No. 41 help a plant grow
Adventure no. 41 on our list of '50 things to do before you're 11¾' is a challenge that'll take a bit of time. You definitely can't complete it in a day, or even two, as plants take time to grow, but it's definitely worth the wait, we promise. If you don't think you're green-fingered then follow our tips for success.
Gardening is a hobby that can last a lifetime; it can be such a fun and fulfilling past-time. You’ll gain plenty of new skills and a lot of planting wisdom as you progress. Part of the enjoyment is seeing what you’ve planted growing into something beautiful (or edible); the other part is the pleasure of caring for another living thing and helping it to thrive. You could even grow your own fruit, vegetables or herbs.
Create a secret garden
To mark the release of the new movie adaptation of The Secret Garden, a Sky Original, in cinemas and on Sky Cinema 23 October, our gardeners are showing you how to create your own secret garden at home. Whether you plant bulbs in secret places or create a special nature reserve for newts and toads to hide in, there are lots of things you can do to bring some magic to your outside space this autumn.
All of this green-fingered work is bound to get you in the mood for The Secret Garden, which features some of the places in our care. You'll spot the stream at Bodnant Garden in Conwy, the magical ruins at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire and the kitchens at Osterley Park in London.
Your secret garden
In a hidden or undisturbed part of the garden, plant some bulbs of tulips, daffodils or crocuses but don’t tell anyone. When they come up in spring, they’ll be a big surprise.
Create a nature reserve
Create a mini-nature reserve, where toads and newts can hide during the winter. You can do this by putting a pile of bricks or logs in a sheltered spot that is cool and damp.
Grow your favourite flowers
Choose a small part of your garden, a pot or window box to grow your favourite flowers from seed. Create a wild walkway with your flowers.
Go on a treasure hunt
Set up a treasure hunt in your garden. Hide the clues under different plants, which can be found by looking at a drawing, picture or reading a short description.
Make a bee hotel with some bits of wood or and some short bamboo canes. Put it in a dry and sheltered place and wait for the visitors to arrive.
What do you want to grow?
First of all, think about what you want to grow. Do you want something that you can eat? Or would you prefer a plant that looks interesting at different times of the year? Do you want sweet-smelling flowers or interesting seedheads?
If you don’t have a garden
Don’t worry, there are lots of places you can grow plants even if you don't have a garden or outside space.
A sunny window sill is a good place to grow things. Try planting lettuce seeds in pots or trays. There are lots of colourful varieties to choose from and once big enough, you can pick off leaves and add them to a meal. You could plant single sunflower seeds in pots on a sunny window sill, or grow an avocado plant in an old jam jar? There are lots of things to try.
You might be allowed to sow something in the cracks of an old wall. Aubretia is a beautiful purple plant that loves to live in the cracks of walls and paths, and it self-seeds very easily.
What time of the year?
Although spring and especially summer are often the most exciting times to watch and care for your plant, don’t forget to nurture it the whole year round. Some plants and trees have wonderfully-coloured branches in the winter time - perhaps they’re even more beautiful than the plant in full leaf. You decide.
Easy-to-grow fruit and veggies
We think strawberries are one of the easiest and tastiest things to grow. Or you could think about herbs like basil (which goes well with nearly every pasta or pizza dish), rosemary or thyme.
Or you could try your hand at veggies – peas or cress are fairly easy to look after, or tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, parsnips or salad leaves. The list is endless really, so it's pretty much down to you and what you fancy eating, and what time of year it is.
Remember that whatever you have chosen will take a while to grow, so you usually won't be eating it for at least a month after you've planted it.
Our top tips
- Plant seasonally - make sure you plant the right thing at the right time of year. Some plants will only grow at certain times of the year.
- Make sure you've got the right equipment. You don't actually need to go out and buy loads to start growing your own produce. You can make plant pots out of newspaper, but you will need compost or soil and space to put your pots.
- If you've bought seeds, then follow the instructions on the packet about the types of soil, temperatures and how deep to plant the seeds. All of that information is there to help give you the best chance of growing happy plants.
- Don’t forget the water. Watering your plant is very important to help it grow, so try and remember. In hotter months, you might need to water every day.