The area I've moved to is near Petersfield in the South Downs.

•I'm told the soil is heavy with clay.

•Space isn't really a problem, though I have no greenhouse and don't really have the indoor space in the cottage to start plants off in there. (I've seen articles on winter sowing in old milk cartons and such and wouldn't mind giving that a go)

•The garden wraps around the house so varying degrees of sunlight all round.

• Would love to do some fruits and veggies and also just get some lovely bursts of colour into the garden!

• ANY MONEY SAVING GARDEN ADVICE GRATEFULLY RECIEVED!

Thank you so much to anyone who answers!

Amy x

See below my cheeky chap who wants to grow his very own 'cutenumber' (cucumber to you and me)


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  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 1,309
    Before you dive in you need to get to know your plot and all it oddities, something I've learned the hard way. I'm certainly not the expert you need but some little ideas are for fast growing edibles rocket, radishes are good you can grow peas in small containers and pick the shoots they are delicious. Best luck I'm sure you'll get great advice here
  • bullfinchbullfinch SurreyPosts: 515
    Hello @daydreamavenue . When my children were little we grew sunflowers and nasturtiums  from seed. They are fairly straightforward, and because the seeds aren't too small they are easy for children to sow. I'm sure they will have fun 🙂
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 18,392
    Have you tried digging your soil yet? If it's very heavy then you could make some raised beds, but there will be a cost to start with. You could use scaffolding planks and treat them with a preservative or treated decking planks. Make a rectangular box and fill it with compost (local recycling centre?), rotted manure (friendly farmer, riding school?) then some bought compost which should be weed free and keep down weeds. Then you should have a lighter soil to cope. Top up with new compost each year and don't dig it.

    There are a lot of vegetable seeds which are easy for children to handle, such as those mentioned above and broad beans, French beans, peas including mangetout sorts, beetroot, spinach, sweet corn, onion sets. Some seeds can be sown in early spring while others need warmth. Cucumbers, courgettes, butternut squash need warmth to germinate but can be started in yoghurt pots (make drainage holes in the bottom) in April to be planted out in May after the frosts. Look for instructions on the seed packets.

    If there are any charity shops near you that sell books you can sometimes find gardening books very cheap, full of information. Otherwise there is a lot of information on the Internet and loads of garden designs on Google images.

    For flowers, I would plan out a flower bed, or are there some already? Dig it, remove all grass and weeds, work in some compost and sow some seeds. If you sow them in straight lines you can tell more easily when they come up which are the flower seedlings and which are the weeds. I know someone who has a garden full of flowers all grown from seed, but it does take time and work. When you get to know your new neighbours they may be willing to give you some cuttings or bits from perennial flowers.

    Good luck.
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 18,392
    Here are my beds last April, to give you an idea. Mine are in the veg area which I was finding hard to maintain because of weeds as it was all bare earth, so I put down an anti weed fabric and covered it which bark chips. I dug the earth before making the frames and filling with compost and manure. The netting is to stop the cat making a mess. You could start with one dug in the lawn in a suitable sunny area. Then it could be the children's own bed for sowing their seeds.


    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,559
    Exciting for you but patience is needed to avoid making big mistakes.

    The first thing I would do is to take photographs from all angles, especially from the house.   Make a note of the basic layout of your new plot and its size and note north as this will affect the amount of sun each bed or border receives.   Then, I'm afraid, you need to sit back and wait and watch to see what bulbs and early perennials appear this spring then thru summer and into autumn.  We can help identify ones you don't recognise if you post photos.

    Check out which shrubs and trees are already there and when they flower and fruit as that affects when, if at all, they should be pruned.

    As all this appears, make notes of what you like and what you don't and what you want to increase, add or remove.   

    Keep an eye out for obvious weeds such as nettles, thistles, dock, buttercup, couch grass, bindweed, ground elder, marestail and hoik those out with their roots as you go.   Let them dry out completely in the sun before they go on a compost heap or else put them in the green waste bin for collection.   You can also dunk nettles in covered buckets of water (for the smell) and make a liquid fertiliser for leafy plants as it will contain plenty of nitrogen.

    For veggies, raised beds are a good idea as they make access and management very easy so follow the advice above.   Most need good sunlight so site them carefully.

    Most of all, enjoy it and make sure you pace yourself.   Sowing seeds and nurturing them is very rewarding and when you have more experience and get to know your garden, cuttings and divisions are a great way to increase stock for yourself or to swap with friends and neighbours.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • NewBoy2NewBoy2 BristolPosts: 1,804
    Get Mucky - Make Mistakes - Keep Notes - Learn. B)
    Everyone is just trying to be Happy.....So lets help Them.
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,532
    Hallo Daydream and welcome to the forum.  Obelix's advice to wait and see what comes up is wise.  Perennials and bulbs disappear underground for the winter and if you start digging now, you may damage them.  This forum has a seed swap thread so look at that before you spend money.  I can let you have marigold and fennel seeds which you can sow straight in the ground and they are foolproof.  Send me your address in a private message if you'd like some.  Also look on Freecycle for gardening equipment and materials, though IME they get snapped up so you have to respond quickly!
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 9,216
    You could also think about subscribing to a weekly mag like Garden News, which I think is only around £4.50 a month. You get a free packet of seeds each week and advice on what to do when.
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 13,905
    edited January 2020
    Talk the neighbour gardeners where you can and find out what they know about the local conditions. This is the best way to save money too - local plant sales, swapping seeds, cuttings and produce. How do they handle the soil, where are the best suppliers of manure, wood, bark, gravel etc, what are the free local sources, what's the wind like, what services to the council offer that could be useful?

    Also, check your local Freecycle/swap groups etc for freestuff going - logs, gravel, plants, top soil, paving. Stuff in the way that you don't want (like gravel) often just seems a plain pain and gardeners will often pay to have it taken away. Find your local Open Gardens and nose about.
  • Here are my beds last April, to give you an idea. Mine are in the veg area which I was finding hard to maintain because of weeds as it was all bare earth, so I put down an anti weed fabric and covered it which bark chips. I dug the earth before making the frames and filling with compost and manure. The netting is to stop the cat making a mess. You could start with one dug in the lawn in a suitable sunny area. Then it could be the children's own bed for sowing their seeds.


    Oh my gosh! That set up looks amazing! My husbands has already picked out a place to build a couple of raised beds so fingers crossed they end up half as organised as yours!
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