Gardening Tips from head RHS Judge, Jim Buttress.

Following a gardening talk and demonstration at Durrants Village later living community in Faygate, West Sussex earlier this summer, head RHS judge Jim Buttress has shared his top gardening tips with Inspired Villages for smaller garden spaces and container gardening.

Right plant, right place

If you have a limited garden space you need to be select with the type and quantity of plants you get for it. It’s important to choose the plant for the situation and to put it in the right place within your garden; for example, does it need shade, lots of sun, a damp rather than a dry spot? When choosing plants in a garden centre think about what conditions your garden space has and at what times of day.

Grey leaf plants like the shade for example – I advise: “silver colour – shady corner”.

Hydrangeas like shade and lots of water. Clematis is a great garden plant – its roots want to be in the shade but the plant is a sun lover so find a spot for it where it can flower in the sun.

Give the plant space to grow

Don’t be overgenerous when you go to the garden centre when choosing your potted plants. It’s important not to cram too many plants into one plant pot – you need to give the plants space to grow. It’s imperative to buy a container that is the right size for your plant, with plenty of space for it; the best thing to do is to try one plant in the pot and then see how it goes before adding any more; the important thing is to give the roots space to grow and fill the pot beneath the compost.

Any plant pots you use must also have drainage – if there’s not a hole in the bottom of any plastic pots you buy you can make one yourself. When potting a plant, plant it to a depth you’re happy with and firm the compost in around it, but not too hard - keep the compost level in the pot.

It is best to plant herbs in individual pots or containers, and bring them indoors in the winter. Tomatoes also need their own pot – grow bags do not have sufficient depth of compost.

Compost type

Good quality compost is essential. Don’t be tempted at the garden centre to buy the cheap compost that is often seen on offer e.g. three for the price of two – because if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This sort of compost is too ancient by the time you buy it; something I and other gardeners are campaigning for is to put sell by dates on compost packs to ensure the quality of compost.

A small tip: empty compost bags can be turned inside out and used as liners for potted plants – a great way to recycle.

Watering plants

When you first buy a plant give it a good drink of water in the container you’ve bought it in, then water it when you’re re-potted it, then the next time you water it flood the pot so the water really soaks in. The more water you give a plant the more the roots will grow, which is what we want.

Also, only water your plants in the morning and evening because, especially in the summer, if you water during the day the water will just evaporate.

Garden friends & foes

One of the greatest foes in our gardens is the slug, which enjoys eating our plants. I strongly advise against using slug pellets, because when it rains they sink into the soil which isn’t good at all for the soil. I advise using ‘Slug Gone’ – a product made from wool extract which deters slugs in a less harmful way.

Hedgehogs are one of our greatest friends in the garden as they eat slugs, of course, the most natural way to get rid of them. It is sad that hedgehogs seem to be slowly disappearing from our gardens – do what you can to encourage them and facilitate their habitat.

General gardening tips:

Don’t be afraid to look over the fence into your neighbour’s garden for inspiration – if what they’re doing works, it should work in your garden too. Though it has to be said generally what other people say works for them might not work for you – it’s just the way it goes! But those people may have different conditions and soil quality in their gardens.

The RHS website has lots of great gardening tips – so I recommend a visit for any gardening queries or for gardening inspiration!

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