Gardening for beginners - the gardening year

Gardening for beginners: the gardening year

You may assume that the key gardening seasons are spring and summer. But there are jobs to do in autumn and winter, too.

For beginner gardeners, it’s hard to know when to start gardening, and when to finish. The garden is always there – what needs doing when? You may assume that the key gardening seasons are spring and summer, and you’d be right. But there are significant jobs to do in autumn and winter, too.

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What’s more, gardening isn’t just about jobs. Being familiar with the gardening year is as much about knowing what to enjoy at key moments. Not all gardeners garden throughout the year, but there are many benefits in doing so, not least the physical and mental advantages of being outside and enjoying all the garden has to offer. But it’s important to do what works for you.

More on gardening for beginners:

Browse and be inspired by our seasonal breakdown of the gardening year, below.


Spring

The gardening year - sowing seed
The gardening year – sowing seed

In spring the garden comes alive again after winter. Spring bulbs such as aconites, snowdrops and daffodils are the first flowering plants to emerge, followed by tree blossom and flowering shrubs such as hawthorn. This is arguably the busiest time of year in the garden, with gardeners sowing seeds of flowering annuals, planning the look of the borders, and getting a head start on mowing and weeding.

Gardening jobs for spring

  • Lift and divide herbaceous perennials
  • Plant new herbaceous plants and shrubs
  • Prune roses
  • Sow hardy annuals outdoors
  • Sow half-hardy annuals in a heated propagator and plant them out after all risk of frost has passed
  • Remove weeds, add compost mulch to borders
  • Start mowing the lawn

Summer

The gardening year - taking cuttings
The gardening year – taking cuttings

Summer is a time of abundance in the garden. Plants put on plenty of leafy growth and then burst into flower to be pollinated by bees and other insects. Weeds can be a problem in summer, but you can keep them under control with a ‘little and often’ approach. Although there’s still plenty to be getting on with, it’s important to take the time to relax outdoors and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Summer jobs

  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after flowering
  • Take cuttings from new growth of shrubs and perennials
  • Start feeding, watering and deadheading bedding plants
  • Feed and deadhead roses after flowering
  • Sow seeds of perennial plants
  • Deadhead spent flowers from herbaceous plants
  • Mow your lawn regularly, increasing the height of the cutting blade in dry weather
  • Stake perennials before they flop over

Autumn

The gardening year - planting bulbs
The gardening year – planting bulbs

Plants stop growing as quickly in autumn, giving you a break, as well as a chance to look back on the growing season. Some plants, such as Japanese anemones, Verbena bonariensis and rudbeckias, will flower until the first frosts, providing a late season of pollen and nectar for insects. Now is the time for seedheads, berries and hips, the falling of leaves, as the garden – and the wildlife that uses it – starts to wind down for winter.

Autumn jobs

  • Plant late-flowering plants to extend the season of colour
  • Bring tender plants indoors before the first frosts
  • Plant spring bulbs
  • Clear fallen leaves from your lawn and paths, but leave piles in corners of your garden to provide hibernation sites for wildlife
  • Leave seedheads on plants for birds to eat
  • Plant deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers
  • Plant bare-root shrubs, roses and hedging plants
  • Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs and roses

Winter

The gardening year - cleaning the greenhouse
The gardening year – cleaning the greenhouse

In winter the garden is completely dormant, nothing is growing and most wildlife is hibernating. Many gardeners stop gardening altogether at this time of year but there are jobs to do. These largely involve tasks that free-up time in spring, such as cleaning the greenhouse and tidying the shed. You can also pot up container displays of winter-flowering plants, to enjoy through the window. Also, don’t forget to take time to enjoy evergreen shrubs and trees, the remaining berries and structural plants in the garden.

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Winter jobs

  • Raise terracotta pots on pot feet to prevent cracking in frost.
  • Order seed catalogues and plan the coming gardening year
  • Clean your greenhouse
  • Tidy your shed