Lockdown jobs in the garden
Staying at home during the coronavirus outbreak is challenging, whether you are working from home, educating the kids or spending the lockdown on your own. Whatever your situation, it’s important to take regular breaks, move around and get some fresh air. Gardening is a great way to do all three. Whether you’ve got a few minutes or are taking a longer break, there are plenty of ways to keep gardening during lockdown. Here is a list of some of the jobs you can do to stay upbeat and active in June – starting with the quickest and easiest first!
1 Deadhead or pick flowers
Some plants, such as lupins, poppies and delphinium, may produce a second flush of flowers if spent flower stems are promptly cut down after the first flowering and hardy geranium can be cut right back to ground level after flowering. But others, such as sweet peas, dahlias, salvia, some roses and many annuals, rely on you to either pick them for cut flowers or to deadhead them in order to prolong the flowering period. This is a quick job that could be done every day!
2 Keep sowing seeds
Even in June it’s not too late to sow seeds. Try carrots, lettuce radish, beetroot, spinach or sugar snap peas. Direct sow in the ground according to the packet – but sow just a few – then if you have space sow a few more in a week or so to keep the crops coming all summer. You can also sow sweet corn, in blocks where they are to grow, to harvest in late summer when the silks on the corns turn brown. It’s also a good time to direct sow leeks, swede, chicory and brassicas for a winter harvest.
3 Pruning and clipping
Spring flowering shrubs such as rosemary, weigela, deutzia and philadelphus can be tamed, once the flowers have finished. Don’t leave this too late or the new growth put on after pruning may not have sufficient time to ensure strong flowering next year. Evergreens including box, privet and viburnum tinus can be clipped to shape.
4 Split supermarket herbs
A cost effective way to buy herbs is at the supermarket – parsley, coriander thyme and mint plants in pots are all available. Rather than forgetting to water them on your windowsill, simply slide them from the pot, tease apart into 3 to 4 clumps and plant in the garden, water and hey presto, they will last you for ages. Note that basil is also a possibility once you can be sure frosts have passed and remember that invasive mint should be grown in a pot – either above or below ground.
5 Stake and tie
Strong winds at this time of year can cause damage to taller perennials, such as foxgloves and delphiniums, so it’s essential to keep staking and tying them up. Also it’s important to keep tying in your sweet peas and other climbers such as roses, clematis and honey suckle. It’s now pretty safe to assume the frosts are behind us, it may be time to plant out veg from the greenhouse – runner and climbing french beans and outdoor tomatoes and cucumber will all need some support.
6 Weed, weed and weed some more
Decide where to start and how much time per day you can spend. At the end of day 1, make a note of how far you get. On day 2, don’t start where you finished, start in the same place as you started yesterday – look for anything you missed and then weed on for the remainder of the time you have allotted. Do this every day – beginning at your day 1 starting point – until you have worked round the whole garden and then keep going in the same way – you will have less weeds with each circuit you make.
7 Design a new border
It’s a great time to plan a new planting scheme – prairie style, blowsy cottage, a herb garden, cutting patch, gravel garden or even a pond area. Use books, magazines and online sites for inspiration, so that you can work out your style and identify the kind of plants that might work. Think about the location – sun/shade, damp/dry, etc., and make sure the plan is in tune with your conditions. It may still be difficult to get hold of some of the materials and plants you would like to include but, when the lockdown ends, you will be ready to get started straight away on your new project.
Rose Gill, Room Outside garden design.