Spring is here and the sun is shining. It’s a nice bit of positivity amid these unprecedented times and it’s becoming the perfect opportunity to do a spot of gardening.
No matter how big or small your space, you can start growing plants, flowers and other foliage now and throughout the summer months.
The benefits of gardening
You may have been putting off the odd job here and there until the bank holiday but seeing as self-isolating means we now have lots of time on our hands, it’s a nice way to spend time in a garden, on your balcony, or even gardening indoors.
Plus, there are many benefits to gardening, scientists have found that spending two hours a week in nature is linked to better health and wellbeing.
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Guy Barter, chief horticulturist for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) told The Independent: “We feel that gardening combines exercise and activity, and is well known to boost wellbeing, along with the restorative power of tending and caring for living things. Of course, there is the beauty and charm of flowers and gardens to raise the spirits and the pleasure and satisfaction of growing and eating your own food.”
What can you plant now?
According to Barter, this time of year is ideal for growing vegetable such as calabrese, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, chard, leeks, lettuce, onions (including spring onions), spinach, parsnips, radish and turnips.
If you prefer herbs, perhaps to incorporate into your mealtimes, chives, rosemary, mint, parsley, coriander, thyme and dill will take as little as a week to grow now.
As for flowers, start curating your own little colourful garden as the weather warms up with fuchsias, petunias and pelargoniums. Bart also recommends growing coleus which has pretty coloured leaves, which you can then take cuttings of in late summer to have as indoor houseplants.
Barter explains that lockdown shouldn’t have too much of an effect. “Given the times, it is worth remembering that most of these plants can be planted up to early June without much loss, so delays due to lockdown is not necessarily limiting, just delaying.”
How to garden in a small space
If you’re not lucky enough to have a patch of greenery outside, then there’s plenty of options that you can successfully grow for window sills and balconies.
“Compact hardy plants that suit balconies, window boxes and other limited spaces include creeping jenny, erigeron, heathers, herbs including rosemary and thyme and hardy succulents such as sempervivums,” says Barter, along with tender tomatoes, dwarf chillies and strawberries if you wanted to grow your own salad-friendly vegetables.
“Shade foliage is more reliable than flowers so evergreen shrubs such as euonymus, ivies and ferns would be suitable, but the more robust leafy houseplants, spider plants and tradescantia for example, also make good summer balcony or window box plants and can be brought indoors for winter use.”
The tools to use
To keep a grass lawn in tip-top condition now is the time to invest in a lawnmower. Our favourite is the Atco quattro 16S Li 41cm 60V self-propelled lawn mower which was voted as the IndyBest buy for its ability to tame a medium-sized lawn in under an hour, without choking longer grass or leaving nasty look scalps behind.
Protect your hands from mess and irritation with a pair of gardening gloves, especially important as increased hand washing can leave skin feeling sensitive. Try the Hexarmour thornarmour 3092 gardening and landscaping gloves which will stop you getting stung by prickly weeds or thorns but won’t allow any soil to get inside either.
Gardening books and apps
If you’re looking for detailed advice that you can always go back to, we’d recommend Small Garden by garden designer John Brookes, which covers every aspect of cultivating a garden in a small space, with easy to follow descriptive diagrams and plenty of inspiration for things such as working on a grassy lawn, balcony, roof terrace or even just your windows.
For the more practical-minded, Build a Better Vegetable Garden by Joyce Russell and Ben Russell is full of guides to turning a vegetable plot into a bountiful source of fresh produce in your back garden, all year round. In it, you’ll find 30 projects to work your way through from making tunnels to deter slugs ruining your hard work to making a mini greenhouse all designed to help you get the most out of the season and protect your plants from pests.
Newbies to the gardening scene will also find the PlantSnap: Identify Plants app a welcome tool in learning more about what’s growing among the foliage. Available on iOS, Android, and Windows devices, it’s free to download, you simply need to sign up with your email to get started. Its database is 500,000 species strong with a 94 per cent accuracy.
Once you’ve photographed a flower through the app, it automatically tells you the name of it, which you can then share within its community of foliage fans and build your own collection of flowers.
The best garden furniture
Whether you’ve spent a busy afternoon in the garden looking after your plants and deserve a sit-down or simply want to soak up the vitamin D, you want to be as comfortable as you would on your sofa.
This Forrester eight-seat cube set dining table and chairs came out on top in our IndyBest guide to the best garden furniture. The shrewd design is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and it transforms into an eight-seater so you can stretch out and relax, and once things go back to normal, have friends over for a long-overdue barbecue. Once folded up it goes pack into a neatly compact cube that won’t take up lots of space.
Add a touch of colour with a deckchair like this one from We Love Cushions, a vibrant orange and wooden design, costing £120 it comes with free delivery and folds up neatly to be easily tucked away when the rain inevitably comes.
Garden toys to keep kids entertained
Children may feel cabin fever set in before you do, as schools are shut and regular routines are disrupted.
Toys in the garden from swing sets to bats and ball are an alternative to PE lessons while keeping them active and stimulated.
Customise a wooden swing set to suit your children’s physical abilities with this create your own set from Plum. You can choose a frame from a single, double, triple or double with a slide attached, pick a colour and the accessories which include swings, a trapeze or rope ladders. Just make sure you have an extra pair of hands in the house to help with assembly.
A simple option is a trampoline, which can be the source of hours of fun and is a good sunbathing spot. We tested the Spring Free oval trampoline and were left impressed by the robustness of the structure and the best value for money.
Our tester said: “There are plenty of shapes and sizes available, but we like the oval ones best as you get more bounce for your buck, with children not automatically being sent back to the middle as is the case with round ones. For instance, with the 8ft x 11ft, it provides a jumping surface equivalent to a 12ft spring-based trampoline. It’s also available in 8ft x 13ft, and there’s even a ‘smart’ version which you connect to your tablet via Bluetooth to monitor bouncing skills and incorporate bouncing games.”