Hurrah! I’m so happy to find my local garden centre is finally open. Like a fool I thought it would always be there along with so many other things modern life normally provides. Then it was closed.
As if to twist the knife our weather has been so sunny and beautiful during most of this lockdown. I’ve looked out alone from my kitchen window each day at my empty borders and baskets and felt as if Mother Nature wanted to teach me a lesson. “Don’t you ever take what life gives you for granted”.
Today I had the first video lesson about gardening with my grandson Cole who is 7. He is 200 miles away in Norfolk with lots of seeds from school he has been given to grow. So we talked about how plants grow, what you need to do to help them and why sometimes they don’t. Gardening is a massive subject he has no idea about but he wants to know. That curiosity at such a young age means that in time he will become really good at it and maybe even a professional.
On my fridge there’s a magnet bearing a quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman statesman, lawyer and philosopher.
“If you have a library and a garden you have everything you need”.
Well Marcus, I can think of some other things but we get the idea. A garden is a haven of peace, an escape from endless downbeat news and just the place to re-charge mental flat batteries.
Some years ago I recognised I needed help with this. So I joined the Royal Horticultural Society. Realising I had to fail at this massive subject to master it, if there was any charitable body who could guide me around the pitfalls it was them.
I would urge you to visit their website, particularly between 18th and 23rd May this year as the RHS have joined forces with the BBC to bring the Virtual Chelsea Flower Show to a screen rather near you.
Eventually when you’re able to physically go to one of their wonderful gardens I guarantee your depleted soul will be restored.
In the meantime, lots of us are getting our fingers dirty and with this in mind I thought I’d share my NM Top Tips for getting the best out of your garden. Some of you will already know lots of this – but for those that don’t I can promise it will repay you in spades (or at least in trowels).
- Use a kneeler with handles. We all know getting up is harder than getting down! Even if you’re lucky enough to have fully functioning joints, you should protect them.
- Take house plants out into the garden. On a warm, still and sunny day let them soak in those rays. Don’t forget to bring them back in as the temperature drops and be wary of full sun on the ones that don’t like it.
- Plant a fruit tree. There are so many varieties to suit all sorts and sizes of garden. Even if you’ve only a balcony you can have one. Check the RHS advice. I’ve a self-fertile plum tree called “Opal” which doesn’t need to be near another to pollinate it. The blossom is beautiful in the spring and the fruits taste fabulous in summer.
- Grow vegetables. It’s shocking how many people don’t. No greenhouse? I use my windowsills to start seeds. The unused sprouting potatoes in my vegetable rack go into my raised bed. Just like a clean car seems to drive better, what you grow yourself always tastes better than anything from a shop.
- Make a place for bees in your garden. Every gardener should give a home to these essential pollinators. A bee hotel is easy to knock up with a block of wood drilled with bee-sized holes fixed to your fence. For several years a bee colony has lived in my compost heap. Bees are not to bee afraid of. They don’t sting as long as you don’t interfere and they are seriously under threat.
- Buy plants online. Just because gardens centres are opening doesn’t mean you should stop considering this option. All the cancelled garden shows and the nurseries previously geared up for the season are currently bursting with a cornucopia of plants and flowers you can have delivered – at bargain prices.
- Inspect what’s going on. Every time I walk in my garden I see something new. A job that needs doing. A shoot I wasn’t expecting. A plant I thought was a weed that has the most delicate pink flower. I have an Iris that I’m very proud of. It’s bursting into flower now. Every day I kneel down to inspect, water and marvel.
- Get a water barrel connected to your guttering. We had so much rain last winter. Storing free water from the heavens is both economically and environmentally a no-brainer.
- Take your time. Gardens are places we can stop, listen to things growing and soak in that all-important vitamin D which helps to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Just after this crisis began, a young family moved into a rental home across the road. I saw my new neighbour mowing and planting so I waved across. In conversation he admitted he wasn’t a gardener and this wasn’t his property but he was furloughed. Suddenly this place had become important to him. Where his children could play and he could chill with his partner.
As slow steps are taken back to normality and garden centres are open at last, we can all make our small patch of heaven colourful again. As we nurture our gardens, so they will take care of us too.
Grow! Grow!! Grow!!!