Gardening expert and author Charlie Hart is here to help with his new book, No Fear Gardening, aimed at budding gardeners who simply don’t know where to start.

And even if you’re a total beginner, with just a tiny balcony or a small courtyard, you can ease into gardening and find relatively quick success, he promises.

“The most important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying yourself,” says Hart. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking only experts can garden – and follow your instinct.”

Forget needing to be an ‘expert’

In fact, he adds: “Don’t get too caught up in the rule. People get caught up in a terrible flurry, start reading online and look at how to do this and that. Seeds want to grow. All you have to do is give them sun, water and soil.

“I have grown cordon tomato crops and haven’t pinched out the leader or taken the little side leaves out as they grow. I get a messy, sprawling plant but I still get plenty of tomatoes. This ‘expert-itis’ puts people off gardening.”

Or being a control-freak…

Things don’t have to look perfect, either. “Don’t worry about the garden being a bit out of control. As a species, we try to control everything. All the fun is in letting it go a bit. Win that battle in your mind,” says Hart. “I would rather have a slightly messy but abundant and productive garden, than a wonderfully tidy but sterile one.”

Think about an easy menu

“For people who just want to potter, there’s nothing as motivating as the chance of a decent meal at the end of it. Rather than growing from a catalogue picture, grow with a menu in mind. Grow what you enjoy eating, not what everybody else is growing,” Hart suggests.

“The easiest fruits are berries and currants. You can get a large yield of raspberries, for instance, out of a relatively small amount of space.”

Standard veg which are easy include potatoes, while carrots are better started off later because that reduces problems with carrot fly, he observes.

Don’t forget herbs

“Parsley is easy, and it will stand through the winter when other herbs have vanished or are feeling sorry for themselves,” says Hart. “Given the potential reward, I’d strongly advise people to grow basil. Start the seed off in trays on a windowsill and let them grow on. I don’t pot them on. I treat them like some people treat lettuce.

“Once they reach a suitable height and it’s warm enough outside, I plant them straight from the tray into the ground. Think of basil as a shrub rather than a standard herb.

“If you can plant it in a pot with a reasonable root run, it should be all right, if you have a sunny spot.”

Don’t forget perennials such as rhubarb, which over the years will give you greater reward for smaller investment, he notes.

Grow up as well as out

“Think about your small space not just horizontally but vertically. There’s nothing to say you can’t train a vine up a drainpipe, or why you can’t grow all sorts of soft fruit and train it in such a way that it doesn’t steal all the light from the rest of the garden.”

Veg such as climbing beans will make the most use of your vertical space, Hart recommends.

Don’t let a small garden put you off

Tomatoes are great for small spaces, says Hart. “Of all the plants I grow, tomatoes give me the most pleasure. They are good for a small garden. They love the sun and you can grow bush varieties in a container and move it around to find the sun during the day.

“Grow them in a big tub. They want a good root run and they are quite hungry. Good varieties include Gardeners’ Delight.”

The simplest thing to grow is salad, which can be grown in small containers or even an old piece of gutter. Of all the salads, the easiest to grow is rocket, he reckons.

Start with easy flowers

“My go-to flowering plant is a pelargonium. They’re very pretty and you can get varieties with citrus-scented leaves, which are glorious. They’re fairly bullet-proof in summer and they are easy to propagate, so if you have one plant you can make several more without leaving the house. They will also be happy on a windowsill – they don’t need to be put outside – and are drought tolerant.

“Some easy flowers can be edible” Hart adds, “such as marigolds, which can be used in place of saffron, as can sunflowers as a food colouring.”

No Fear Gardening: How To Think Like A Gardener by Charlie Hart is published by Constable. Available now.