The Government message has been very simple over the last few weeks – stay at home. In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and to ease pressure on our hospitals, most of us are effectively on lockdown. As we come to terms and manage life with the new rules, and in fact try to work out what we can or can’t do, some people are wondering whether it is safe to go out in the garden, or will they end up getting in trouble.

Well the good news is, yes we are allowed out in the garden. In fact, we are being encouraged to get out there whenever we can. It’s good for our physical and mental health. The Government is suggesting we get some fresh air and do a bit of exercise in our own gardens if we can.

But remember, the rules still apply under social distancing. We should all stay 2 metres away from others so it’s best to avoid getting overly close to the neighbours if they’re also outside.

The Government are well aware of the pressure this is putting on all of us, and the mental strain this enforced period of isolation will bring. The latest advice urged us all to think about our mental health and try to do light exercise outside.

“We know that staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that you or other household members may feel low. It can be particularly challenging if you don’t have much space or access to a garden.

“It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if you need it. Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media. There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as Every Mind Matters.

“Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have not minded staying at home for a week have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films. If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.”

Just remember the rules for self isolation. We can only go out for………

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
  • any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

The Government stresses that even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensure you are 2m apart from anyone outside of your household.

The Coronavirus crisis shouldn’t keep you away from your garden. Just the opposite in fact, a lockdown is a great opportunity to take even better care of your plants. It seems this is a time to get out and have some exercise and make our own gardens look the best they’ve been for a while. No more excuse of ‘I just don’t have the time’ because we all do right now. And wouldn’t it be great if you went from being a couch potatoes into a real potato grower!

Just ensure you practice safe self isolating gardening at all times.

Also bear in mind that visiting any allotments or community garden projects is a no go area. The situation is very different for professional gardeners and landscapers.

Currently we are on a ‘Basic Lockdown’ but if that was to change to something they call a ‘Shelter In Place’ then the whole ball game is very different.

  • If a “shelter-in-place” lockdown is declared in a city, gardeners cannot travel to customer’s homes.
  • San Francisco in California, Venice in Italy and others in Australia, France and England are under such drastic laws.
  • In these areas, companies must cancel any gardening work that is planned at customer’s houses.

You need to check the state of our lockdown at all time.

So, what we can we actually do in our gardens right now? It is the perfect time to get out and do some weeding. Tackle weeds head-on to make room for your prized plants, remember to try and remove them before they set seed.

Don’t be put off if weeds take over areas in the garden from time to time. Certain weeds will flourish depending on the weather and soil conditions and you can tackle these weeds in different ways based on how they grow.

The RHS have some great advice on how to tackle all types of weeds, right here. WEEDS

At this time of year, the lawn is actively growing and requires feeding, moss-killing, weeding and regular mowing. Spring is also a suitable time to over-seed sparse areas.

All lawns need feeding in order to maintain vigour. When feeding, look out for signs of pest or disease and apply moss killer if required. Regular maintenance is the best way to approach a lawn, and may avoid the need for renovation later on.

Over winter, the lawn does not grow much, but once the weather warms up in early spring, you can start mowing, and this is also a good time to over-seed any areas damaged over winter. For more advice and tips, go here. LAWNS

Established hedges require trimming to keep them dense and compact. Formal hedges require more frequent trimming than informal hedges.

New hedges require formative pruning for their first couple of years after planting. Formative pruning is usually carried out in winter or early spring.

After this, maintenance trimming is carried out, usually once a year for informal hedges and twice a year for formal hedges. Some formal hedges may need three cuts a year. Maintenance trimming is generally carried out between spring and summer. Timing of pruning should take into account the potential for nesting birds and be delayed until after the nesting season – considered to run from March to August – if there are any signs that indicate activity. For more detailed RHS Information, go here. TRIMMING

Here’s a few pointers to help you along the way……

  • Assess your exposure. If you are planting vegetables, keep in mind that most need at least eight hours of full sun every day. Flowers and other decorative plants have different sunlight needs, depending on their type.
  • Designate your planting areas. You need a plan before you plant. A four-by-four-foot plot of land is a good start for vegetables. For flowers, decide where you’d like to dig the beds.
  • Consider a fence. Fences are especially important if you are planting vegetables (although some flowering plants may be enticing to critters, too). Build it before you plant the garden, so rabbits never get a glimpse (or a taste) of that lettuce.
  • Know your dirt. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting. But you need to determine how much organic material and mulch you’ll have to add to make it fertile. A local gardening centre can help.
  • Decide between tilling and creating a raised bed. If you don’t want to till and nourish the soil you’ve got, or if you have a bad back and would rather not be bending down so low to garden, you can build a raised planting bed with non-pressure-treated wood.
  • Write down your preferences. For a vegetable garden, think about what you like to eat and what you generally buy (or can’t buy) at a local farmers’ market. With flowers, make a list of the colours you love and what you’d like to see in a vase on your kitchen table.
  • Make a seasonal plan. Once you determine what will grow, what you like, and what time of year certain plants will flourish, you need to create a schedule. If your flowering plants all bloom in July and then die off, have some evergreen plants to keep the area looking lush. If your tomato plants take months to get big, plant smaller vegetables nearby that can make quick use of the space.
  • Buy some basic tools. Have these essentials on hand before you begin: spade; garden fork; hose; hoe; hand weeder; and a basket for moving around mulch or soil.

Make sure you also create a month-by-month checklist to ensure you are doing the right jobs at the right time.

Your houseplants can always benefit from proper repotting. It’s also time to prune some of the winter growth off. If you see any leaf plants sagging and getting brown leaf tips, they’re lacking humidity in the air.

There really hasn’t been a better time to get the kids out into the garden not only to play but also try their hand at a little work. It’s more than just a way to spend time having fun, it’s also a very healthy way to build up immunity and teach kids how wonderful nature is. Who knows, if you get them to plant and sow they may actually eat what they grow. Start with a bit of basil or parsley as it sprouts very quickly.

  • Decorate pots with paint.
  • Once the pots have dried out ask them to fill them in with soil.
  • Press the soil down and water.
  • Stick a pen or twig into the centre of each pot, down to a depth of just under an inch. Get them to put a couple seeds in each hole, and cover the hole shut again.
  • Water a bit to keep the soil mix a little moist.

Don’t forget of course that you can still buy seeds, plants and shrubs online. Garden Centre’s are slowly re-opening but internet sales are always a good way to go in the mean time.

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