It can be hard to keep positive and maintain mental and physical health as we grapple with life in lockdown.
However, gardening has been found to reduce stress, depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as improving mood. At a time when we are all appreciating the little things, growing your own food or cultivating a garden, however small, is a simple way you can take positive steps to make the most of the lockdown and boost their wellbeing.
To mark National Gardening Week this week, Michael Charlton-Hubble, president of Foresters Friendly Society has shared his top tips on how you can make the most of your green space:
Consider your space: Don’t be put off having a go if you don’t have a garden. Using pots or planters on balconies, in window boxes or on a patio can still have the same effect. When planting fruit and vegetables make sure you use a pot large enough for it to reach its full potential. If you live in a flat or just love being surrounded plants then succulents and cacti are easy to care for and can quickly brighten up a shelf or home working space.
Educate yourself and the family: For the new gardener, or those wanting to get the kids involved, labelling the plants on old lollipop sticks is one way to remember what you’ve planted and where. You can also make some short notes on how they need to be cared for – this is a great way to educate the kids about the different needs of your various flowers, fruit plants and ferns.
Grow your own: If you’re a foodie then why not try growing your own vegetables or herbs to cook with? Growing tomatoes indoors is just as easy as outdoors if you’re tight for space, all you need is the seeds, soil and small containers or seedling starter trays. I used growbags, which some garages are now selling, by standing them on end and cutting in half. This gives you a deeper soil base and have used them to grow potatoes, carrots, cucumbers. Around the edges I plant spring onions. I also find this a more stable way to grow tomatoes.
Consider the season: In the spring there are a number of jobs you can be getting on with, particularly planting any bulbs or seeds that will flower later in the year. Broad beans, courgettes, pumpkin and tomatoes are perfect to plant in April if you like the idea of growing your own dinner. Or if flowers are more your thing then now is the time to plant poppies, sunflowers and marigolds.
Repotting plants: Repotting plants yourself is a simple way to help them reach their growth potential while you can’t travel to garden centres or plant nurseries. If a plant’s growth is slackening off, is requiring more frequent watering or has been in the same pot for around 12-18 months, it may be worth doing this. The right pot should be at least 1-2 inches bigger than the current pot to allow ample space for roots to grow.
Make compost and mulch of your own: It’s easier than you think and you don’t need to buy anything, and you can use things already in your garden such as grass cuttings, vegetable peelings and cardboard. Add food waste and garden waste in roughly equal measures and make sure you turn it (i.e. mix it up) occasionally with a fork. It will take about six months to mature.
Slug solutions: To keep slugs off your plants, scatter crushed up eggshells or coffee granules around them – and try rubbing Vaseline around the top of pots. Use the opportunity to educate children and talk to them more about local wildlife and get them to take an interest in gardening themselves!
Michael said: “While current Government guidelines mean people must stay at home more, making the most of your garden or incorporating house plants and greenery into your living space is key to improving your mental health. When we experience sunnier days, it’s also a great use of time and gives many something to focus on over the weeks.
“At Foresters Friendly Society, we value friendship and kindness and encourage all of our members to do anything they can, however small it may seem, to help each other and the wider community at this time. We’re encouraging members to share what they’re doing at the moment via our social channels because while our activities can’t go ahead as planned that doesn’t mean we can’t share gardening tips and pictures of how our indoor and outdoor plants are blooming this summertime.”