In this unprecedented time, we need to be mindful of our mental health and, weather permitting, gardening can be one of the best ways of lifting our mood, should we be spending extended time at home alone or with family.
Robin Mercer, owner of Hillmount in Ards, Bangor and Belfast, said: “We are helping the local community with take away food options, by sourcing hand sanitisers and offering customers the opportunity to order their gardening products over the phone for collection. We are changing how we manage our business in line with government advice on an almost hourly basis for the safety of our staff and customers. It is important though that we look after our mental health at times such as this too and gardening can be therapeutic for all ages, while providing a gentle form of exercise.”
Robin has shared some top tips for preparing your garden for spring and entertaining the next generation. You can introduce children to gardening from an early age, encouraging them to water plants, sow seeds and watch the plants and flowers they’ve planted grow.
If the weather is kind and you are feeling healthy, getting out into your garden and spending a few hours attacking the weeds with the kids is a great way of taking in some fresh air whilst giving your garden a spring facelift.
Known as ‘earlies’, seed potatoes can be planted now and they will be ready for eating in around 12 weeks. Little ones will enjoy learning about the potato growth cycle.
The birds are still singing and are in need of food and water for drinking and bathing in. Keep your bird table topped up with seeds and if it’s extremely cold, you could fill the bird bath with luke warm water. You can also take a few moments to watch the birds visit the garden and teach the children about the different varieties and species.
It’s never too early to introduce children to the joy of planting seeds and the excitement of growing plants and flowers. It’s also great for encouraging them to eat fruit and vegetables. You don’t need to sow lettuce outdoors, if it’s raining you can sow around 50 lettuce seeds per pot into fresh compost and place on the kitchen window ledge.
You could try growing multi coloured popcorn. You can buy the multi coloured corn in any good garden centre or online and when you settle down to watch a movie on the television you can eat your own home grown popcorn!
Treat your children to a packet of sunflower seeds and experience the excitement on their faces as they watch the progress of the sunflowers growing. This is a super inexpensive way of entertaining children while encouraging a love of gardening.
If you’re feeling energetic you could spend a few hours alone time while social distancing and wash the patio, clean the decking or free your garden from winter moss. Spring cleaning outside is just as important as spring cleaning inside and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when your efforts free your garden of moss and weeds. The children will love getting a bit of fresh air.