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, we have drawn together advice and ideas from within our own team and other sources too. Ranging from getting stuck into gardening and veg growing, to relaxing with a good book, we hope that there is something for everyone here!
1 Get your garden into shape
We asked Joanna, our Horticulture and Gardens Manager, for her top gardening tips for this time of year:
- Mow 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 a small electric mower for the time being. The aim is to maintain a constant height throughout the year.
- Fertilize and repair your lawn. 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. As writer Jenny Uglow has observed: ‘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 you (and your family) to take an interest in the origins of your food, make better choices about what you 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 beginners, we recommend this article from Gardeners’ World. For experienced gardeners, we recommend the RHS advice pages on growing your own.
In addition, 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. James is a qualified botanist, science writer and broadcaster. He says himself that his ‘obsession for food nearly eclipses his love of plants’.
3 Relax outdoors
We all know the health benefits of exercising outside. What’s less obvious though is that you can benefit from being outdoors without any exercise! Simply spending time relaxing and unwinding, enjoying the scenery and watching the bees and butterflies helps to keep you healthy. There is good evidence that relaxing outdoors improves your wellbeing by relieving tiredness and regulating sleep patterns. It also boosts Vitamin D levels (great for immune system function, amongst other things) and gives access to fresh air away from indoor pollutants.
So, if you are not in the habit of being 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 loved 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 Fun 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. It sends 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 have you at home, how about inventing some new garden games or even topping up their training? More ideas on fun for dogs in the garden here.
5 Create havens for wildlife
Big or small, a garden can be a healthy haven for wildlife. There are many simple things you can do to encourage biodiversity in your garden. 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 as ‘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 and do in the future.
6 Imagine your garden transformed
Maybe the 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. 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.
Why not have a browse through gardening magazines and websites for inspiration? Naturally, we’d love you to have a browse through some of our completed projects here. Maybe you could 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. The goal is to work in collaboration to create a bespoke place where you can truly relax and retreat from everyday life. Or indeed gather family and friends together for fun and entertainment, once we can all safely do so again.
We hope that these ideas help you to make the most of time spent at home during this unusual time. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. And on the theme of developing your own bespoke, handcrafted garden, find out more about our design process here.