With the country in lockdown and social lives on hold, many of us are turning to our gardens for some much-needed fresh air and an enjoyable project to work on while we’re furloughed or otherwise in need of things to do. Added to this, there have been numerous reports on how gardening can help reduce stress and anxiety, lower depression as well providing a form of escapism.
Now that Spring has well and truly sprung, and as Britain enjoys prolonged spells of sunny weather, here’s a look at what you can be doing to keep your garden in order in May, without having to visit a garden centre.
General gardening tasks
- Spring bulbs – once these are past their best, trim off the flower heads while leaving the leaves intact for as long as they stay green (they’ll feed the bulbs so that they can flower again next year). Cut them back when they turn yellow.
- Weeding – there’s new growth everywhere, and that includes weeds, so try to keep them in check by tending to a different patch of the garden each day.
- Annuals – using seeds purchased online or saved from last year, sow hardier annuals such as nigella and cosmos, scattering them directly into flowerbeds, or into pots or hanging baskets.
- Perennials – plant out supermarket-purchased perennials to give the garden some colour; save more delicate blooms, such as dahlias, until there’s no risk of a late frost.
- Pruning – devote some time to cutting back shrubs once they’ve flowered, making sure you’re careful to check that there are no birds’ nests in the areas you’re trimming off.
- Watering – don’t forget to water the garden during prolonged dry spells.
Growing your own vegetables and herbs
There’s never been a better time to cultivate your own vegetable patch. Runner beans, carrots, peas, lettuce and courgettes are all among the vegetables you can sow outside from May, and if you’ve been getting any seedlings started indoors, you’ll be able to transfer them to prepared beds outside when there’s no longer a risk of late frosts.
If you’re new to gardening, or don’t have a garden, you can get vegetable grow bags online which you can place in a sunny spot in the garden or on a balcony (salad leaves need more shade than other vegetables). They are simple to use, simply fill with multi-purpose compost, sow your vegetable seeds and water regularly.
You can also order seeds online, but if you’re on a budget or can’t get hold of any, check out our gardening hack.
- Take your left over or past their best vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions and celery and use the tops (where leaves or stem joins the root)
- Either place these in a tray or bowl of water or plant them straight in the garden or in a plant bag and wait for them to shoot. If you’ve placed in water, transfer them to the garden to allow them to fully grow and you can harvest when ready.
- You can also take old herb seeds lying at the back of your pantry or cupboards, sow these in some compost and they’ll start sprouting in a matter of days. Try coriander seeds for quick results. For more information and ideas, click here.
Making it fun for children
Particularly during this period of Lockdown, our gardens can provide lots of fun and adventure. Why not get them involved in planting or little garden activities such as spotting different insects, bees and flowers? This will not only occupy their time, but help educate them.
For children, being able to plant their own fruit, vegetables or herbs and watch them grow will give them a sense of satisfaction.
Let their creativity blossom with some pottery painting, decorating planting labels or drawing all the different things they spot in the garden.
Protect the bees
We all recognise how important bees are and below we show you our favourite ideas to bring them into your garden.
- Choose a good mix of flowering plants – this will provide plenty of nectar for the bees to provide them with energy and to cross pollinate your plants
- Make sure you choose plants that flower at different times of the year as bee species are active at different times. So having flowers constantly in bloom will help.
- Opt for open or tubular flowers such as Asters, Delphiniums, Foxglove, Catmint, snap dragons and bees just love Lavender
- Put up a bee hotel – these little wooden hanging structures provide a great little home for solitary bees like the Leafcutter or Mason bee. You can buy these online but if you fancy building your own click here
Let an area grow wild
Finally, is there a corner of your garden that you just don’t know what to do with? One idea is to let it grow wild, creating a low-maintenance haven for wildlife in the process. Scatter some wildflower seeds and in a few weeks’ time you’ll have your very own little meadow – the perfect habitat for insects and great for young children to explore what’s at the bottom of the garden.