Staying at home or self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak might be challenging, especially for people who live on their own. Gardening can help us turn this situation into a positive – we can sow seeds or plant seedlings now and watch them develop and bloom over the coming weeks and months. And the well-documented benefits of gardening to our mental health and physical wellbeing are more important now than ever.
We’ll be here for the duration to offer moral support, practical guidance and inspirational ideas. To help get you started we’ve chosen 10 garden jobs you can get on with now. They’ll help you to pass the time in a productive and purposeful way, getting you outdoors to enjoy fresh air, bird song and a bit of gentle exercise – or even a full-on workout with some major garden DIY.
Take time out to watch our gardening videos for March
If you don’t have a garden, you can still get your hands dirty by growing plants indoors:
- Must-have houseplants
- Eight houseplants to grow on a windowsill
- Houseplants for every spot
- How to create a bottle garden
- Best plants for balconies
Browse our list of gardening jobs to help you stay safe, sane and happy, below.
Sowing seeds and watching the plants grow is a great way to relieve stress and remain mindful of your surroundings. You could sow anything you fancy – annual herbs to use in cooking, flowers such as cosmos and sunflowers to brighten up the garden, or vegetables to use in nutritious meals later in the season. Use a seed tray and propagator if you have one, but pots filled with peat-free compost and covered with a clear plastic bag or clingfilm will work just as well.
More on sowing seeds:
Plant up a container display
A pretty container display can really help to lift the spirits. Consider asking someone to go to the garden centre for you, or buy mail-order plants or seeds. Why not phone your local garden centre or nursery to see if they’ll deliver? Choose from perennial plants that are in flower now, which you can transplant into the garden when they’re past their best, or annuals for a quick, seasonal display.
More on creating container displays:
Feed the birds
Feeding the birds is great way to entertain yourself while self-isolating at home. Hang feeders in front of a window where you sit regularly, so you can watch the antics of the birds from your sofa. Buy feeders and food online from a reputable supplier and avoid cheaper seed mixes if possible – these are less likely to attract garden birds. Sunflower hearts are a great all-round choice, attracting a wide range of species. Why not take the time to learn the different birds that visit the feeders while you’re at it? Buy a book on garden birds or use our garden bird identifier to familiarise yourself with the most common species.
More on feeding garden birds:
Clean the greenhouse
For many people, there’s never a good time to clean the greenhouse. But doing so will bring more light to tender seedlings growing inside, as well as remove harmful pests and pathogens, which could be lingering on from last year. This is a great, active job that might help you to work up a sweat – get your scrubbing brush, sponge and hosepipe ready, for mini workout.
- How to clean your greenhouse
- Prepare your greenhouse for spring
- How to fit guttering on a greenhouse
Install a water butt
If you’ve been meaning to install a water butt for a while then now’s the time to do it. You can buy whole kits online and simply follow instructions on installing it. Wall-mounted water butts are a great way to save space. It’s fairly straightforward to connect them to a downpipe from your house, shed or greenhouse.
Build a garden pond
A pond is one of the best garden habitats you can create for wildlife, attracting birds, amphibians, mammals and aquatic insects. Digging a pond is labour intensive but extremely rewarding – if you’re missing your gym then this is the job for you.
Buy pond liner online and see if you can source plants from your local garden centre – again, see if they will deliver. If not, there are plenty of online retailers that sell pond plants. Choose a mix of oxygenating, floating and submerged plants, to provide the best variety of habitats.
Once you’ve dug your pond, consider buying a book on freshwater life, and a pond net, then monitor which new species colonise the water. There’s a whole new world to explore beneath the surface.
Build a raised bed
A raised bed makes growing vegetables easier, particularly if you have heavy soil. It can also be useful if you have a disability or mobility issues. You can buy raised bed kits or make your own using old scaffolding planks. Then simply fill with topsoil and start planting.
Make a bee hotel
A bee hotel provides nesting habitat for solitary bees such as red mason bees, which are on the wing from April to June, and leafcutter bees, which are flying from June to August. Rather than forming large nests like bumblebees and honeybee, solitary bees lay individual eggs in cells, stocked with nectar and pollen for the grubs to eat when they hatch. They don’t sting. Fix your bee hotel to a south-east facing wall or fence, and keep an eye out for bee activity throughout summer.
If you don’t have a garden, or can’t get into the garden, you can bring a touch of the outdoors, in. Houseplants have been shown to clean the air in our homes, as well as lift our spirits. Planting up a few containers of choice houseplants will not only keep you occupied, but will provide you with a long season of interest. There are plenty of online houseplant retailers, and you can buy pots, compost and decorative pebbles online, too.
- Foolproof houseplants to grow
- 11 of the best houseplants to grow
- Eight houseplants to grow on a windowsill
Design a new border
Have you been putting off revamping that garden border? Now is as good a time as any. Whether you’re after a prairie look, a woodland border or a gravel garden, we’ve got all the inspiration you need. Take on the project wisely – plan beforehand, carefully choosing which plants to grow and working out where to grow them. Buy your plants, and any other resources online, and hey presto – a new look for your garden.
Ordering plants, gardening tools and accessories online
If you’re not able get out to the garden centre or local nursery you can still order what you need online. Here’s a list of the online plant retailers and specialist nurseries who we work with to bring you great offers and discounts (and Subscriber Club members can save 10 per cent with our partners here).
Please note: many retailers are currently offering a restricted service due to high levels of demand. Please check their respective websites, listed below, for service status updates.
Bloom & Wild – A fresh flower letterbox delivery company, plus hand-tied bouquets.
Blooming Direct – Lincolnshire-based nursery. General suppliers of bulbs, garden-ready plants, trees, including large fruit tree range, gardening supplies and more.
Crocus – Surrey-based nursery launched in 2000. Offering the biggest selection of plants in the UK, offering over 4,000 varieties, from bulbs to trees.
Dobies – In addition to seeds, they offer a large range of young annual plants plus bulbs, fruit and garden equipment.
Farmer Gracy – Suppliers of high-quality flower bulbs, including unique varieties, as well as the usual favourites.
GardenBird – One of the UK’s largest specialist suppliers of wild bird-related products, by mail order.
Happy Beaks – A supplier of bird seed mixes, feed bundles, feeders and accessories.
Harrod Horticultural – A specialist in the design and manufacture of structures for kitchen and ornamental gardens, plus a veg crop range, as well as garden equipment and an outdoor living range.
Hayloft – Supplier of annuals, perennials and shrubs, with a focus on rare and unusual varieties.
J. Parkers – Suppliers of a broad range of plants, bulbs and shrubs, including fruit and veg crops.
Love Garden Birds – Based in West Yorkshire, this company supplies bird seed mixes, seeds, suets, feeders and wildlife gardening accessories.
Marshalls – ‘For Kitchen Gardens: The Fruit & Vegetable Company’ The company has a new website, now the new home of Marshalls Seeds, Unwins and Birds & Bees.
National Bee Supplies – A specialist provider of handmade beehives and beekeeping supplies.
The Organic Gardening Catalogue – Dedicated to promoting organic growing for more than 50 years. The online shop stocks a broad range of seeds, plants, fertilisers, composts, pest controls, weed controls, tools and other gardening supplies.
Pomona Fruits – Garden fruit specialists
Rolawn – A turf grower and supplier, providing a range of topsoil and compost products.
Sarah Raven – Provides a comprehensive range of seeds, seedlings, plants, and gardening and floristry kit.
Suttons – With over 200 years of gardening experience supplying, seeds, young plants, fruit bushes, vegetables and much more to novice gardeners and seasoned professionals alike.
Thompson & Morgan – One of the UK’s largest mail order seed and plant suppliers. Its product range includes a seed collection, young plants, fruit and veg crops, bulbs, seeds as well as an extensive range of gardening supplies.
Unwins – Now part of the new Marshalls website.
Van Meuwen – First established as a producer of tulip and daffodil bulbs in 1973. Today, it’s a horticultural mail order specialist.
Waltons – Designers and manufacturers of garden sheds, log cabins, summerhouses and playhouses. The brand was established in 1878.
Wiggly Wigglers – An award-winning natural gardening supplies company. Range includes British-grown birdseed and feed, composting supplies, live and dried worms, wildflower plants and more.
Woolmans – Chrysanthemum specialists, supplier of top-quality chrysanthemum plants for cut flower, garden or show. Also offering a wide range of dahlias and carnations as well as young plants for bedding, borders and containers.
BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine subscriber? Access your exclusive supplier discounts here.