It seems to me that if you are interested in gardening, you are interested in growing plants.
Unless you are going to create a Japanese Zen garden, like the famous Ryōan-ji garden in Kyoto, plants are going to be at the centre of your gardening efforts.
What do we get from growing plants?
Plants give a garden a sense of purpose, structure and character.
They can provide shade, shelter or screening to turn a garden into a place of peace and quiet reflection. But with striking combinations of form and colour, plants can also offer an ever-changing visual display that can shimmer with energy.
Plants attract birds, animals and insects to the garden. They also give us food to eat and juices to drink and can even give us some of the materials that we need to care for them, such as wooden stakes or garden compost.
But beyond what is intrinsic to plants themselves, it is the process of interacting with plants that makes gardening so captivating for so many.
Plants provide gardeners with something that is quite rare in human endeavours – the opportunity to be both imaginative and practical at the same time.
As we plan and develop our gardens, combining plants of various colours, shapes and size, we exercise a truly creative side of our nature that may otherwise be rarely seen.
Yet almost simultaneously, we are also engaged in tasks of the most practical kind – sizing up spaces, preparing ground, planting, pruning, feeding, watering, and generally working physically outdoors.
So, as gardeners, we owe almost everything that we get from gardening to plants. For that reason, it pays to gain as much of an understanding about plants as we can, especially as we start out on our gardening life.
It is therefore a really important as a gardener to understand how plants grow, so that you can grow the plants that you want and grow those plants well.
Edible or ornamental, fruit or vegetable, tree, shrub, perennial or annual, whatever you want to grow, the fundamentals are all the same. If you come to understand about plant growth, you’ll never look back as a gardener.
The challenges of growing plants
New gardeners are faced with two main challenges when it comes to growing plants.
First, we need to decide which plants we want to grow in our garden. Second, we need to know how to take care of the plants that we do select.
This means that we need to develop:
- our knowledge and understanding about the different plants that are available to us, and
- an appreciation of the conditions that we have in our garden, so that we can select plants that are suited to those conditions.
It also means that we need to know:
- how to get our plants safely into the ground in the first place, i.e. how to plant plants,
- what additional assistance those plants need from us, such as feeding and watering,
- how to prune plants, either to keep them within the space available to them or to change the way that they grow,
- how to identify when our plants have been attacked by pests and diseases,
- how to help plants recover from such attacks, and how to prevent pest and disease problems in the first place.
You can look at the challenges of plant selection and plant care separately. But, the truth is, in both cases all we are really concerned with is trying to provide our plants with the best conditions that we can, so as to enable them to flourish.
What you need to know
Of course, you can learn about the different needs and requirements of the various plants that you grow on a plant-by-plant basis. And you will almost certainly do this as you increase your familiarity with the various plants that you might want to use in your garden.
However, your overall gardening knowledge will be strengthened no end if it is underpinned by a basic understanding of how plants grow.
If you have that understanding you will often be able to make judgements about what you need to do in relation to a particular plant, without necessarily having to consult the books to find out more specifically what that plant’s individual requirements are.
So, what you’ll learn in this aeries of post for beginner gardeners are the basic facts that you need to know about plants to help you garden successfully.
You should know that what you’ll find here is nowhere near all there is to know about plants, but there is certainly more than enough of what you need to know to get your started.
So, in the next post in this series following pages, we’ll answer these questions:
- What makes plants grow?
- What are the main parts of plants and what are their functions?
- How is this information relevant to day-to-day gardening tasks?
Read on: How do plants grow.
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
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