Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online


Start Gardening  

                                  March 2010

Gardening for beginners

gardeningThis page is for the benefit of those of you who are in the 50 plus age group, and who have decided to take up gardening for the first time in laterlife.

I hope you will find that this pleasurable activity will give you a healthier lifestyle, the satisfaction of creating your own garden and hopefully even a passion for gardening.

Start by getting a good all round gardening book. I have dozens of them, collected over the years, covering different aspects of gardening such as greenhouses, vegetables, lawns etc..  Choose a book specifically for beginners.

Watch some of the excellent gardening programmes on the television, where you will pick up no end of useful information.

Buy gardening magazines and visit garden centres, all of which will keep you up to date and enable you to have a view of all aspects of gardening, whilst keeping current with trends. You can read previous editions of this column by looking at the Index Page 

Where to start then.. 

If you have just moved to a house with an existing garden, it is a good idea to take a year to see what grows in it each season, and get the feel of what needs doing before getting started. It may only need a tidy up, a few new plants and regular TLC to get it into shape..

The following will explain what I do when I am asked to plan or re-design a garden from scratch. Don`t be put off by the enormity of the tasks I have outlined. If you DO have to start from scratch it could take about three months for the work to be done, unless of course you're lucky enough to have a gardener do the work for you in doublequick time.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:-

  • What sort of garden would you like, with what features? Low maintenance or cottage garden, pond or vegetable plot. How much time do you intend spending on the garden? 
  • What is your lifestyle? Do you have grandchildren or pets. Are you away on holiday for much of the year. Are you disabled?
  • What is the aspect? Does the garden face North, South, East or West? Is it open to the elements or sheltered. And in which part of the UK is the garden. (Some plants won't grow in certain parts)?
  • What is the soil type? Is it clay or sand.
  • What is your budget?  Is it going to cost the earth (Pardon the pun)

Once you have answered all those questions you will have a very good idea of the sort of garden to suit your lifestyle, and the aspect of the garden will to an extent dictate what you can grow in it. 

summerhouseNext you will need to measure the garden and draw a very simple plan, putting in features such as seats, pond, flower beds, decking etc. If you are as bad at drawing as I am, just cut out photos from magazines and dot them around your plan... 

You will more than likely get a landscape gardener to do the heavy work for you, so be sure to choose one whose work and credentials you can see. Get a written estimate for the job and make sure it is clear what is included in the price. It is a good idea to get three quotes for the job.. 

If you are having any structures built it would be wise to check with your local planning department to see if permission is needed...

OK we're halfway there now..  

While you're waiting for your gardening books to arrive nip down to your nearest garden centre and buy yourself a few basic gardening tools such as:- spade, fork, rake, hoe, wheelbarrow, secateurs, hand trowel and fork. Don't buy too cheap as it is false economy. Most important too, on your list of purchases is a soil testing kit.. While you are there you can be looking at some plants, trees and shrubs to get ideas, but don't be tempted to buy anything yet, as planting is the last thing to do once all the hard landscaping has been done. 

Whilst that work is being carried out you will have time to read about soil types and testing, planting methods and the plants themselves. 

Pay particular attention when buying plants to choose a colour scheme that will blend together nicely, also note the eventual size of trees and shrubs and the growing conditions they will need. It is no good growing shade loving ferns in a hot sunny border! Assistants in garden centres are helpful people and just love advising customers, so do ask for help...

Gardening is a vast subject, and I cannot possibly put the building of a garden from start to finish on to one page. I have given you a sequence of events to follow. Get some basic gardening books and magazines for ideas, watch gardening on TV., and have a peek over the garden wall to see what your neighbours have done in their gardens...

Above all, enjoy your garden and don't worry if you make mistakes, it's all part of the fun...




Want to comment on this article or ask other laterlife visitors a question?

Then click on the link below to visit the comment section of the Later Lifestyle Network, click on the 'Discussion Tab' (you can't see this until you are logged in) and Create a new topic or add your views to an existing one

Don't forget you need to login before you can make a comment.





Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the DEFRA website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced £5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is £6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

back to laterlife interest

Site map and site search



Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti