‘Keep on gardening’: David Domoney’s top tips for autumn and winter
The Love Your Garden host says caring for your garden can nurture your well-being too
Celebrity horticulturalist David Domoney has a message for green-fingered Brits: don’t stop gardening during autumn and winter.
Not only do our gardens need continued care in the colder months, but getting outside is also essential for our physical and mental well-being, especially during this time of Covid lockdowns and social distancing.
A campaign to get more of us outdoors is being spearheaded by Domoney, who along with being the resident gardener on ITV’s This Morning and co-hosting Love Your Garden alongside Alan Titchmarsh, is also the gardening champion for mental health charity Sane. “Engaging with and getting closer to nature is one the best things we as humans can do for our health and well-being, and gardening enables us to do that regularly,” he says.
And while the shorter days at this time of year can make it harder to get out, gardening is “a hobby that keeps giving, for 12 months of the year”, Domoney adds. “Over the cooler period, there’s no need to stop gardening. With activities to keep the whole family gardening and engaging with nature, you won’t be short of things to do.”
Here are his top tips for gardening in autumn and winter…
Plant colourful bulbs
“As gardeners, we love looking ahead and planning for the flowers and fruits of the following year. If you’ve ever looked at other people’s borders in springtime, bursting with blooms and wanted the same, yours can be like that too.
“So plant some hope for spring, and get the kids involved too, as flower bulbs are really easy to handle and plant and they can then have the joy of watching their own flowers bloom next spring and know they helped to make it happen.”
What to plant: daffodils, tulips, crocus, snowdrops, hyacinths, alliums
Shrubs to add interest
“Keep your garden looking glorious in the autumn and winter months with shrubs that provide colourful flowers, foliage and fruit at different times of the year. With plenty of evergreens in the mix, your garden will have constant structure and plenty of greenery and colour.”
What to plant: skimmia japonica (Japanese skimmia), gaultheria procumbens (checkerberry), viburnum tinus (laurustinus), winter jasmine, winter flowering pansies, winter flowering heather, daphne
Grow your own
“Growing your own food to add flavour and nutrition to your dishes doesn’t mean you need a huge vegetable patch. In fact, you can grow produce all year round, both indoors and outdoors.
“Your windowsill can be used to grow sprouting mung beans in jars - just soak them in water, drain them and leave them to sprout in a dry jar. You can also grow cress, basil, chillies and many more inside your home. In your garden, you can still grow winter crops like kale, perennial spinach and the like, as well as planting onion and garlic.”
“The season may be a little less sunny, but there’s plenty that can keep the kids busy. These activities are fun, creative and educational too, so their minds will be working.
“Making fat-balls as food for birds is a great activity that lets kids get hands-on and make something while learning about wildlife in the garden. You’ll only need a few things to get started: lard, bird seed, a mixing bowl and an old, clean yoghurt pot. Mix the lard and seeds together to bind them and then use the pot as a container to fill with the mixture. Use string to tie the pot to a branch and hang it on its side. In addition, putting up nesting boxes will encourage different species of birds into your garden too, depending on the type of box you choose.
“For another fun activity, get the kids a magnifying glass and play animal detective, or do a mini-beast hunt. They can make a tally of the beasts that they see, from millipedes to beetles. Once they’ve spotted them, they can draw pictures of what they’ve found and keep notes on where they found each creature.
“Let the kids get crafty too, and create animals using plant pots. Make a spider by painting the pot black, using pipe-cleaners for the legs, and sticking or painting plenty of googly eyes.”
“Autumn is a great time for getting out and seeing which creatures you can spot. Get comfy and see which birds are paying your garden a visit. In the UK, you’ll probably see robins, which are considered an icon of the winter. Starlings, blue tits, and sparrows may be spotted too.
“Gathering twigs and leaves together and placing them in your border can also provide a safe and cosy space for small mammals and invertebrates.”
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