July 30, 2020

Give gardening a go!

Gardening is good for us in so many ways, and now more than ever is the perfect time to get your hands dirty.

As I write this looking out onto our garden, it is seemingly impossible to grasp the gravity of the global situation.

Communities across the country and the world are doing their best to abide by physical distancing restrictions. Life has certainly changed in recent months.

Perhaps one positive result of so many people now being inself-isolationn is the renewed interest in gardening. Some people are now finding they have more time to be active in the garden, while others are venturing into the back yard for the very first time.

Garden centres and nurseries here in South Australia have reported a boom in sales of vegetable and flower seeds and seedlings, as well as fertilisers, soil conditioners, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut trees.

But why are people turning to gardening? Well, gardening has many virtues. Our gardens provide a place for experiencing nature — trees, plants, the sky, the elements — which is proven to benefit mental health and emotional wellbeing. Gardening can also assist those experiencing depression and anxiety, and can offer a sense of community. Gardening is also a form of physical exercise, with health benefits including building muscle and lowering blood pressure.

The COVID-19 lockdown also provides the time and opportunity for people to create the garden they have always wanted, producing a sense of pride and of course pleasure for you and your whole household.

If you are a seasoned gardener returning, welcome back. If you are a new gardener, welcome to the best hobby in the world.

But, I can hear you asking, where do I start? Well, from all the new faces around the nurseries, I can see many of you have already dipped your toe in the water. Getting the right advice is critical.

Initially think about what you would like to grow: is it trees, shrubs, hedges, lawns or are you keen to start your own “market garden”. Most plants can be planted directly into the soil. If that is not possible due to space or lack of sunshine, then containers of all shapes and sizes can be used. Raised garden beds and wicking beds are a worthwhile consideration if land is scarce.

If you are heading down the veggie patch trail, do choose crops that you and your family will actually eat! When buying your veggie seeds or seedlings, make sure it is the correct season for them to grow and mature. Different vegetables have different requirements when it comes to what type of fertiliser to use, or whether they like full sun or partial shade. They also take different lengths of time to reach maturity.

In doubt about anything, most garden centre staff are only too willing to offer assistance and valuable local advice.

Before you start planting, it can be a good idea to get the whole family involved. Who is going to set the garden up? Who will be responsible for watering, feeding and weeding? (I recommend giving the children some chores!)

Another area to garden is indoors. You might not be able to grow spuds and onions inside the house, but what about a few herbs on the windowsill? And then there are ornamental plants. Plants inside will improve your air quality, as well as cheering you up.

I’m a firm believer that there is a spot in every house for a garden of some shape and size. The benefits of giving gardening a go in these trying times are just enormous. So now is the time to get gardening! 

Michael’s top 10 for May

These easy-to-grow veggies can be sown or planted out in May. Always prep soil by digging in some lovely organic matter to ensure healthy strong plants.

Broad beans (seed)
Peas (seed)
Rhubarb (crowns)
Asparagus (crowns)
Radish (seed)
Spinach (seeds or seedlings)
Broccoli (seedlings)
Snow peas (seeds)
Lettuce — hearting or loose leaf (seedlings)
Carrots (seed) 

Parsley (seed or seedlings)
Mint (plants)
Oregano (seeds or plants)
Thyme (plants)

Slower maturing veggies:
Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, swedes and turnips all take much more time to mature and take up more space in the garden … maybe next year!


This story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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