Watching plants thrive, flowers bloom and vegetables grow will be enormously rewarding, boosting your mood and self-esteem
All the tasks will provide gentle exercise, raise our heart-rate and keep us flexible
Many activities that promote plant growth give you time to slow down in nature and feel restored
It is always important to ensure plants have access to water. Once established, plants will have rooted down to a depth that is unaffected by evaporation from sunlight and wind. They will only need watering if there has been a longer period of dry weather. But it is the plants that are new in our gardens that need more attention to help them grow well.
When we first plant, we should water plants initially and then water them well for the first 2 weeks, slowly extending the time between watering. There are a lot of variables in watering, so as you get to know the garden, a natural rhythm tends to build as we respond to early signs of drought.
Once established, if we are watering in dryer spells, water the base of the plant, and avoid damaging the top layer of soil causing run off or compression. To water at the base of plants is easier with a watering can than a hose. By just watering the base of plants you are being more efficient, and you avoid watering weeds.
Containers need watering all year round as they have limited soil to retain water. Watering from rainwater in preferable particularly in areas of either very soft or very hard water.
Most plants benefit from extra watering from the period of flower buds setting and through their bloom (or for veg through to harvest). Watering plants at this time does require some extra attention to get it just right and you can find good advice online.
Please do look at our post on using feeds to help you feed plants well over the year. In addition to using the feeds mentioned in that post, general liquid feed is a useful boost to most plants. There are some specific feeds for specific plants and general feeds available as well. Seaweed feeds are well balanced and useful to most plants.
Mulching is another way of adding additional nutrients to your soil for plants to access. Mulching around the base of plants (although you want to leave space between the plants stem and the newly laid mulch) will also suppress weeds. A regular mulching can be a big part of a no-dig strategy as well, allowing nature to slowly work the new organic matter into the soil.
Mulching material should already be well rotted. Leaf mould, manure and compost need to have broken down and be generally crumbly to provide nutrients to the plants quickly. You can judge this with your eyes and a fork, no need to use your hands. Using before it has rotted down will actually remove nutrients from the soil.
Protecting your plants from wind, high sun and pest/disease is important.
When plants are young, they often benefit from being staked. Anything that has a 2:1 ration of height to spread and going to grow above 1-1.5m will likely benefit. Stake when you plant out to avoid the root damage of staking later. Some plants are susceptible to wind damage and it is best to plant these in sheltered locations within your garden.
Even in the UK, sometimes plants benefit from being protected from the sun. This usually applies to some vegetable crops, particularly lettuce and other salad but plants like camellia are also very susceptible. Shade tunnelling is available for veg growing and for other woody shade loving plants. Then positioning them well is your best bet, but they may need extra watering to keep roots cool and ensure that there is enough water to replace what is naturally lost from the leaves through transpiration.
Keeping a close eye on all your plants will help you pick up a pest or disease problem. Slugs are often the most likely pest but a whole host of other wildlife could be considered a pest too. As wildlife makes up some of the benefits of gardening, we feel there is a balance to be had in how we tackle them.
If possible, having enough plants for you and the wildlife to enjoy is best but perhaps there are exceptions, such as in smaller gardens or with prized plants. There are a range of solutions and exploring them on the internet can turn up some quirky ideas. For micro-pest and disease, a good garden reference book or online search will help, but diluted soap water spray can be worth a try with pretty much all insect troubles and then if that doesn’t work investigate further.
It is part and parcel of the gardener’s life to enjoy a mix of plants thriving, plants struggling and lots of the unexpected in between. Gardens are a great metaphor for what can and can’t be controlled in life. Letting go of what can't be controlled and enjoying the successes - while shrugging off the odd disappointment - is a demonstration of resilience, a resilience you find in many plants which will struggle one year and then thrive the next.