The Newbie Gardener’s Christmas Wish List

Have you written your letter to Santa yet?  It’s not too late!  At the very least you could be dropping subtle (or not so subtle) hints.

If you’re new to gardening you might be looking at your Santa’s grotto (ie your shed), wondering what on earth to put in it.  You might have a few things already – a shiny new spade and fork?  A lawn mower?  What else would make your life easier and help you develop your new creative and wonderful hobby?

There are a few things I wouldn’t be without so I thought I’d put together a list for you – a Christmas list that includes the obvious and not so obvious must haves for a newbie gardener.  So, here goes: 10 of my favourite things to make gardening a pleasure.

Some of these things I wouldn’t trust anyone to buy for me – they need my scrutiny first so maybe the first thing on the list is this:

A National Gardens Scheme Gift Voucher!  Yes, I know that’s very dull indeed – but let’s face it, we all love a trip to the garden centre (don’t we?) and with a gift voucher you can go and treat yourself, take a friend, take your time, have a brew and some cake.  Bliss!

Number two is a good book about how to be a good gardener – make that how to be a good ORGANIC gardener.  Start the way you mean to go on. Garden with LOVE.

I don’t think it’s always wise to buy a massive tome of a book – it can be hard to motivate yourself to trawl through it or even lift it off the book shelf!   You do however, need a certain amount of detail where the basics are concerned.

Look for lengthy chapters on taking care of soil (it should include making compost), identifying pests and diseases and managing them naturally and ideally it should include a good chapter on why wildlife is important and how to encourage it into your garden.  It would also be great if it had a chapter on basic plant science – what plants need to grow and thrive.

Number three – decent pair of gloves.  In fact, make that THREE pairs!  The reason you need three pairs is because you need different types of gloves for the different jobs and seasons.  When you’re working in the garden in late autumn and winter, you need warmth and thickness to protect you from thorns and sharp wood because you’re cutting back and pruning.  Thermal gloves are a must in winter!

At other times of the year you will need a good all round pair that are lighter but still offer good protection from thorns and nettles.  However, when you’re doing more delicate tasks and need to feel the plant material – when you’re taking cuttings or sowing seeds for example – you need a very light weight pair.  They can also double up as your general summer gloves.

My favourites are made by Showa.  I’ve used this brand for years (I’m not affiliated in any way).  I like them because they are durable, good quality, comfortable and affordable.  I have very small hands and they make all their different gloves in extra small so I can get any gloves I want to fit me.  (They also have extra large).

So, don’t be tempted to spend a fortune on soft leather, pretty ladies gloves.  They will soon go crusty, stiff and uncomfortable.

Number 4 – A set of good quality hand tools.  This means secateurs, hand fork and trowel.

The most important thing with hand tools is that they are comfortable to hold and use.  Secateurs especially can be a bit tricky.  Your secateurs are an extension of your hand.  You use them to cut stems when you’re pruning, cutting back and propagating.  If you have shrubs and woody perennials in your garden you will definitely need a pair.  Opinion is divided on this most essential and personal of equipment.

The purists tend to recommend the Felco brand.  These are the most expensive and are of very good quality and come with the added advantage of a maintenance service where you can send them away for cleaning, sharpening and repairs.  Great!  I don’t use Felco though because having tried a few pairs, I haven’t found any that I find comfortable to use.  They come in different styles and sizes but I have never been able to get on with them.  If you can find a pair that suit you then they are brilliant but don’t assume they will be the best for you.  You need to try your secateurs on like you would a pair of shoes.

I have two pairs – my old faithful are my Wolf secateurs.  I’ve had them for fifteen years and I still love them.  I also have a cheap pair of Wilkinson Sword that I bought for £4.99 about three years ago. They fit my hand and are comfortable to use but I know they won’t last much longer.

Number 5 – A dibber and widger.  I have had my little dibber and widger for years and I just couldn’t manage without them.  Use them when you’re sowing seeds to make drills and holes in the compost and to tease out seedlings when you’re pricking out.  They are cheap and durable.  Nuff said.  (I bought mine form Two Wests and Elliot).

 Number 6 – A set of tub trugs.  These are just so useful for carrying stuff around the garden – weeds, cuttings, compost.  Ask for at least three of different colours so you can colour code them for different uses.  E.g. good and ‘bad’ weeds (‘bad’ weeds don’t go on the compost heap).

 Number 7 – A good hosepipe, watering can and mini ‘rose’ for plastic  bottles. 

Hosepipes can be very annoying!  They take on a life of their own as soon as you start to unwind them.  Ask for one that doesn’t kink – honestly, this will make life so much easier.  Ask for one that is long enough to take you around your whole garden (unless you have acres in which case make sure you have taps dotted about).

I have always wanted a Hawes watering can but can never bring myself to pay the price that they cost.  If someone is buying you a watering can, ask for a Hawes – they are gorgeous!  The difference is in how easy they are to carry and how beautiful they are to look at and handle.

 

This little plastic mini ‘rose’ fits onto old plastic drinks bottles and is a godsend in the greenhouse for use with seedlings and cuttings. It delivers a gentle drink to your delicate seedlings and young plants so that they aren’t drowned and you can control the amount of water they get.  This is honestly one of the best things I have ever bought!  I keep bottles ready in the greenhouse and on my windowsill in the house so that I can safely deliver a drink to my little plants in a hurry.  They come in packs of three and last for years.

Number 8 – A set of compost bins – as many as you have room for.  Making compost is at the heart of any garden.  It is just essential. 

It’s easier to manage your compost if you have at least three bins but you may not have room for that – don’t worry if you don’t. Do what you can.  Think about where you’re going to put your bins and then buy them and start using them.  Your new book or gardening course (see below) will help you!

 Number 9 – An introductory course in Organic Gardening.  Once you’ve caught the gardening bug, you will want to know more.  A book can only do so much.  A course delivered by someone who knows their stuff is inspirational, motivational and hopefully, really worthwhile.  If you live near me, you can do one of mine – I’m offering an essentials of organic gardening course in Spring next year (2019) and I offer other gardening workshops and learning events.  Take a look at the events page of my website.  If you can’t get to one of my courses then check out your local authority adult education services.  There are often lots of gardening related things going on.

Number 10 – The Garden Whisper. 

This is a digital product that I offer.  It’s a bespoke maintenance plan delivered to your email in 12 instalments over the course of a year.  It consists of an introduction to the month – what to expect, some of the general tasks that need doing, then there is a table that contains ALL the plants in your garden with instructions on how to look after each plant, how it should be – whether in bud, in bloom, going over etc.  After the twelve months you have a guide to looking after YOUR garden.  You can find out more about it on my website services page.  Click here to go to the page.

So, there you go.  Ten really useful gifts that you can add to your letter to Santa.

I hope you get everything you ask for and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.