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PLANTS for beginners THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO KEEPING HOUSEPLANTS AND URBAN GARDENS ALIVE BY ALICE VINCENT


PLANTS for beginners


Contents

1

Introduction

2

How to choose the right plants

3

How to keep them looking great

4

Moving beyond the basics


PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

1 It’s not as hard as you think Within a matter of months you will be leaving loving, detailed care notes for friends who have offered to do a bit of watering while you’re on holiday, and getting an endorphin hit when you see new leaf growth.

So, you’ve made the smart decision to bring some plants into your life. Congratulations! It only gets better from here, I promise.

You might have been successfully managing your plant gang for a while now: perhaps you know the difference between a cactus and a succulent, and are looking to get into growing. That’s cool, too: Patch offers seasonal outdoor plants every few weeks. Greenery in summer is beautiful, but greenery in the dark days of winter? That’s a far better tonic for Dry January.

Plants are awesome, but looking after them, at first, can seem really scary. However, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you learn a few little tips and tricks to not only keep them alive, but allow them to thrive.

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1 — INTRODUCTION

Gardening hasn’t had a good rep for a while. It got tangled up in terminology and complicated rules about compost and fertilisers; it was seen as the domain of the retired, something for people with massive gardens and loads of spare time on their hands. As a balcony gardening novice in my mid-Twenties, I didn’t have either. But what I did have was a genuine love for growing things, which I tried to squish into my first book, How to Grow Stuff, in an attempt to prove to every other scared new gardener that they can do it too, and it might change their life a little. Some of those tips are going to be shared in this guide, but if you fancy learning more, you can buy a copy from Patch.

Perhaps you have a sunny balcony? There’s a collection for that. Maybe you want to fill your basement flat up with plants? There’s a collection for that too.

The people at Patch make some of the hardest parts of getting into gardening easier. They sell quality plants - meaning they’re far harder to kill than those you may have tried from the supermarket - and tell you where it’s best to put them. Once you’ve got your plants, you can start growing. And that’s when the real fun begins.

Alice Vincent @noughticulture

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

2 How to choose the right plants

Just as you can’t start decorating a room without trying a few paint samples, looking at what you’ve got and thinking about what you want to achieve, you’ve got to think about the space you want to put plants in before you buy them.

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2 — HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

The single most important thing to consider first is light. How many windows does your room have? Is there a lot of light, or are you endlessly putting on a side lamp? Whip out the compass app on your phone and point it towards the best natural light source in the room - if your space faces north, you’ll have less light than if it faces south. Be aware that you’ll need to keep the watering can close at hand if you place your plants near drafts, radiators or air conditioning units as these will more quickly dry your plants out. The same applies to your outdoor space, too: if you’ve got an exposed balcony you’ll need different plants to if you have a sheltered back courtyard. Consider that plants thrive in endless changing environments all over the world there is a plant that is perfect for your space. Once you’ve done these things, you can work out if you need plants that are happiest in shade (good for dimly lit rooms), happiest in direct sunlight (perfect for bright rooms with hot, sunny windowsills) and happy in both light and shade. Then you can use these filters on Patch’s website to pick your plants. .7


PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

HOW SHOULD I USE PATCH’S LIGHT FILTERS?

Sun

Plants that are ‘happiest in direct sunlight’ will enjoy a spot that – when the weather’s good – receives at least three hours of direct sunlight between 11am and 6pm.

Shade

Plants that we term ‘happy in sun and shade’ are better off not receiving more than three hours of direct afternoon sunlight. These plants tend to thrive in a site that’s exposed to cooler morning or early evening light.

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Plants that are ‘happiest in shade’ are for those tricky spots that receive no direct sunlight. At best the site will benefit from some indirect light in the morning or evening. But bear in mind that even shade-loving plants enjoy a little light every day so do your best to indulge yours.


2 — HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

The good news is that there’s an option whatever your circumstances. Got a dark space? No plant can tolerate being permanently without light, but as long as you rotate plants around a darker room and keep them close to the best natural light source you have, you’ve got plenty of options. How about Bertie, the Boston Fern? (left). In the wild, she thrives in humid forests and swamps, so will be seriously at home in your bathroom, where she’ll get a misting every time you shower and will put up with low light. There’s more information on how best to look after her down at the bottom of her product page. .9


PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

It’s a myth that all plants love sunlight - just as we can get sunstroke and sunburn when it’s too hot, plants can suffer too. There are, however, some varieties which just can’t get enough of a good thing. These are ideal for an exposed windowsill or bright room.

If you fancy something a little more structural for your dark space, then Juliette, a Calathea (above), will do nicely. She’s the perfect plant to add a little colour to your room, thanks to her dark red leaves, and as long as you keep her soil moist, she’ll fascinate you with unfurling new growth. .10


2 — HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

If you’ve got a bright, sunny balcony, then get involved with Esther, the Festuca Glauca. Don’t be deceived by her funky look, Esther is seriously hardcore and can put up with direct light and wind ­— hell, she thrives on both. Inside, meanwhile, that luminous corner may be crying out for company with Joseph, the Codiaeum. He will reward a spot of bright, indirect light with gorgeous multicoloured leaves. .11


PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

Most of the time, however, you’ll probably want to put plants in spaces that are neither too bright nor too dingy. This is good news: there’s a wealth of varieties available on Patch that are pretty chill in either shade or sun.

Phil, the Philodendron (below), is remarkably tolerant of most things, really. While he likes to be able to see the sky, he’ll manage in lower light, too.

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2 — HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLANTS

Phil’s mate, Big Ken the Kentia Palm (below), is a great shout if you want a reliable, beautiful space-filler that won’t demand too much from you. He’s happy in most corners. Just make sure he’s away from any cold draughts.

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

3 How to keep them looking great

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3 — HOW TO KEEP THEM LOOKING GREAT

How to water my plant? The best place to start for watering intel is the product page of the plant you’ve bought from Patch. This is where you’ll get bespoke information about what your plant needs to thrive. Just scroll to the bottom for tips on when and how much to water it.

water really soaks in . Or, with small pots, dunk them in a bucket of water and hold under until air bubbles stop rising. Then lift out and drain. Most plants appreciate being left to dry out a little bit between waterings, otherwise their roots can rot. But if your plant is like Bertie or Boo, the Fargesia Bamboo (below), they prefer things a little damp. To be on the safe side, check the product page.

There are, however, a few general rules for watering. The best tip involves getting your hands dirty: stick a finger in the pot until the soil reaches your knuckle. How does it feel? It should feel a little moist by your fingertip. If it’s not, give it a good drink. If it feels very wet, then you can let it be. If your plant is ready for a soak, pour water on to the soil until the pot is about to overflow and then allow it to drain for thirty seconds. Then, do this again to make sure that every inch of root gets a drenching. For indoor plants, if you find that after ten minutes there is still excess water at the bottom of the pot, then pour this water down the sink as the plant has quenched its thirst. Not doing this risks saturating the roots and killing the plant. For outdoor plants with a drainage hole, the excess water will simply escape through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. If the water runs out immediately, it means the soil is so dry that it has shrunk away from the pot, and the water is just running straight down the sides, leaving the compost – and the roots – as dry as before. In that case, go slow and steady, so the .15


PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

What about feeding and deadheading? Baby Bio is the UK’s most popular brand of plant feed. There’s a different version for indoor and outdoor plants, simply mix with water and pour onto plants. Patch recommend how often it should be applied on the plant product page.

Plants need food as well as water. During the growing season, feed your plants once a week, using a liquid feed while watering. There’s no need to feed outside your plant’s growing season, typically late summer and winter.

Deadheading is a simple activity that will help you get the most out of your flowering plants, for longer. It isn’t just cosmetic, although it will certainly help them look better. Not doing it prevents a plant from producing more flowers so don’t be afraid to get the nail scissors out! To do it, it’s as simple as pinching or snipping off the dead blooms. During the summer, try to deadhead every few days – no hardship on a warm evening with a glass of wine in hand – and your plants will carry on flowering for weeks if not months.

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3 — HOW TO KEEP THEM LOOKING GREAT

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

4 Moving beyond the basics

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4 — MOVING BEYOND THE BASICS

Do I grow from seed or buy a plant ready to go? Growing from seed is undeniably badass. It takes time, patience and a lot of love, but there is nothing like eating something that started off as a tiny brown thing in a paper bag. Patch offers a number of ways to ease you into growing edibles, such as the Noocity Growbed, which helps to take care of the watering that veggies need to grow. You can also start from scratch with seed with the Miracle-Gro seed pods. But just because you can grow from seed, doesn’t mean you have to. There are all sorts of benefits to buying a plant that’s ready to go, and most gardeners play pick and mix with buying starter seedlings, seeds and fully grown plants. No two types of plants grow at a similar pace. Some, like Boo, will fill your space with green abundance within months if you treat her right. Others are happy to stay as they are, with only a little incremental growth over several years. Fast-growing plants can be controlled by being kept in a container, but they may need to be repotted after a year or two to keep growing. If you’re staying put for a while and want to grow your garden - indoor or out - with time, then you can buy smaller plants and let them develop in their own time. Alternatively, if you want to transform a space overnight, you’re better off buying the biggest plants you can get.

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

How to best plant up your outdoor plants THE BASICS OF PLANTING A PLANT IN EITHER THE GROUND OR A CONTAINER ARE:

1 Remove the plant from its plastic pot 2 Pop it in its new home 3 Surround it with soil

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4 — MOVING BEYOND THE BASICS

But to get the very best from your plants try these little tips and tricks: Firstly, drench the plant(s) as thoroughly as possible. With the smaller ones you can put them in a bucket of water and hold them down until air bubbles stop rising from the compost. Then allow it to drain while you get on with the below. To aid good drainage, as well as saving compost – and weight – add a 10-15 cm layer of polystyrene packaging or this more environmentally friendly drainage material. With the plant still in its plastic pot, put it into the container to check the depth. The surface of the compost in the pot should end up about 3cm below the top of the container to allow for easy watering in future. When the level is right, place the plant still in its plastic pot in the container and fill in around it with compost to the correct level, mixing in more water-retaining gel crystals. Firm it as you go. Take the plant and pot out of the container, squeeze the pot if necessary to loosen it and then holding the plant firmly around its base , slide the pot off the ‘rootball’ (the base of the plant). Then put the plant into the perfectsized hole you’ve made in the compost and firm it in.

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

What happens when I want to move my plant out of its pot? But if you’re not planting straight into soil then most plants, like people, will get to a point when they need to move on. Maybe they need more room - are roots coming out of the bottom of the pot? Is the foliage and new stems butting up against the side? - or you fancy a change, and want to switch up containers.

If you buy a plant from Patch with a container and soil, then it should last in that home for at least a couple of years.

The key thing to remember with any pot change is that a drainage hole at the bottom and drainage material are essential. If you put a plant into a pot that doesn’t have either, when you water it, the water has nowhere to go. This means that the roots can get waterlogged - it’s the plant equivalent of trench foot, and can kill your plants. Much like if we moved from a onebedroom flat to a six-bedroom castle, we’d be a bit freaked out by all the extra room. Plants are the same, and can suffer from shock if you suddenly put them in a much larger pot. Instead, choose one that’s a few centimetres larger in diameter than the one it’s currently in.

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4 — MOVING BEYOND THE BASICS

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

These basics should be enough to get you started, but if you want to learn more about growing things, then read Alice’s book: How to Grow Stuff.

You can follow Alice on Instagram at Instagram.com/noughticulture, where she shares tips and shots from her own adventures in growing.

It’s a simple, straightforward and no-fuss guide to gardening for beginners and those who have already learned to love plants. With twenty easy projects to grow in any space - from windowsill to back garden - How to Grow Stuff includes tips on growing houseplants, vegetables, salad, herbs and flowers.

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PLANTS FOR BEGINNERS

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Patch's Guide to Plants for Beginners  

The Essential Guide To Houseplants and Urban Gardens

Patch's Guide to Plants for Beginners  

The Essential Guide To Houseplants and Urban Gardens