Many of the Spring team love to garden and we regularly share photos, gardening tips and experiences to help one another out. Whether you are a novice or have magic green fingers when it comes to gardening, a few handy hints and tips never goes amiss.

Since the start of lockdown in March 2020, the interest in gardening has increased significantly and spending time in the garden to keep it looking fresh and vibrant has never been more popular. Lockdown meant we all had to stay at home and with parks & gardens closed, no days out at the seaside, no theme parks to visit, so all of a sudden our gardens became our sanctuaries. We all wanted to grow our own veg or plant our own flowers from seed. According to the Financial Times, seed grower Suttons had days in 2020 during lockdown where their online orders exceeded 20 times that of the same period the year before.  

With nothing else to do at home, gardening was fast becoming the nation's favourite past time - young and old. The popular food-growing Youtuber Charles Dowding had 2.8 million views between March 24th and April 23rd and gained a massive 37k new subscribers. Candide, a gardening app, also increased in popularity by 50% when compared to the same period in 2019.

Gardening not only gave us something to do at home, but it also kept our minds busy and was a pleasant distraction from the unfolding pandemic and crisis we all faced. The benefits of gardening and the positive impact it can have on ecosystems, wildlife and the environment are widely publicised, but the benefits stretch further than just the planet. Gardening is good for the soul, not only in terms of exercise but also for mental health and well-being. During lockdown, now and beyond, UK Mental Health Charity, Mind, highlight some of the key attribute's gardening can help:

  •       improved mood
  •       reduce feelings of stress or anger
  •       help you take time out and feel more relaxed
  •       improve your physical health
  •       improve your confidence and self-esteem
  •       help you be more active
  •       help you make new connections
  •       provide peer support.

The mental health benefits of gardening are wide and diverse. Gardening has proven to be a life-line for many at home during the pandemic and provided a source of relief and enjoyment that was needed during such unprecedented times.

As lockdown starts to ease and we all look forward to welcoming visitors and guests back into our gardens and homes, here’s our top 10 gardening tips to get you and your garden BBQ season ready and summer staycations sizzling in no time.

Get weeding 

Gardening is all about preparation, so put on your gloves and remove all weeds that have sprouted up over winter.  Look at what needs pruning too around your garden and trim off any old growth from last year. It’s a good time now in early Spring to trim any deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials.  Top tip: don’t throw your weeds on a compost heap as they will grow in your compost and cause you a headache when you come to spread the compost later in the year.

Grim grass 

Grass may have become bald and patchy over winter, so rake off any leaves and debris, so you can clearly see the state of your lawn. April is a great time to re-seed, so if you need to do this, firstly prep the balding area by raking the grass, this will help any fertiliser and seed penetrate the ground better increasing its chance of successful growth. Choose a seed that is suitable for those using the garden, ie: if kids play football on the grass, then use a more hard wearing variety.

Fancy fences

Any garden can get an instant facelift with a lick of paint on your fences. Fences frame a garden, so it's important to get them looking smart and fresh. Make sure none of the wood is rotting, if so, replace it, then get to work on prepping the panels. Remove old flaky paint and give a light sand if needed before you apply your chosen colour. There are hundreds of shades to choose from, so maybe pick a shade to complement other tones in the garden, or the walls of your property.

 

Sitting comfortably

As with fences, garden furniture also needs to be maintained and given some TLC if it's looking tired after spending the winter months outside. Check for any rotten wood, loose screws and fixings, giving them all a tighten before any painting is recommended. Furniture paint is a great way to add a splash of colour to make your seating area stand out, plus you can accessorise with soft cushions, throws and blankets for extra colour, comfort and cosiness. Just make sure you have some storage in your garden to keep any cushions and accessories you buy when they are not in use, to stop them from getting wet when it rains.

Wash and wipe

Jet washing your paving slabs can transform a dull patio. It’s time consuming, but the reward is worth it as it can bring a gloomy area back to life.  For sprucing up your decking, get yourself a stiff bristled brush to lift off any residue from fallen leaves and be sure to remove stubborn grubby patches and mildew before you get to work on applying any new top coat. Check the weather forecast for the next few days and try and do this job during a dry spell to give the wood a chance to dry off before applying your treatment, paint or wood preservative.

Don’t waste water

Water is an expensive commodity when it comes to gardening, both in terms of finance and the environment. So, to help your bank balance and the planet in one go, get yourself a water butt. A decent 100 litre kit can start from around £30 and comes with everything you need. Find a good place to install your water butt, either under a downpipe from your shed, garage or property, but if you don’t have an open downpipe, you can buy a diverter which you can attach to the downpipe to siphon water off into the water butt. There are lots of helpful guides online to follow to get you up and running.

Compost corner

If you have room, having a compost heap is a great addition to any garden. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, a simple structure built from off cuts of wood will work just as well as anything you buy from the shops. Throw on all your grass cuttings, veggie peelings and kitchen waste, plus anything you prune off your trees and bushes. Just don’t put any weeds on your compost pile as they will then grow back more aggressively when you finally come to spread your compost. Your compost will need aerating each month, so turning it with a fork or spade will help the organic matter to break down, producing a much richer and nutritious compost.

Shed sorting

Empty your shed, give it a good brush and clear out anything you don’t need. Sheds are guilty of housing stacks of blunt, unused or dirty tools, so look at what you actually use, then give them all a good clean to prevent bacteria spreading when you begin pruning. Get blunt tools sharpened and follow with a spray of WD40 on the moving parts to prolong life. Also, look at getting your lawnmower serviced, as a sharpened mower blade will give a much superior cut to your grass.

 

Banish the bugs 

There are many annoying pests that can pray on plants, shrubs and vegetables, so trying to get rid of them now in Spring, before the summer season sets in, is a good idea. Check for snails and slugs, also keep a close eye out for vine weevils and their larvae, as unwelcome visitors can be easily controlled by hand removal or organic solutions when caught early. You can even use a home-made garlic spray solution to fight off slugs and there are many resistant vegetables you can plant to help prevent attacks, Gardeners World has a helpful guide.

Plant your pots  

You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive plants and shrubs to add a splash of colour to your garden. Big or small, a few well-placed pots, window boxes or hanging baskets can transform a garden into a beautiful oasis of colour. Look at what direction your garden faces, this will then help you determine the best varieties of plants and flowers to grow that need shade or sun. Don’t be afraid to experiment with colour, variety and size to create depth and interest in your pots.  Give the pots regular water and feed to keep them looking their best and encourage growth year after year.

These are just a few jobs you can be getting on with to get you back into the garden and help keep you happy, healthy and busy this Spring. You don’t have to break the bank, with many of the jobs, its good old fashioned elbow grease and a few trips to the local recycling centre to tidy up that will make the most difference. Enjoy.

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