During lockdown, those of us with our own gardens have probably spent more time in them than usual. Even though we are now looking ahead to the easing of restrictions, chances are that many of us may be working from home for some time – providing us with more opportunities to be in the garden rather than commuting.
You may be home alone, or you may have extra members of your household spending more time than usual with you – partners, small children, older kids returned from college … thinking up ways to spend time enjoyably can get tricky after a while. It’s hard to keep different members of a household happy; equally, it’s hard to entertain yourself if you are completely on your own. With all of this in mind, the Garden Company team has drawn together advice and ideas from several different sources, aimed at helping you to make the most of your garden and fill the next few days and weeks with some enjoyment.
So, what are the six ways we want to help you to enjoy your garden? Here’s a pick ‘n’ mix list to choose from:
1 Get your garden into shape
We asked Joanna, our Horticulture and Small Projects Manager, for her top gardening tips for this time of year:
- Look after your lawn – lawns need regular mowing in order to thrive and stay alive. Otherwise, the lawn’s density will start to decline and the root system will diminish. Also, weeds, damaging insects and lawn diseases can do damage. Please mow the lawn when necessary on dry days. You might consider purchasing online a small electric mower for the time being. The aim is to maintain a constant height throughout the year. Spring fertilizer can be applied, this normally contains moss and weed killer. It is also time for any repairs to bare patches – either turfing or top dressing and reseeding (either shady mix or utility mix seeds).
- Hoe the borders to keep weeds under control.
- Remove any tender plant protection.
- Water plants in pots if it gets warmer. We normally put irrigation controllers back in around now (depending on the weather).
- Feed Buxus (Box) – as they have been affected in previous years by Buxus blight and most recently caterpillar, we recommend feeding plants with Health-Mix and installing moth -traps.
- Remove any dead and dying foliage from the plants – some ornamental grasses or tender perennials may need cutting down.
Of course, as well as a healthier garden, all of these tasks will help to give you some exercise, some Vitamin D and are likely to boost your mood too. Based on our own experience we strongly agree with writer Jenny Uglow’s observation: ‘We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us’.
2 Grow your own
It’s never too late to try growing your own fruit and veg, and there are many health benefits to be gained. Growing your own food can inspire us to take an interest in the origins of our food, make better choices about what we eat and eat more fresh food. If you are already an experienced veg gardener, there is always more to learn …! Luckily, there’s a world of resources available to the beginner and to more experienced vegetable growers too. For expert guidance, we recommend the RHS advice pages on growing your own, and if you’re starting out for the first time this article from Gardeners’ World.
For fun and to keep you inspired, there are plenty of engaging blogs to follow on this theme. A couple of our favourites are: Vertical Veg blog – which aims to support those growing food in small spaces, making food growing accessible to anyone; and Mark’s Veg Plot – written by a long-time gardener and keen cook.
We also like to browse through James Wong’s Guardian series on gardens. A qualified botanist, science writer and broadcaster, James says himself that his ‘obsession for food nearly eclipses his love of plants’. A great combination if you are looking for inspiration and good advice with growing your own.
3 Relax outdoors
We all know the health benefits of getting exercise outside. But what’s less obvious is the fact you don’t even need to be active to benefit from being outdoors Just spending time relaxing and unwinding, enjoying the scenery and watching the bees and butterflies helps to keep you healthy. There is good evidence now that relaxing outdoors gives you: better mental wellbeing by relieving tiredness, regular sleep patterns, access to Vitamin D and all the benefits of breathing fresh air away from indoor pollutants.
So, if you are not in the habit of being outside in the garden very often, what changes can you make? Take your meals outside whenever the weather makes it possible, take any of your activities outside if you can (reading, phone calls), make sure you have comfortable garden furniture and if necessary suitable shading.
When it comes to reading about gardens and gardening, we liked this list of recommendations from Gardenista. And for those of us more interested in escaping into fiction, here’s a list of popular gardening fiction from Good Reads.
4 Play with family or pets
The team at Days out with Kids have turned their minds to helping families that are staying safe at home in the garden, and published an entertaining list of ideas, from garden games to crafts and other activities. They have also cleverly designed a nature scavenger hunt that is free to download, sending mini explorers on a quest to find, collect and touch different objects in the garden. As for those of you whose dogs are thrilled to be spending so much time with you this year, how about taking the opportunity to invent some new garden games or even top up their training – more ideas here.
5 Create havens for wildlife
Big or small, a garden can be a healthy haven for wildlife and there are many simple things we can do encourage biodiversity in our gardens, for example: providing pollen/nectar-rich plants for bees and other insects, planting wildflowers, replacing fences with green boundaries, adding water features. The Wildlife Trust (which defines wildlife gardening is ‘a way of encouraging birds, bees, butterflies and other animals into your garden’) has a section of its website packed with good ideas, from building a bug hotel to creating a garden pond. Some of these may be perfect for you as DIY projects during lockdown, others might be projects to plan now for implementation in the future.
6 Imagine your garden transformed
Maybe the best and most rewarding use of your time in the garden this summer will be to mull over how you would like your garden to look by next year, and beyond! The starting point for great garden design is to really understand what you need from your garden. Firstly, what do you require from your outdoor space, how would you like to use it? Secondly, what are the things that will bring joy to the garden? The answers to these questions will of course be different for everybody and reflecting on what is most important to you will help you to decide on your future plans for your garden. Why not have a browse through gardening magazines and websites for inspiration, maybe put together a mood board to draw together your ideas? Many professional designers, our own included, are offering remote design consultation meetings at present, or are meeting clients outdoors with social distancing in place.
When we start to work with new clients, our overall aim is to tap into their imagination and help them to express what is deeply felt. Once clients have given thought to their needs and wants from their garden, we can work closely with them to create beautiful places of enduring meaning and value. Great garden design results in places where we can relax and retreat from our busy everyday lives, or indeed gather family and friends together for fun and entertainment, once we can all safely do so again.
We hope that this post helps you to enjoy being in your garden during this exceptional time, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. And on point 6 and the theme of developing your own bespoke, handcrafted place, find out more about The Garden Company’s design process here.