Our gardens can help keep us sane, give us exercise and fresh air

April 06 2020
Our gardens can help keep us sane, give us exercise and fresh air

The City Gardener, with Tim Barton

I WAS going to try to avoid talking about the obvious, but unfortunately it seems that everything is revolving around that subject at the moment. I was due to give two talks in March, both of which, quite rightly, were called off. This seems now to be the sensible course of action for most activities where there are more than a couple of people involved, especially if it’s at an indoor venue.

Luckily for us, plants don’t contract or transmit Covid-19 and gardening is an activity almost exclusively conducted outside. This is not only keeping us sane in a time where we’re going to be getting cabin fever before long, but also giving us some safe exercise and fresh air. It’s easy to get caught up in the misinformation and government guidance and things could get even more strict than they are now if people don’t stick to the rules. However, if you can get outside, away from close contact with others, then you’re going to be in a far better place both physically and mentally. April is also the time of year when we start germinating seeds at a faster pace than any other month, with the days getting warmer and longer all the time. One of the lovely things about seeds and plants is that they don’t have an opinion, they don’t care who you are or anything about you – as long as you look after them, they’ll reward you by just doing what they do. And at a time like this, it’s the perfect antidote to keep us calm and happy.

My usual topic of conversation in April is that the clocks have changed and we’re now heading full steam towards summer. This never ceases to bring a smile to my face and as I write this, there is a surge of activity in the garden (and in the pond). The first green buds are appearing on the trees ready for the middle of April when there is an almost audible explosion, as the fresh new leaves all emerge. It’s also the time of year when we first get to sit outside and start to enjoy a little sunshine, especially after the incessant rain that has tormented us over the last few months.

I started last month's (unfinished) article with the words “If there’s one thing that I can say about February it’s that it was wet” -- unfortunately it went downhill from there, and I couldn’t find anything worthy of printing.

Usually, and at many other times of year, we’d be crying out for the odd deluge and we certainly will be in a few months’ time. This highlights the need to store water where we can. I have a 1,000-litre bowser that last year just about kept us in water on the allotment: during the dry months it was close, but we managed not to use the taps at all. With the current climate crisis that is impending, we should be keeping as much ‘off grid’ as possible, and water storage is one thing that’s fairly easy to set up.

It always seems a shame to me to be putting drinking water onto the plants, as in reality they’d much rather have rain water anyway. Over time I’ve picked up bits and pieces to make this easier, from a water butt pump to a simple greenhouse irrigation system. It’s always good to wait and see what you need and what works for you, rather than buying a whole load of kit at once; you can also get bargains when they’re available.

But whatever you do, make sure that you stay safe and virus-free.