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5 ways to start urban gardening, however small your space

In partnership with
Ketel One Botanical

Whether you’ve got an untamed jungle attached to your flat or a tiny sliver of window space, here’s how to get your new hobby off the ground…  

Growing your own veg, brightening up grim-looking rentals, spamming your Insta feed with #urbangarden content… the reasons for getting into gardening are endless.

The thing is, if your horticultural track record only extends to keeping a solitary cactus alive, it can be hard to know where to start.

Then there’s the fact that if you’re living in the city, the space you have to work with is probably fairly limited.

However, even if you’ve only got a windowsill to play with and don’t know which end of a watering can is which, there’s no reason you can’t start getting your fingers green.

Here are five handy tips to get you up and running.

  • 1. Select your tools

    First things first, you’re going to need to equip yourself with a couple of key bits of kit.

    Fortunately, you won’t have to break the bank to get started.

    “For tending to pots and containers, you only really have to buy three tools,” says Rebekah Mealey, Horticultural Advisor at the RHS.

    “You’ll need a hand trowel for planting and digging, a hand fork for weeding and dividing plants and secateurs for cutting back and dead-heading.”

    “Hold and feel the weight of your tools before you buy,” she advises. 

    “The handles need to be comfortable for you to hold and not overly heavy.”

    “Choose trowels and forks with sharp thin edges and prongs for cutting through compost with ease.”

  • 2. Check your compass

    Before you get started, work out which way your space faces and choose your plants accordingly.

    “If it’s east or west facing, you shouldn’t have a problem growing plants in spring and summer,” advises Richard Baggeley, Director at The Greenhouse People.

    “But during the colder months, make sure to protect any perennial plants (those which live longer than two years) from harsh winds.”

    “North-facing spaces are much darker, so pick shade-loving plants like Foxglove, Astilbe and Primrose.”

    “In contrast, south-facing spaces will be soaked in sun most of the day so opt for sun-loving plants like Delphinium, Peony, Iris and Lilly.”

  • 3. Make a plan of attack

    So you’re lucky enough to have a back garden, but it’s been a bit unloved and you haven’t got the first clue what to do with it?

    Your best bet is to take it slow.

    “Take your time when clearing your garden,” says Mealey, “as it’s easy to miss a hidden gem in the shape of a free plant that might have self-seeded.”

    “Clear the weeds and get the lawn under control first, then work out which shrubs and trees you have and if you would like to keep them.”

    “Take pictures of your progress and create a plan of what you have and what you would like.”

    Set an evening aside, pour yourself a suitably nature-inspired drink from the new Ketel One Botanical range, and get planning. 

  • 4. Choose long-lasting plants

    If you’re a gardening novice, working out what you should be planting can be a bit of a daunting task - so make sure you look at a plant’s longevity.

    “It’s wise to choose shrubs that flower for a long time and in different seasons,” says Mealey, “not only for providing visual interest in the darker months but also for supporting wildlife.”

    “Skimmia Japonica is one of my favourites – it’s a glossy evergreen with red flower buds that look like small berries over winter.”

    “Syringa Meyei Palibin is a dainty dwarf Lilac with pretty pastel pink blooms in spring, while Buddleja Tobudpipur is a dwarf butterfly bush that’s good for attracting and feeding bees.”

    “Finally, Abelia Parvifolia is a great beginners’ plant - a semi evergreen shrub which flowers well into autumn.”

  • 5. Be creative with your space

    Don’t actually have a “garden” per se? Not a problem…

    “Window boxes and hanging baskets are a great way of adding colour to your home if you’re short on space,” says Mealey.

    “An evergreen trailing plant such as ivy acts as your year-round base for a hanging basket, which can then be added to and spruced up for seasonal interest.”

    “Plant small bulbs such as Narcissus and Crocus in the autumn for spring then add summer bedding such as colourful Calibrachoa and sweet-smelling Nemesia.”

    “You basically want to treat baskets and boxes like long-term floral arrangements which will need a re-vamp and a re-pot at least three times a year.” 

Having made your fingers suitably green, it’s time to do the same to your drinks cabinet. Available in three delicious varieties including Peach & Orange Blossom, Grapefruit & Rose and Mint & Cucumber, Ketel One Botanical is a new range of spirit drinks made with vodka distilled with botanicals and infused with natural flavours. Just add soda for the perfect summer-ready serve.

For all the facts about alcohol, head to Drinkaware.