Have you been bitten by the gardening bug but don’t know where to start? Would you love to grow beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables but don’t know what tools you’d need or even how to sow a packet of seeds?

Gardening can seem overwhelming at times, but it needn’t be and a new book by leading nurseryman and gardening writer Ken Cox aims to take the mystery out of growing for anyone who is new to gardening.

Gardening Made Simple, The Glendoick Guide for Beginner Gardeners, is a back-to-basics look at everything, from tackling weeds to raising tasty vegetables.

The book contains lots of clear and simple advice on choosing plants, preparing the soil and dealing with tricky growing conditions.

There are step-by-step instructions on planting and on growing from seed and the book is packed with recommendations for flowers, shrubs and trees that are hardy and reliable.

From raising herbs to growing a tasty crop of tomatoes or filling borders with colour for months on end, the book contains all the advice that anyone new to gardening will need.

Can’t work out what’s in all those different bags of compost at the garden centre? ‘Gardening Made Simple’ spells it out, and lets you know which ones you need.

Want to plant a hanging basket, cover a fence in climbers or find something that will grow on the shady side of the shed? Again, the book provides clear answers and simple instructions without any baffling jargon.

Ken says: “Three million people have taken up gardening in the last year but when I looked at the books available to them I couldn’t find anything that was aimed at beginners, so I decided to write one myself.”

And there’s isn’t much about gardening that Ken doesn’t know. His family firm, Glendoick Nursery and Garden Centre in Perthshire has been supplying plants and gardening advice to gardeners since 1953. It is renowned around the world as a breeder of rhododendrons and aside from writing award-winning gardening books, Ken is also a plant hunter who has travelled to some of the most remote areas on earth in search of new species.

In ‘Gardening Made Simple’, Ken has taken a lifetime’s knowledge and experience and distilled it down to its very essence in order to give first-time gardeners the information they need to avoid beginners’ mistakes.

He says: “Gardening is hugely rewarding and I want to give anyone who has just discovered it the confidence to keep on growing without feeling overwhelmed.”

GARDENING MADE SIMPLE, How to Grow and What to Plant  is published  by Glendoick Publishing, £12.95 and can be order from www.glendoick.com/gardening-made-simple


Scottish Gardener:


“You’ll typically find a large range of bagged compost or growing media in your garden centre. How do you know which one you need?”

Peat based compost 

Made from a base of peat blended with other ingredients such as fertiliser, sand and/ or grit, vermiculite or perlite. The government intends to cut out the use of peat over the next few years. The challenge is that peat is the best ingredient for growing young plants. Alternatives such as coir can be expensive to transport to the UK, while green waste tends to be unstable and inconsistent in performance.

John Innes/ Loam based compost

Heavier than peat-based composts, these are a combination of loam, sand or grit and/or peat with added fertilisers. Some of the best composts are hybrids: multipurpose with John Innes added, for example.

Peat-Free compost 

This can be  made from several different base ingredients, such as wood fibre, composted bark, coir, and green waste. These can be good products for most uses, but for seed sowing most gardeners still prefer peat composts, which perform better.

Ericaceous/Acid Loving Plant Compost

For rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and other acid loving plants that require acidic/peaty soil conditions, as they grow in nature.

Container Compost For bedding plants

This contains water retaining granules or wetting agents to help the media stay moist in summer. It tends to contain 6-8 weeks worth of nutrients so some extra feeding is required in mid to late summer.


Coarse bark is used for mulching (putting a layer on the soil surface to discourage weeds and retain moisture). fine bark is used as a soil improver, mixed into the soil.


For tomatoes and other crops. Bigger ones are best as they have more nutrients and need less watering. Cut 2-3 holes in the top, puncture the bottom for drainage and these should grow good indoor crops.

Top Soil & Manure

These are great for digging into planting beds for planting shrubs, trees, roses and perennials.


Scottish Gardener:


What you’ll need:

• A window box, large pot or hanging basket with a liner.

• Compost. I recommend tub and basket compost which contains water conserving granules and slow releases fertiliser.

• Enough plants to fill your container.

When to Plant

If you have a greenhouse or can provide frost protection for your plants, you can start planting up baskets and containers in April to give earlier flowering. If you don’t have any means of frost protection, baskets and containers are best planted up in mid to late May after the risk of frost has passed. You can of course bring containers indoors at night, or fleece if frost is forecast.

What to Plant

For a bedding container you can select a single type of plant such as Begonia or Geranium or a mixture of plants. Some of these might be chosen for their silvery or coloured leaves (Cineraria or Helichrysum for example) and others for flowers in one or two colours, or a mixed riot.

Some Good Bedding Colour Combinations

Blue and white: Petunia, Alyssum, Bacopa

Hot colours orange, red and yellow: Calibrachoa, Nasturtium, Geranium

Pink, red, purple, white: Verbena, Petunia, Bacopa Yellow and white: Begonia, Bacopa, Alyssum

Hanging baskets can be made of traditional mesh or plastic. Mesh hanging baskets need a liner to hold in the compost made of woven material, cardboard or plastic.

How many Plants?

To work out how many plants you need, measure the diameter of the basket. 30cm (12in) baskets have room for 12 smaller growing plants like Lobelia and Alyssum or 5-6 larger growers like Fuchsia and Geranium. Or you can mix 3 of the larger and 6 of the smaller ones. For a window box you will need 1 geranium per 30cm so a 90cm long window box would have room for 3.

What to do

Put the liner in so it fits the basket snugly, cutting off excess material. Measure 5cm up from the base, and make 4-5 x 5cm slits in the sides of the liner for trailing plants. The trailing plants will eventually fill out and mask the wire frame. For deeper baskets, two layers of slits can be made around the liner for a double layer of plants.

Fill your basket with the compost to the first slits and insert your trailing plants from the outside. Firm up the soil around them and then add another layer of compost to 2-3cm from the top of the basket. Add trailing plants around the rim and an upright plant for the centre. Firm up well and leave a flat surface on the compost. Water in.