Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue'

Working at home – quick gardening breaks

Nine easy gardening activities you can do during coronavirus lockdown.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to find yourself still in your pyjamas at 5pm, having barely moved from your computer – let alone got any fresh air or exercise. But to stay healthy and productive it’s important to take regular screen breaks, move around and see daylight. Gardening is the perfect way to keep fit at home. Getting out into the garden, getting some fresh air and daylight, will boost your mood. And having practical tasks to focus on will help take your mind off Covid-19.

Advertisement

We’ve compiled a list of easy things to do while you’re stuck at home, to help you make the most of those breaks from work. All the jobs below can be done now, without leaving the safety of your home and garden, and for some you don’t even need a garden. You can buy everything you need online. We’ve ordered them by the amount of time they take, so whether you’ve got time for a five-minute activity or are taking a 20-minute break, there’s plenty of ways to keep gardening during lockdown.


1

Buy plants online

Pink lily flowers
Ordering plants online – pink lily flowers

The garden centres may be closed, but you can still garden in lockdown if you order plants online. You can also buy seeds, bulbs and other gardening kit online or by mail order, you can even get garden compost delivered. Have a quick browse and see what takes your fancy. Everything you need for the jobs below can be ordered online for delivery to your door. Or why not treat yourself to some lily bulbs, now’s the time to plant them and you can look forward to glorious summer flowers.


2

Start growing potatoes

Chitting potatoes

Chitting potatoes

Two-minute break

Potatoes are the ultimate failsafe vegetable you can grow at home – and you can grow them in the ground or in a large sack. To get them off to the best start, it’s best to ‘chit’ them, and do it soon, so you can get them planted out by the end of April. Buy seed potatoes online, as they’ll be disease-free, rather than using potatoes that you’ve bought to eat. Then, when you’re taking a break from work, unpack them and pop them in an empty egg box, or other container, on a bright windowsill. You’ll soon see shoots emerging.


3

Water newly delivered plants

Watering newly delivered plants
Watering newly delivered plants

Five-minute break

You can buy garden plants online and by mail order. If you’ve had a delivery, it can be tempting to abandon work and spend the rest of the day potting up and planting out your new arrivals. But if you only have a few minutes to spare, make sure you unpack your plants as soon as you can, and sit them in a tray of water. That way they’ll be in good condition when you’re ready to give them your full attention.

How to grow on plug plants


4

Get an orchid to flower again

Pink flowers of moth orchid
Pink moth orchid – getting an orchid to reflower

Five-minute break

If you’re stuck indoors, flowers really lift your mood. Many of us have an orchid that’s finished flowering and is looking a bit sorry for itself. Cutting the stem back will encourage it to flower again, and is speedy enough to do in even the shortest screen break. If the stem is still green, cut it back to just above a visible joint (or node). If the stem has turned brown, remove it at the base.


5

Feed garden birds

Garden birds on a feeder
Garden birds on a feeder

10-minute break

We may not currently be able to venture far, but wildlife can still come to us. Take a quick trip out into the garden to hang up a bird feeder and put out a shallow dish of water. Try to position them so you can see them from where you’re working at home, and the birds will provide entertainment when you’re back at your computer. You can buy bird food online, as well as feeders and bird baths.


6

Sow a pot of vegetable seeds

Freshly harvested carrots
Freshly harvested carrots

10-minute break

There are lots of vegetables you can grow in pots, so even if you only have a balcony or a large windowsill, you can still grow vegetables at home. Sowing a few seeds in a pot takes just minutes, and you can look forward to delicious harvests.

Carrots are perfect for growing in pots – simply sprinkle the seeds across the top of a large container of damp compost, and cover with a thin layer of compost. Put the pot somewhere bright and keep the compost moist. Tomatoes, salad leaves, and spring onions are all easy to grow in pots too. See our guides to how to grow carrots, tomatoes and other veg in pots.


7

Grow sweet peas

Pink and purple sweet pea flowers
Pink and purple sweet pea flowers

10-minute break

Now, more than ever, we need cheerful flowers and uplifting scents, and sweet peas deliver both. They’re easy to grow from seed, and you can sow a pot of seeds in a short work break. Simply fill a small pot or a few empty loo roll tubes with compost and pop your seeds in – three seeds to a pot, or two seeds per loo roll tube. Push the seeds about 0.5cm down into the compost. Pop them somewhere bright and keep the compost moist. You’ll soon have seedlings you can plant out in the garden. For more growing advice, including when to plant sweet peas:


8

Dust houseplants

Dusting houseplant leaves
Dusting houseplant leaves

10-minute break

Housework is the classic way to distract yourself when you’re working from home, but here’s a job that shouldn’t feel like such a chore. Dusting the leaves of your houseplants with a damp cloth may seem unnecessary, but it helps the plant photosynthesise effectively meaning they’ll be much healthier. Plants with broad leaves particularly benefit, and the simple, repetitive action is a great way to destress.


9

Divide a pot of supermarket herbs

Dividing supermarket herbs
Dividing supermarket herbs

20-minute break

Herbs are a great way to liven up store-cupboard meals. You may have a potted herb already, or be able to order one along with the rest of your supermarket shopping. If you can spare a few minutes to divide the herb, you can have several plants for the price of one. The extra space and fresh compost should also help the herbs live longer, giving you pickings for longer. Slide the herb out of its pot and gently tease the rootball apart with your fingers. You want several clumps of herb, each with a good chunk of roots attached. Put each clump into a fresh pot of compost and keep well watered.

Advertisement

More quick gardening jobs to do when working at home

  • Check tree ties haven’t come loose over winter, and aren’t too tight
  • Deadhead daffodils and spring bedding for more flowers
  • Cut back old fern leaves to make way for new growth
  • Feed ericaceous shrubs, such as camellias and rhododendrons
  • Plant strawberries in a pot
  • Put up a bug box
  • Check roses for aphids