National Growing for Wellbeing Week is a celebration of the magic that growing your own produce can do for your wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental ill health each year and there is strong evidence highlighting the health benefits of gardening. In this blog, Oly, a Consultant at The Planet Mark shares his recent outdoor endeavours.
I was recently fortunate enough to buy my first home, moving out of London to the Bedfordshire countryside to take advantage of cleaner air and the potential for my very own outdoor space. Last June I hit lucky with a cosy terrace with a modestly sized but south-facing garden, perfect for indulging my keen but nascent interest in vegetable growing. Whilst I have always loved gardening, and in particular growing those plants which enjoy insects for lunch (carnivorous plants!), growing vegetables was going to be a whole new experience for me. So, with food security gracing the top of the political menu, acres of time in self-isolation and the planting season of May all coinciding with the current drive to seize the opportunity to rediscover the natural world, what more perfect time could there be for a novice vegetable grower’s blog…here goes! (*gulp*)
The current state of play. Spring onions, lettuce and radishes in the foreground, sweetcorn, peas, runner and french beans in the background. As ever with gardening, the difficult parts have a knack of hiding themselves once they have been completed. Notice the broken fork at the top left, a casualty of digging out the pre-existing shrub’s roots– but now making a perfect support for peas!
Who says you need a garden anyway! Tomato shoots shooting up from a trough. Vegetables aren’t too house-proud, a compost waste bin could make the perfect residence for some early potatoes, providing you create a few drainage holes at the bottom. On a more practical note, growing potatoes in a deep container does make it that much easier to get your hands on your hard-earned crop come harvest-time…what happens to the bins on bin day! You can purchase specialist “seed” potatoes, prepared for sowing and certified (plant) disease free, but there’s nothing stopping you picking a few of the potatoes off the supermarket shelf and seeing how you get on. You might even put some in an egg box on the windowsill to shoot before planting them out to give them an extra head-start – and what better way of watching one of nature’s marvels.
Last weekend, feeling as if I had conquered the world (run out of available space for vegetables) I decided to turn my attention to building a wildlife pond, the perfect way to bring wildlife to your doorstep and enjoy nature the lazy way, or so I thought…[Disclaimer: Digging a big hole in the ground on a hot Bank Holiday weekend is not a lazy way to spend an afternoon].
It’s a good idea to work out where you want your pond to be before starting to dig. Laying twine or a tape measure on the ground to mark the outside of the potential pond area is a good way to do this, and offers the opportunity to take a step back and reconsider your judgement. Remember you need to dig a pond on a flat surface…otherwise all the water goes to one side.
That hole I was talking about! Now is a good time to think about whether you want to put shelving in for plants, and a gently sloping side is good to allow wildlife to get in or out. Depth is up to you, although most waterlilies like at least 30 cm of depth and full sun. Avoid spots with overhanging deciduous trees if you can, not only do they cast shade but they will drop their leaves in autumn. Add some oxygenators to increase oxygen levels.
The finished product! Far from perfect, but hopefully not too bad for a first attempt! Remember that garden centres are reopening now – a perfect opportunity for me to fill the pond and try to cover up some of that liner! That’s all from me – be brave and enjoy your garden!! For more inspiration and top tips on working from home sustainably, please see our Home Worker Package.