By Vickey Taylor
Readers of sufficient vintage will remember the famous line from Kenneth Graham’s classic The Wind in the Willows, “…there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” While Mr Graham may disagree, perhaps the same may be said of plants?
No matter if you have acres of garden at your disposal, or if you’ve transformed a tiny balcony into a potted oasis, our leafy friends create a sanctuary. As we become increasingly aware of the importance of spending time in green spaces and interacting with nature for maintaining good mental health, taking time to ‘simply mess about’ in the garden can be time well spent. There’s something calming about watching a favourite lemon tree reshoot after pruning, or the earthy fragrance of a handful of healthy soil. Being involved in those natural plant processes can help to provide perspective, quiet our mind and leave us feeling peaceful and grounded.
So how do we make the most of opportunities for mindfulness and joy in our gardens on those days when our spirits are willing, but our bodies aren’t as co–operative as we’d like them to be? Here’s a few practical tips to make your pottering time peaceful for both mind and body:
Exchange your 9–litre watering can for a 1.5 litre one / Carrying a full watering can is heavy and awkward. The smaller watering can is able to do everything it’s larger cousin can, but it’s much lighter. The smaller watering can spout is more accurate, meaning you have greater control of how much water or fertiliser you’re adding, with less mess. Win–win! February/March is a great time to add a liquid fertiliser like Searles’ Seamax to fruit and veggie plants, and your favourite flowering shrubs.
Suspend hanging baskets at waist level / Hanging baskets suspended between waist and shoulder height make great containers for a potted colour or Spring bulb display, or a way to grow herbs or veggies close to the kitchen. At this lower level, the plants are seen to their best advantage, and they can be reached easily for watering, harvesting or fertilising. They’re also out of reach of pesky slugs and snails! Use a premium potting mix and add some water crystals to reduce the amount of watering required.
Use a compressed mulch / When applied liberally, organic mulches like wood chips or pine bark are brilliant for reducing weed growth and maintaining soil moisture. But the bags can also be heavy and bulky. For mulching on a small scale, coir peat mulch offers the same benefits, without having to juggle a heavy bag of mulch. Coir Peat comes in a compressed block about half the size of a house brick. Simply place it in a bucket of water to re–hydrate and it’s ready to apply. Great to use in pots, hanging baskets or on garden beds.
Bigger isn’t always better / When it comes to nurturing your own piece of nature, it’s not so much the size that counts, but the interaction. Growing a tiny succulent on your kitchen windowsill or mindfully tending a small strawberry trough can bring as much enjoyment and relaxation as the largest of gardens. For a spot of small–scale ‘tabletop’ gardening, try making a terrarium in an empty jam jar. Or grab a small bag of potting mix and create a centrepiece bowl for the veranda by mixing an edible plant with an ornamental one – combinations like Calendula and Perpetual Lettuce, or Alyssum and Strawberries look lovely and give you something homegrown to nibble on as well.
We hope these handy hints will help you to reap the mental health benefits of ‘simply messing about with plants’ in a way that cares for your physical being as well. As Summer draws to a close, keep an eye out for Spring flowering bulbs and seed potatoes as they become available over the few months. It’s a great time to replenish veggie pots and beds with handfuls of compost and manure, then let them rest and get ready for seasonal Winter planting.
Happy gardening from the team at Burbank!