This blog is a radical departure from my norm. So many people in the last week have mentioned the Apprentices efforts in the Urban Gardening episode to me, I felt compelled to comment.

How to Avoid The Apprentices Mistakes

If you watched the show, you’ll know that their efforts looked less than great but other than squabbling amongst themselves, you may not realise were they went wrong. As most of the Apprentices mistakes were common errors, that novice gardeners make. I thought I’d highlight a few and give some advice on how to avoid these pitfalls;

1 – Assume that plants are cheap

I get this all the time when asked to tender for jobs. People have such unrealistic expectations of how much gardens cost. It does depend on the habit of the plant but in most cases for a mixed border of small shrubs and perennials, you will need a minimum of 3-4 plants per square metre.

Plant costs also vary widely but if you estimate £10 per plant, which is pretty realistic, you are looking at £30-40/m2, so about the same as a decent carpet. Even in a small garden you will need to spend hundreds of pounds if you want an instant effect. You can plant smaller specimens plus growing from plants from seeds, bulbs and cuttings will save you money. However this will take patience and you’ll need to gain a fair amount of gardening knowledge.

Frankly given the expectations of the Apprentices Corporate Clients a £2000 budget, was never going to achieve the look they were after but hey it is TV make-believe.

2 – Assume that any DIY task can be done in a couple of hours

The thing about outside is it’s exactly that outdoors. Items like fences and furniture are out in all weather conditions, all year round and therefore need to be made of materials like oak or teak which can withstand the elements. Or they need be prepped and coated correctly with the right products for the weather conditions. My advice always give yourself a long weekend to tackle a job like painting a fence, it ALWAYS takes longer than you think…

Team Collaborative quoted £100 to paint a bench!! OK, with the pressure of an Apprentices Challenge, it might be hard to estimate how long it would take to sand and paint an item but the paint alone will cost £50, so there’s your clue. Oh and if you do some painting use a decent sized brush…!


 3 – Bare Earth

There is absolutely nothing worse than one plant every metre with bare earth in between. If you don’t have the budget, then plant one area well. By well, I mean to look full and luscious, with the minimum amount of earth showing and create more planted areas over time.

I refer you to Team Collaborative shocking attempt at a roof terrace which didn’t come close to looking like £2100 worth, even considering point 1.

4 – Fake grass in weird places

Personally I am not a fan of fake grass. However in some areas where lawn is never going to grow, if you want that luscious verdant look that a lawn gives, then fake grass maybe just the ticket. It’s also worth noting that it really is a product were spending more will get you better results.

However Team Typhoon Project Leading Apprentice put it on the bar, which just made it look furry, green and moldy. I’ve also seen it on bin stores, see below…also a no no, in my opinion whereas a sedum roofed bin store looks the biz!


5 – Plastic pots on show

Even garden centres set out their plants in clever ways to hide the pots, they go to this effort, as nothing detracts more from plants than plastic pots. So for urban gardening were planting in the ground is probably not possible, it’s important to have some form of attractive planter or pot.  There are fantastic affordable versions to be had in fibreglass, metal and even high quality plastic, checkout Primrose.

Apprentices Team Collaborative, as you can see from the image above, clearly didn’t know this important rule, so it really is no surprised they lost the challenge.  Oh and while I’m at it, those team names are like something out of The Office! Cringe..

You may not agree with my opinions or you may have seen some amazing creations which contradict my view, if so feel free to get in touchI am always open to great ideas, as long as you all agree that the creation below is probably not one of them!