For many, lockdown has been a chance to get out in the garden and start growing flowers, plants, vegetables and other foliage.
The Independent recently reported on a survey of 2,000 people conducted by LV General Insurance in June that found millennials spent twice as much on their gardens as other people during lockdown.
As the weather warmed up but lockdown continued, being at home for months became the perfect time to dedicate yourself to cultivating your own green space.
We’re well into summer right now (despite what it looks like outside), and while the sunny skies you might have been hoping for are as unreliable as ever if you’re looking to get into gardening or improve on what you’ve learned far, now is a good time to start.
Also, gardening has many benefits. Scientists have found that spending two hours a week in nature is linked to better health and well-being.
Guy Barter, chief gardener at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said previously The Independent: “We believe that gardening combines movement and activity and is known for enhancing well-being, along with the restorative power of nurturing and caring for living beings. Of course there is the beauty and charm of flowers and gardens to lift the spirits and the pleasure and satisfaction of growing and eating your own food.”
Whether you’re limited to indoor and balcony areas, or have a lush green lawn, there are plenty of ways to get started and we’ve curated a guide for those new to the hobby, where you’ll find everything from the best trowels to use to books to read.
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What to plant now
If you are planning to buy seeds, bulbs and other foliage online, read our guide to online garden centers here for help.
Space is not an issue for starting gardening, even if you limit yourself to a balcony garden.
“Sunny balconies can be planted with potted shrubs like choisya, lavender, and young bay trees,” Barter said The Independent. If it’s in the shade, then he suggests ferns, fatsia, fatshedera, ivy and skimmia, adding: “Hanging baskets and troughs with delicate summer flowers make efficient use of space.”
As long as you have space for a pot, you can plant most herbs, small fruits, and vegetables. Here is our guide to gardening on a balcony or even just a windowsill.
Inside we found this Pearl Oyster Farming Kit from the Espresso Mushroom Company (Not On The High Street, £18.95) which makes a great introduction to growing your own produce at home.
It’s also easy to set up; Cut a slit into the rind (which is made from recycled coffee grounds), soak the rind in water for 12 hours, then spray twice a day with water using the included spray bottle. Mushrooms begin to sprout after a week.
Plus, you can reuse the compost once your mushrooms are harvested.
When you have a garden a world of possibilities opens up to you and you are able to grow root vegetables, leafy vegetables and squashes. And the beauty of it is that once it’s all sprouted, you can also create your own menu for a feast.
A healthy selection of herbs that also thrive include chicory, endive, lettuce, lamb’s lettuce, and arugula. Try ‘Favor’ lamb’s lettuce (Just Seed, £2.29), which will grow to a height of 15cm on a patio in sunny weather. After harvesting, you can mix them into a salad.
If your garden is big enough for a greenhouse, you can even start growing winter vegetables, which can take up to nine months to grow if you have the space.
Try this Guelph Millennium (Thompson and Morgan, £15.99) asparagus, which grows best in sunny, moderately fertile soil conditions.
As long as there is protection from strong winds, you can get good results.
tools you need
First, protect your hands from the dirt and irritation that gardening can bring with a pair of gardening gloves. These are particularly important as frequent hand washing can leave your skin feeling sensitive.
Try the Hexarmour thornarmour 3092 gardening and landscaping gloves (Safety Gloves, £49.99), which will keep you from getting stung by prickly weeds or thorns, but also won’t let soil get inside.
When you repot plants and put new ones in beds, you need a trowel.
Taking the top spot in our IndyBest guide to the best garden trowels was Hunter Gatherer’s personalized copper-plated garden trowel (Not On The High Street, £23).
It was one of the few we’ve seen that has measurements on the shovel (which are also engraved so there’s no risk of them wearing out), and the pointed tip was the hard, unbroken ground we tested it on have, not grown.
While it’s a bit flatter and narrower than many of its competitors, it’s also a bit longer – a feature that makes it easier for us to access those hard-to-reach and sunken spots in the ground.
The RHS recommends regularly hoeing weeds to keep them in check.
Simply run a hoe like this Nejiri Gama hoe (Amazon, £16.99) across a bed or between rows of plants to kill weed seedlings.
The blade is made of hardened steel and features a hanging loop on the wooden handle that allows you to easily stow it away when you’re done using it.
The RHS suggests doing this on a dry day with light winds so the seedlings dry out on the surface of the bed rather than re-rooting in moist soil.
Keep your lawn in top condition with a lawn mower. Our favorite is the Atco quattro 16S Li 41cm 60V self-propelled lawnmower (Atco, £599) for its ability to tame a medium-sized lawn in under an hour without choking longer grass or leaving a nasty-looking scalp.
According to our reviewer: “There’s excellent mulching, which means if you want to, you can recycle your clippings and return valuable nutrients to the soil to keep your lawn looking healthy all summer long.”
books to read
If you are looking for detailed advice that you can always refer to, we recommend you Small garden by John Brookes (Amazon, £15.43) that covers every aspect of garden maintenance in a small space.
It includes easy to understand clear diagrams and plenty of inspiration for things like working on a lawn, balcony, roof terrace or even just your windows.
For the more practical minded Build a better vegetable garden by Joyce and Ben Russell (Amazon, £17.99) is full of how-to guides on turning a vegetable patch into a bountiful source of fresh produce in your garden all year round.
Inside you’ll find 30 projects to work through, from building tunnels to ward off snails ruining your hard work to building a mini greenhouse, all designed to help you get the most out of the get the season out and protect your plants from pests.
The edible balconyby Alex Mitchell (Waterstones, £16.99) is a great home grow book aimed at the city dweller that uses lawns, borders and vegetable beds instead of patios, balconies and pots.
Mitchell has packed a wealth of inspiration into her book with tips and tricks for growing lettuce in gutters and tomatoes in a colander.
Follow their advice and your balcony, flat or apartment will not only provide you with delicious fresh food, but will also bring color and life into your home.