Beginner checklist for gardeners and houseplant owners

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Wwhether it’s looking at nature and being surrounded by the natural world, “it’s in our DNA to feel better when we’re near plants,” says gardening expert Clive Harris, creator of the sustainability blog DIY Garden , which shares its garden checklist below. Not only do plants make us happy, but they also reduce stress levels. Even just smelling and touching a few indoor plants can have a positive impact on our health and well-being and lead to lower stress and anxiety levels, according to research published in Journal of Physical Anthropology. “Plant soil is also a great way to improve your mental health, as there is a bacterium in the soil called M. Vaccae, which stimulates our happy hormone serotonin in the same way that antidepressants do,” adds Harris.

With so many benefits, it is no wonder that people begin gardening, as well as buying houseplants, to get in touch with nature right in their homes. “The market for houseplants has doubled in the last few years as people caught up on how wonderful they are in an apartment or on a balcony,” says Harris.

When you’re just getting started, it’s natural to have some expert advice on how to make your garden grow.

Here is a garden checklist for green thumbs for beginners

1. Do a little research on your plants

Different plant species need different care approaches. “For example, a cactus is very different from a peace lily, and snake plants are different from ivy, so check before you make sure you know that you are giving your plants the right care they need,” says Harris.

2. Plant according to sun and shade needs

Placing plants in the wrong place is the biggest mistake people make in the garden, according to Harris. “It’s important to choose the right plant for the right place. This means that shade-loving plants have shade and sun-loving plants have sun,” he says. Ferns and hydrangeas, for example, love the shade, whereas roses and lavender love the sun. Plant them in the right place and they will thrive.This is information you should be able to find in your research or on the label or seed package for your plants.If not, ask a colleague in the nursery or garden where you go to select your plants.

For indoor plants, Harris recommends keeping them far away from heat sources. “Choose light, airy places away from radiators and full sun for shiny deciduous plants,” he says.

3. Check regularly for pests

Aphids, snails and slugs in particular can damage your exterior plants. “Llus usually attack new growth, so look there first, and if you see them, act right away,” he says. “Use soapy water and rubber gloves to rub aphids off the stems,” he says. Snails and slugs can be kept in check with copper tape, eggshells and sheep wool. “Indoor plants also get pests, and melbugs are common, so use neem oil or alcohol to kill them and repot afterwards to ensure that any eggs are also destroyed,” he says. Note: You may need to do this a few times.

4. Give them a good suck as needed

How often you should water your plants depends on the type. However, all plants respond well to a long soaking of water when they begin to dry out. There are very few who benefit from daily watering or a dribble ride here or there.

With outdoor plants, it is important not to underestimate the water needs of pots. “It’s not only the sun that dries them out, but also the wind that does, and containers need at least a weekly soak during the growing months and most likely also a weekly feed,” he says. In really hot weather, hanging baskets and plants like tomatoes may need a daily water supply and replenishment.

Indoor plants need a little more care when it comes to watering. “Water your plant only when the topsoil is dry, as watering every day will drown and rot the roots,” says Harris. “Every week, check if the soil is still moist, and note: You must never leave your plant in a container with water – soak it in the sink, let it run off, and then put it back in its decorative pot. “

5. Turn your indoor plants weekly

“Turn indoor container plants a quarter turn each week so each side gets the same amount of sun and grows evenly,” Harris says. All plants will stretch for light, and by turning them often, your plants will end up straight.

6. Follow the feeding protocols accordingly

“Strong plant food given to plants too often will kill any plant where their leaves turn yellow and they will collapse,” Harris says. So read fertilizer instructions and plant labels before feeding your plants, and make sure you follow their advice.

7. Repot plants as needed

If you do a good job, your plants in containers will grow out of their homes. This means that you will have to repot when you start to see the roots start to show. “Root-bound plants struggle to absorb water and nutrients and begin to fail, and this is where you will have to move to the next size pot when roots appear in drainage holes or the plant bursts in the seams,” says Harris.

8. Prune at the appropriate time

While doing your research, if you decide on liquid plants, be sure to find out how they prefer to be pruned when they are in bloom. “Some plants only bloom on old wood, so if you cut it all back in the fall, you have no flowers next year,” Harris says.

Essential tools for first-time gardeners

Hand trowel

“A hand trowel is a small shovel used to dig container soil and shallow depths,” says Harris. You can use it to make a plant hole by sticking it into the ground and pulling it towards you as if you were rowing a boat. They are versatile garden tools and according to Harris the most important.

Hand fork

“It’s best to use to weed and loosen soil before using a towel to plant,” Harris says. Small hand forks are especially useful when you need to weed around plants that stand close together without disturbing the roots.

Border spade

A full-size shovel is an important tool for gardens that have large edges. It is used to turn soil or make large, straight sides. “Use your foot to push the spade into the ground and your arms to turn the ground around,” Harris says. Make sure you wear hard, tight-fitting shoes that you do not mind getting dirty.

Border fork

Like a full-size shovel, the border fork differs in that it is designed and divides the soil into chunks without you having to lift as much soil weight when doing so. “If you’re digging a boundary, use a garden fork to break up the ground before you go over to your shovel to make a plant hole,” Harris says. Just push the fork head down with your foot and pull the fork back to turn the ground.


Gloves protect your hands from wear and dirt. “Choose thick leather gloves if you are pruning or cutting thorns and nettles back, and light gloves if you are just weeding or planting,” Harris says.

Water jug

All plants need water! A watering can should be easy to lift, so do not buy the largest you can find. “Choose one with well-fitting ‘rows’ that sprinkle water evenly over the ground,” says Harris. “A large splash of water without rows disturbs the soil structure and washes away smaller plants,” he explains.


Secateurs are hard garden shears and are needed for pruning shrubs and other mowing tasks. They have large comfortable handles and safety blades that lock when you are not using them. “Choose bypass exercise secateurs because they cause less damage to living branches than anvil types,” Harris suggests.


Fertilizers, bark chips or any kind of plant food are important to take the best possible care of your garden and your plants and to provide them with high quality nutrition. “Enhance their nutrient uptake with chicken manure, horse manure or liquid seaweed / tomato food, especially if you have container plants that are limited to what’s in the pot,” he says.

Essential tools for houseplant owners

Decorative pot

Houseplants usually come in thin plastic pots that have drainage holes in the bottom and you want to keep the pots instead of removing them. “You should always store your plant in one of these so you can water and drain it efficiently,” he says. Then choose a decorative pot without drain holes and put the plastic pot in it for exhibition purposes.

Lose or spray

“Many green leafy plants love dew because it copies their natural environment, such as the Amazon rainforest floor, so save an old kitchen cleaning bottle or buy a houseplant sprayer to wash dust off and increase the moisture around deciduous plants,” he says. It will help them shine.

Larger drain pots and compost

Every year or so, houseplants should be transplanted into a larger pot with fresh new compost. “Always use good quality free-flowing compost, as garden soil just begs for trouble as it is heavy, clumsy and introduces pests,” he says.

Plant food

“Check the label, but your houseplant is likely to need a very weak fertilizer once a month, with cacti, succulents and orchids being exceptions that need even less,” says Harris. Houseplants need regular food because they quickly deplete the pot’s available nutrients, and Harris explains that liquid plant foods are the best option here. It is an easy way to restore the nutrients that houseplants need to maintain good health.

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