In Brief

Green fingers and healthy: the benefits of gardening

Experts share their top tips for your garden and vegetable patch

Switch off the TV, shut down the laptop and mute the mobile - it’s time to get into the garden.

If you’re looking for healthy ways to spend your time at home, gardening is the perfect solution. 

The mental health benefits of gardening, or ecotherapy, can be enormous. It’s a tactile activity and demands a degree of mindfulness - the perfect activity to quiet an anxious mind.

If you are at home, you’ll want your garden to be looking its best so you can enjoy it during these times of confinement. 

Spring will keep showing its hopeful signs whatever happens, so get outside and enjoy them. Watching the plants waking up is the perfect time to get outdoors and get growing. 

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Vegepod self-contained raised garden beds

Top tips for gardening in self-isolation

The team at Vegepod shared their top tips for making the most of the garden during self-isolation. 

Spend time in nature’s classroom

Take your children outdoors and teach them about the plants in their garden and give them simple tasks they can do to help, like watering and planting seeds. It’s the perfect way to spend time with them, while they’re learning and exploring the natural world. 

Soothing properties

With so much negative news and uncertainty, it’s easy to feel unsettled and anxious. The garden can be a very sensory place and many plants have soothing properties. Try growing some lavender, for its calming scent, or grow some chamomile, to make into a relaxing tea. The fragrance of rosemary is said to be grounding too. 

Grow your own

Self-sufficiency has never been so appealing. With a Vegepod self-contained raised garden bed you can grow crops quickly – you could be harvesting salads and herbs in just a couple of weeks. Planting edible crops and watching them grow will bring a huge sense of satisfaction and you get to enjoy the fruits of your labours. 

Start a new project

Now is the time to embark on that garden project you’ve been thinking about for a while, that you’ve never had time for. Dig a bed and plant it with your favourite flowers. Build a shed as a utility or a retreat. Or start planning a pond or water feature to attract wildlife to your garden. 

Tidy up

This period of time presents the perfect opportunity to make sure your garden is neat and tidy. Get to work on that long list of garden jobs you’ve been putting off. You could fix fences, tidy your borders, mow your lawn and tackle that dreaded weeding so you can sit back and enjoy the great outdoors.

Vegetable patch and gardening tips

How to create your own veg patch

Having a vegetable patch in your garden won’t just provide nutritious food to eat but is another great way to improve your mental health. 

Broadcaster, teacher and writer Sarah Raven runs her own gardening and cookery school at Perch Hill in East Sussex. 

She said: “The things I’d go for, for a quick and economical veg patch, are edible plants with a high cm square productivity - so you get the maximum crop out of the minimum garden bed or container space. 

“Select mainly cut-and-come-again crops, things that you can sow and harvest within four to six weeks, and then go back to harvest again and again.” 

Raven shared her top tips and recommendations for what should go in a vegetable patch. 

Salads 

“Quick crops such as mizuna, any of the mustards, and salad rocket, which can be added to the quick-growing, cut-and-come-again lettuces, such as ‘Black Seeded Simpson’, ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons’, and the oak-leaf ‘Solix’ or ‘Green Salad Bowl’. American/Land Cress is super speedy too.”

Herbs - give your food a lift 

“Flat-leaved parsley, coriander, chives, and soon it will be time for basils as well.”

Super-prolific leafy greens 

“For a quick crop, go for spinach ‘Medania’ or ‘Toscane’. Add Swiss Chard in there too, in any of its forms [the white or green-stemmed taste cleaner than the earthier ‘Rainbow’ or ‘Bright Lights’ chard]. These will give you more meals per square metre than any other plant you can grow and are super versatile, good raw in salad with the green taken off the stem - and fantastic cooked, in so many different ways. And then to sow now, to pick (as a baby leaf) in 8-10 weeks’ time, go for super-healthy kales of any type.”

Courgettes 

“Sow these on a windowsill now for planting out once the frosts are over in your area. As we all know, these are heavy croppers and the more you pick, the more they produce. I love ‘Romanesco’ which has a nutty flavour and texture.”

Tomatoes 

“If you have a greenhouse or sheltered, sunny wall, add tomatoes such as ‘Sungold’ and the super-prolific ‘Stupicke Pole Rane’ to your must-sow list, with the cucumber ‘La Diva’ also good for growing inside or out.”

Beans and peas 

“Any of the peas are good and quick, and you probably want to go for a heavy cropper such as ‘Alderman’, plus of course Runner Beans are super prolific for sowing now, for cropping in the summer. For right now, sow any of the broad beans straight outside.”

Healthy eating tips for home: how to get your five a day during the lockdown

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazineStart your trial subscription today ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 

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