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Planning Retirement Online

Laterlife Gardening Review

  by Rosemary Martin

Each month I review a particular aspect of gardening, including new plants and products and where to buy them. Gardening is a vast subject and as far as possible the subjects covered will be seasonal.

Please e-mail me (Rosemary) with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of laterlife


As well as the spotlight topic below, take a look at the Gardener's Diary, if you haven't already done so. It includes all those jobs in the garden for March.


March - 2002

Gardening for beginners

This page is for the benefit of those of you who are, like myself, 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. I have known several converts..

First, get a gardening book. I have about twenty, each one covering a different aspect of gardening, such as greenhouses, vegetables, lawns etc.. There are several good books dotted around both of my gardening pages. Choose one specifically for beginners, such as the one that accompanies the television series mentioned below.


Then watch gardening programmes on the television, for instance, Alan Titchmarsh has a new eight-part series just started on BBC 2 on Wednesday evenings at 8.30pm called 'How to be a Gardener' which is a real back-to-basics approach. I am particularly pleased to see that we are going back to gardening for `every day folk` on the television, and I shall be an avid viewer of this new series...


You can also 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 an existing garden, it is a good idea to take some time and 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..


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 the Ground Force team do the work for you in two days.. 


Start by asking yourself the following questions:-

  • What sort of garden would you like, with what features? For example: Low maintenance or cottage garden, pond or vegetable plot. How much time do you intend spending on the garden? 

  • What is your lifestyle? For example: Do you have grandchildren or pets. Are you away on holiday for much of the year. Are you disabled?

  • What is the aspect? For example:  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? For example:  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. 

Next 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 write the items in the space where they are to go... 

You will more than likely get a landscape gardener to do the heavy work for you, so be sure to choose one who`s 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 or more people to quote 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 from nip down to your nearest garden centre and buy yourself a spade and fork, a rake, a hoe, a 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. I covered soil testing in January`s edition. 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...



Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary



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