Staying at home or self-isolating during the current Coronavirus Pandemic may seem like a challenge, especially if you are living on your own. With all the uncertainty of what is happening globally many will start to feel a sense of anxiety and the way to overcome negative thoughts is to escape into your garden.
The weather is warming up and the garden is blossoming as we speak; this is the ideal time for people to tend to their gardens, bring in some colour and release some positivity into their homes.
Gus, the general manager comments;
“In this current crisis it is crucial to keep our minds and hands busy while staying as positive as possible. We thought in creating a short guide, it would help benefit new and old gardeners alike to help make the garden their safe haven and happy place as many of us are spending a lot more time at home. Keep smiling and stay safe.”
Gardening has multiple positive benefits including keeping fit, relieving stress, can boost your mood and is a mental distraction. We have accumulated some top tips in ways you can keep busy in your garden, either by yourselves or getting the whole family involved.
Annabelle Padwick, Founder of Life at No.27 and National Growing for Wellbeing Week, children's author and potato growing addict also explains the mental benefits of working in your garden;
"Whether you have outside space or not, sowing seeds, watching new life grow and getting our hands in soil can be hugely fun and beneficial for everyone during this crazy and uncertain time. It can provide us with hope, control, confidence, a distraction, food and loads of sensory fun.
If you do have a garden, create a veg patch, make mud pies, bug hotels, fill bird feeders, play games, walk barefoot on the grass or get on top of all those gardening tasks. Create fun memories to look back on fondly! Alternatively, just sit in the sunshine and be still. This may feel weird at first, but as you settle the wildlife will come back in and your mind will calm".
After suffering storms week after week; your garden may be in disarray with twigs or branches scattered all over your garden to fences being blown away. While at home this is the perfect time to do a bit of general maintenance and get your garden ready for the summer months ahead. This is a crucial first step as your spring bulbs and plants will be appearing and you don’t want them to be damaged by old twigs and leaves scattered around.
Mowing the lawn: Now there is no excuse to have an out of control lawn, with the weather warming up, if you haven't started already, start to mow and look after your grass. There are many mowers to choose from such as the standard rotary with a petrol engine, battery powered lawn mowers if you are eco-conscious, ride-on mowers if you have a larger garden or if you want to spend your time doing other jobs in the garden you can always invest in a robotic mower. Just remember if your grass is long, set the cutting height on high and take a cut off it without putting your machine under too much strain. You can always go round and take another cut off getting to the desired grass length. Cutting too much off at one go is likely to cause the drive belt on your mower to snap.
Pruning: Pruning is a great way to take back any out of control plants whilst adding structure and assist them in growing in the summer months. By using sharp pruners it will ensure a clean cut but be careful of those sharp edges!
Hedge trimming: Trimming back your hedges and sharpening up the edges is extremely satisfying and a great pastime. It creates a defined, well kept hedge look that would be the envy of your neighbours. If you want to change it up a bit you can even explore completely changing the rigid shape of your hedges to give your garden a new look.
This is probably a job you have been putting off for a while and probably needs a good old tidy up after the winter months. Decluttering your shed will enable you to throw away or even recycle equipment you don’t need, but be careful it also gives you more room to buy new equipment.
Organising your tools and equipment will ensure that everything is easy to find but also it keeps the equipment safe from becoming accidentally damaged, you may also have forgotten half of your tools you already have. A great organisational tip is to mount your tools onto the shed which is a fantastic visual reminder to see if the tool is back in its place or hiding somewhere in the garden from using it earlier. There is nothing worse than throwing your favourite hedge clippers away in the hedge clippings!
This is also the perfect time to clean all of your tools and equipment that have been stored in the shed during winter. Cleaning your tools after winter will help you check if they are in working condition. A spray of silicon on blade surfaces will help keep them in good order. If you have any equipment with engines be sure you do not use last season's fuel, the last thing you want is for your equipment not to start. Check oil levels and possibly do an oil change before you start using your equipment.
Once you’ve cleared the shed you may have noticed a lot of spiders, insects and even rodents. It is best to give the shed a proper wash and apply pest control inside the shed while being mindful and reading the instructions properly before putting all of your tools and equipment back into the shed.
Internet Gardener, an online ecommerce website explains that clearing your shed will clear minds!
“Cleaning out the shed is a great way to distract yourself from what is happening in the world. It can also enable you to get things organised and ensure you have all the tools you need for your garden tasks. Of course it also gives you room for new equipment that you may need for new projects you are working on.”
You may also want to give your shed a fresh look with a coat of paint or stain before putting all of your items back. Remember this is not a race, you have plenty of time in the current crisis so it is better to get the jobs done all at once as you probably won’t get this chance again.
Give your garden a new colour this year! Painting is a great way to give your garden a refresh so you can enjoy it during the warmer months. Whether that be your shed, fences, plant pots and other gardening furniture. Paint your garden furniture your favourite colour to boost your mood. The little things in times like these will instantly cheer you up.
Preparation is key when painting and it makes such a dramatic difference if you take all the steps required. For fencing it is important to remove all of the greenery and cobwebs that may be on your fences first so you can work with a tidy canvas. If you have a jet wash completely wash down your fence panels and once dry then you can start painting!
Revamping the decking or shed may take a bit longer; this is because there are multiple steps you have to take before adding a lick of colour. Again it must be brushed off of fallen leaves, stones and twigs. Due to the weather you may require sanding the decking to ensure it is even before painting. Adding a treatment to the decking will ensure the paint lasts, now the fun bit, you can start painting it the colour you have chosen. Be sure to think how you are going to paint your decking before you start as you don’t want to be painted into a corner else you will end up having to walk across your freshly painted decking.
Just remember if you are going to paint or stain anything it is so easy to spill or apply to areas that you hadn't wanted to, so think how you are going to protect the things you don’t want the paint on and that includes yourself!
Enhance your flower and plant pots by adding colour to them to compliment the flowers you are growing. Remember to try and keep the paint in the tin and the paintbrush inside so it doesn’t make too much of a mess, it’ll be harder to remove it from other places in your garden.
Sally from Seed Me Grow works on the front line for the NHS and has started working on her greenhouse to keep her mind positive about the current crisis.
“The inspiration to revamp the inside of the greenhouse was really to make it a workable space. It’s lacked a lot of love over the last 20 years and as I’ve inherited it, to an extent, I wanted to make it somewhere I enjoyed being. It was falling to pieces and if I’m to achieve everything I want to in my garden this year, you’ve got to start at the beginning and a garden begins in the greenhouse.
Taking care of the garden and injecting a bit of colour and life into things gives me a sense of purpose. I keeps me distracted from all the news stories that are happening, it can be scary to hear of the current state of things and it’s inevitable that that worry come close to home being a front line worker, but when I’m stuck into a project I can be busy for hours and not even see the time pass.
Seeing little seedlings grow and learning to accept that not all of them will is an adequate metaphor for learning to cope and let go of things out of my control. Spring always brings a bit of hope and now I guess we all need that more than ever.”
Sally also had to take a few steps into creating her perfect greenhouse!
“To repaint the metal potting bench I scraped and removed all the rust and cleaned and brushed any dirt or cobwebs away let dry and painted with hammerite to prevent further rusting - it’s an area that unfortunately will get wet and humid. I have also considered drilling some holes into the bottom to let any water drain but haven’t got round to this yet.
For the bench I again scraped old paint away, because so much came away I didn’t need to sand it which saved a lot of time. A few slats needed replacing so using treated wood to prevent rot these were measured and replaced. Again cleaned it down and let dry before painting with fence paint to seal the wood and make it last longer in the face of water.”
With a lot of children off school, now is a great time to get your kids to help you in the garden; not only will they be getting the exercise but also learning different aspects in gardening. There are plenty of free online, educational and fun resources you can use to keep the children busy throughout the weeks so you don’t run out of ideas!
A great way for children to learn about fruit and vegetables is encouraging them to grow their own, they can start small by growing their own tomatoes or strawberries. This will not only teach them patience but also how easy it is for them to grow their own instead of going to the supermarkets.
Lee Connelly from Skinny Jean Gardener is currently creating amazing podcasts for children to teach them about all things gardening!
“Getting children outside during this hard time of homeschooling can be really testing for both parents and the kids, but with a little bit of planning you can bring in some education to even the smallest of gardening tasks. From counting seeds while planting them, to reading and writing on to plant labels. Bringing wildlife into the garden can provide a great way to get science education into your day and when it comes to PE we can make the sowing of grass seed become a lesson in itself by shaking the box of seed and then jogging on the spot to get it into the soil. It's all about making it fun, and in a time where we can’t go out as much as we used too, the garden is definitely a place for escape."
Getting the kids to help with your projects is another way they can enjoy the garden whether that be painting the fences, building plant beds or even building their own birdhouse. In addition to this giving them their own patch of garden to nurture and be creative can teach them responsibility which all kids love. It’s natural for kids to get distracted easily so the best way to keep them as involved is by asking them lots of questions while they are helping you out in the garden.
Mud and Bloom is a great subscription service that includes activities to encourage them to explore and engage with nature. The subscription box also includes gardening seeds that are hand picked for each month that the kids can grow and watch their own plants bloom.
A lot of us are now spending more time in the garden; not only because the weather is warming up but also because in the current crisis we are unable to leave our homes. If your garden is looking empty and bare; it is a great time investing in new garden furniture whether that be a place for you to eat outside or deck chairs for you to sunbathe.
Martin Young; company founder of Sitting Spiritually crafts beautiful bespoke garden furniture licensed by the RHS comments about how garden furniture can improve your garden in many ways and not just the aesthetics.
“Nothing beats the serenity of nature, and garden swings can complement nature in a way that almost no other type of outdoor furniture can. There is a huge selection to choose from, so whether you choose a tried and true rope swing, a wooden swinging bench, a day bed, or an elegant pergola to hang a swing from, you’ll be enjoying your garden in style.
Peace and quiet in the outdoors is truly an unparalleled experience, and with the right garden furniture, you can be “sitting spiritually” in no time at all.”
If you want to create a positive mood in your garden, why not add your favourite statues such as animals, fairies, gnomes or your favourite classical statues that you have been meaning to decorate your garden with.
As the days are getting longer, you may spend more time in your garden in the evenings, to spruce up the garden adding lighting will enable you to stay in the garden for as long as possible. Either by adding fairy lights or solar panel lights throughout the garden will not only make your garden look pretty at night but accessible too.
Have children who are getting bored? You may be able to persuade them to spend more time in the garden if they had their own play area or even adding a basketball hoop to keep them active.
Starting a new project can help take your mind off the things that are happening around the world. The hardware stores are still open, so with caution you can still go buy materials and tools for a project you may have wanted to start some time ago. Alternatively should you wish to stay at home you can easily buy items required online.
Creating your own place to escape may be what you have always wanted but never had the time to do. You can renovate your old shed into a ‘she shed’ or ‘man cave’. Clear your shed, give it a touch of paint and add what you will use inside it to create your own haven and time away from the rest of the family.
Are you a lover of parties? Building a summer house or pergola in your garden complete with a bar may be the perfect project for you to host parties once the current lockdown is lifted.
Don’t have a garden? Why not bring the garden into your home by using house plants! Not only do houseplants purify the air in your home but also is aesthetically pleasing. If you are new to plants, growing succulents is a great way to start your urban jungle. Succulents such as Echeveria or a Cactus don’t require a lot of TLC, just a window and small amounts of water every so often. They also look great on your desk while you’re working from home!
When placing your houseplants around the house Michael Perry from Mr Plant Geek has a great tip and suggests avoiding places near the radiators.
“Houseplants hate sharp changes of temperature, try to avoid them as much as possible!”
Not only can you fill your house with succulents but also grow herbs from your window. Herbs such as basil, chive and oregano thrive indoors and a bonus as you can pick fresh ingredients while cooking.
If you’re worried you will forget to water your plants, why not get a self-watering planter; we suggest Lechuza planters which are easy to use and look sleek in your home. Michael Perry also
Flowers around the house can create a peaceful atmosphere and bring colour indoors. African Violet, Begonias and Peace Lillies are just some of the flowering houseplants you can enjoy in your home.
If you live in the city and are lucky enough to have your own balcony, you can start growing your own fruit and vegetables by creating your very own jungle from your balcony. Your balcony may be your place of escapism and fresh air while you’re in isolation so why not have lots of plants surrounding you.
Luke Newcombe from Grown22 is an avid small space grower who has given great tips on what you can do on your balcony.
“Growing in small spaces such as balconies or rooftops come with challenges and this is where it becomes fun because you need to be inventive in how and what you grow. Vertical gardening using gardening wire attached to eyelets from floor to ceiling instantly creates a wire trellis and it is great for tomatoes or sweet peas to climb up and produce a good crop. Using all available space in a planned manner will ensure longevity.
Hanging containers, pots and even boots filled with soil and provide extra growing space for microgreens and herbs. Imagine harvesting a fresh lunch in the form of a salad from the comfort of a garden on your balcony!”
There are many growing beds and planters out there for growing fruit and vegetables from your balcony. A mini herb garden doesn’t take a lot of space on your balcony and it will enable you to add fresh ingredients in your meals and also look great which is a bonus! This will work in your herbs favour if you have plenty of sunlight shining onto your balcony.
AcquaGarden is a high density vertical growing system which is perfect for balcony growing. There are many different sizes to choose from and are self-watering so you don’t have to worry so much about watering your herbs and tomatoes.
Tending and maintaining your balcony garden won’t take up too much of your time as you won’t be weeding or mowing the lawn. You will be able to spend your isolation hours enjoying and relaxing on your balcony.
Luke also comments on how gardening can have a positive impact on mental health;
“We are living in uncertain times and many of us are not used to self-isolating or being cooped up for extended periods of time. It can lead to anxiety, depression and loneliness. The Coronavirus pandemic has led to panic buying and unfortunately, a lot of fresh food wastage. Gardening offers a form of escapism where you can end up spending the day tending to plants or reading by a wildlife pond. Therapeutic gardening offers an abundance of health and wellness benefits. People feel a sense of calm with the responsibility of looking after plants.”
Seeing as many of us are stuck in isolation and the supermarkets are left bare, it is an ideal time to start growing your own fresh fruit and vegetable straight from your own garden. You will be able to pick the fruit and vegetables your family enjoys without having to leave your home.
There are plenty of easy fruits and vegetables you can grow while you are avoiding the supermarkets such as tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of the easiest to grow while you are stuck indoors so long as they get plenty of sunshine and water.
Baking during isolation? Why not grow your own fresh strawberries to add to your tarts and cakes. They can easily be grown in small pots but be sure to water them regularly as they require a lot more when planted in pots.
Crunchy salad leaves can be grown in just three weeks and they will continue to grow so they can be harvested again and again. It is also possible to grow certain fruit and vegetables from scraps left over, this provides a free alternative to growing and you are helping the environment by recycling scraps.
While some are more difficult than others and can take more time, you’ll find the process very rewarding in the end. The easier and quickest being green onions and leeks, to the more time consuming potatoes and even avocados.
While there are some pests that may not be welcome in your garden, it is important to care for the other wildlife in and around your garden. With a bit of thought your garden can be a safe haven for many wildlife creatures. It is important to
From your spring tidy you may have accumulated old leaves and bits of wood, don’t throw them away as this is perfect for hedgehogs to rest and look after their young.
Feed the birds by putting up a bird box away from direct sunlight and out of reach from predators such as cats and foxes. Ensure to provide birds with protein-rich feed like fat balls as this is the time when birds are feeding their young. Don’t forget to provide clean water too! The Posh Shed Company sells various bird and nesting boxes online if you are unable to build your own.
If one of your projects while in isolation was to create a pond feature in your garden this will attract a variety of wildlife to home such as frogs, fish, bugs and other insects.
Bees are crucial in the human cycle so it is important to protect them as much as possible. Creating your own ‘bee hotel’ in the garden will offer them a place to stay and you can supply them with food. All you need is an untreated wooden plank and drill a few holes into it so they have a place to nest new eggs. Nicola Clements, marketing manager at Haddonstone also has some tips on how to attract bees into your garden;
“We all know that bees are crucial for our natural environment, so plant sunflowers and basil to attract these pollinators, and they will stay around all summer long.”
Another great way to protect insects is to create a haven by adding rocks and rotting wood to a specific part of your garden. This will provide a place of shelter for beetles and spiders a new home.
Nicola also gives us an insight into the benefits of trees that home a variety of species.
“Trees such as the birch tree, provides food for an incredible 521 species of invertebrate – and where there’s insects, there are birds. The beech tree is also a nourishing food source for mammals such as mice and voles, and even provides food for some moth species, which have declined by 48% in recent years due to climate change. Evergreens, such as juniper, are a cosy home for wildlife all year round, and brighten up the darker winter months for customers.”