Category Archives: Expert advice

How Gardening Can Help the Practise of Mindfulness

The process of mindfulness is currently gaining much interest. Practicing Mindfulness is thought to help individuals engage with their feelings and outside environment, focusing on the sensations felt in the moment, and connecting to the present rather than thinking of the past or the future.

Working in the garden is an excellent way to practise mindfulness, as the activity naturally engages all the senses, and is a peaceful and absorbing hobby. Here are five specific things you can do to aid the practise of mindfulness in the garden.

Ditch the gloves from time to time

Step by step - planting a pink and purple themed container - © GAP Photos

Step by step – planting a pink and purple themed container – © GAP Photos

Handling soil can be a grounding experience. This material is often taken for granted, but is such a significant source of nutrients for your plants, and in turn, for people. Of course, choosing to directly touch soil is a matter of personal preference, and there are times when gloves are required. However, as long as it is safe to do so, the next time you plant, let the soil crumble through your fingers and let the dirt get stuck under your fingernails. There is so much satisfaction to be had from handling the soil that your plants are going to grow in, not to mention a peace to be gained from knowing that such a seemingly simple material plays its part in keeping your garden happy.

Touch your plants

Hand touching Stipa tenuissima - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Hand touching Stipa tenuissima – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Make the most of your plants; they don’t just have to be admired from the side lines, they can be touched too. Get to know your garden like it’s another room in your house. Let your hands gently run over the foliage and flowers of whatever you have planted. How do they feel under your palm? Smooth or rough? Solid or soft? Consider planting textual plants such as grasses for the sensory additions they give a garden, for example that gentle sound and movement as their leaves get ruffled in a breeze.

Grow your own food

Woman holding a harvest of mixed tomatoes within her greenhouse. Tomato 'Red Cherry', 'Golden Sunrise', 'Black Cherry' and 'Tigerella' - © GAP Photos

Woman holding a harvest of mixed tomatoes within her greenhouse. Tomato ‘Red Cherry’, ‘Golden Sunrise’, ‘Black Cherry’ and ‘Tigerella’ – © GAP Photos

This doesn’t have to be a big investment – just a few humble tomato plants can bring you right back to nature. Harvesting your own food from your garden has to be one of the most reassuring and pleasurable experiences your garden can offer you. As you snip, pick and pull fruit and vegetables from the soil, that are only there because of your actions, embrace and treasure that feeling. Tomato plants are a great vegetable for beginners to grow. They are easy to cultivate and give high yields of fruit, providing you water and feed them regularly. The scent of their leaves is heavenly, making watering and handling of them particularly enjoyable, and the wait for ripe tomatoes to harvest a bit more tolerable.

Plant for all your senses

Man smelling fennel in garden - Summer - © GAP Photos/Rice/Buckland

Man smelling fennel in garden – Summer – © GAP Photos/Rice/Buckland

With such a huge range of different plants available to modern gardeners, if can be tempting to just select plants with the prettiest colours, the boldest foliage and a tidy and compact growing habit. However, there are plants that offer so much than obvious ornamental value. Consider including herbs to plant out in your borders, not only for the ornamental value, but also the culinary possibilities. Or choose aromatic plants, such as Lavender, that give off a scent you can enjoy as you brush past them.

Sit back and take it all in

Garden owner and designer Steven Wells, relaxing in a red painted timber sitting pod he built, attached to a black painted timber wall - © GAP Photos/Brent Wilson

Garden owner and designer Steven Wells, relaxing in a red painted timber sitting pod he built, attached to a black painted timber wall – © GAP Photos/Brent Wilson

Many a gardener find this to be the most challenging task – stopping to enjoy it. A chair or bench may be the most unutilised piece of equipment in a garden. However, it is very important to make the time to soak it all up. Comfy seating might encourage you to stop, but a drink in hand should definitely do it. If you do find yourself taking the time to actually relax, make the most of it. Close your eyes and lean back, listen to the birds and the breeze gently rustling through your trees and shrubs. Take in the colours and the textures, especially where they work particularly well. Take deep breaths and concentrate on the smells around you.

5 Superfoods That Are Easy to Grow

Vaccinium – Blueberry

Vaccinium - Blueberry 'Ivanhoe' - © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

Vaccinium – Blueberry ‘Ivanhoe’ – © GAP Photos/Dianna Jazwinski

High in fibre, Vitamin C and K, and a very popular berry, blueberries are easy to grow providing you remember a few important aspects. First of all, they love acidic soil, so if your soil leans more neutral or alkaline, consider growing them in large pots of ericaceous compost. Give them an annual prune and feed in early spring. Keep them in a nice sunny garden location and you should have lots of berries!.

Brassica oleracea (Acephala Group) – Kale Nero Di Toscana Precoce

Kale Nero Di Toscana Precoce - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Kale Nero Di Toscana Precoce – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Kale is a bit of a powerhouse as it is very nutrient dense and can produce a bountiful supply of greens. It can be used in all kinds of dishes, and has the added benefit of looking extremely ornamental in border. It is also hardy, so can be grown and harvested throughout the winter when many other food crops would fail. As with other brassicas, you may need to protect it from pests, such as peckish birds and cabbage root fly.

Beta vulgaris – Beetroot

Man holding bunch of freshly harvested beetroot - © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Man holding bunch of freshly harvested beetroot – © GAP Photos/Maxine Adcock

Beetroot, or beets, is another example of vegetable that is hardy, so can be harvested in winter and early spring. Beetroot seed do require a little warmth to germinate, so get the seedlings started while the weather is still fine. These nutty-tasting vegetables are known to divide opinion. However, they are packed of essential nutrients and have numerous health benefits eaten cooked or raw. The enlarged roots can be boiled or roasted, or are delicious grated onto dishes. Beetroot is a three-in-one vegetable, as along with the roots, the leaves and stems are also entirely edible.

Petroselinium crispum – Flat-leaved Parsley

Petroselinium crispum - Flat-leaved  Italian parsley - © GAP Photos/Juliette Wade

Petroselinium crispum – Flat-leaved Italian parsley – © GAP Photos/Juliette Wade

Parsley is widely used as a garnish on many dishes, but it has many health benefits, being high in so many vitamins and minerals. It is said to be antibacterial and decrease inflammation to boot. It is the main-stay of many herb gardens as it is inexpensive to buy and grows easily from seed. This plant is a biennial, so it will need replacing every couple of years. Keep it well watered and harvest regularly to discourage the plant from flowering early and going to seed.

Cucurbita – Pumpkin

Pumpkin in vegetable garden - © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

Pumpkin in vegetable garden – © GAP Photos/Pernilla Bergdahl

If you have the space, consider growing a pumpkin plant or two, as they are high in vitamin A and antioxidants and look fantastic ripening on the vine as autumn arrives. While the plants require a sunny, sheltered location and lots of water, these savoury fruits are easy to grow. Pumpkins will succumb to frosts, so acclimatise young plants, and wait for the warm weather to come in before planting out. A great plant to get children interested in gardening – what could be more exciting than growing their own Halloween pumpkin?

Supporting Summer-Flowering Perennials

At this time of year, mid to late-summer flowering herbaceous perennials are putting on lots of growth, getting ready to show off their blooms – It’s an exciting time in the garden. However, as established and strong as these perennials appear while they fill up your flowerbeds with lush green leaves, they are likely to need a bit of support as they start to flower. All too often, the weight of the open flowers will drag the flower stems down and sometimes even break off under their own weight. Sometimes flowers will start to lean to one side, usually towards the light if they are in a part-shaded area of the garden. Heavy and prolonged periods of heavy rain can also make perennials sprawl out in all directions, which can look quite unsightly or risk damage to the plant.

If you didn’t get the chance to put in supports earlier in the season, now is a good time to do it. You can buy all manner of decorative plant supports from garden centres, or create your own supports to give your borders extra interest:

Decorative Support

Rosa 'Moonlight' with Delphinium 'Galahad' - © GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski

Rosa ‘Moonlight’ with Delphinium ‘Galahad’ – © GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski

The bronze, rusty metal of these tall cage-like frames make the white, flowering Delphiniums sparkle even more. As the Delphiniums grow, the cage will provide a steady support to keep the flower spikes upright.

Invisible Support

Hoop plant support around Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Hoop plant support around Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

This clever plant support is best installed while the plant is still young and low to the ground. As the Dahlia grows through the gaps in the frame, its leaves will gradually cover the metal, and the plant will appear upright in habit, with invisible support.

Economical Support

Staking perennial plants with cat's cradle of string and sticks - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Staking perennial plants with cat’s cradle of string and sticks – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Buying a support for each plant as your borders fill up could prove costly. However, you can create effective and low-cost supports yourself with strong jute string and wooden stakes. First, hammer the stakes in around the plant you would like to support, and then wind the string around the stakes in a cat’s cradle fashion so the plant will be supported internally as it continues to grow.

Floral Support

Woman tying Dahlias to canes for support - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Woman tying Dahlias to canes for support – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Don’t hesitate to apply support as and when it is needed. While thinking about how to stake and support your plants earlier in the season can save you work later on, there are quick fixes. Here a woman is tying her tall growing Dahlias to canes so the flowers don’t break under their own weight.

Ornate Support

Hazel plant supports for Euphorbia wallichii in Spring, in the herbaceous border at RHS Wisley - © GAP Photos/Fiona McLeod

Hazel plant supports for Euphorbia wallichii in Spring, in the herbaceous border at RHS Wisley – © GAP Photos/Fiona McLeod

Woven hazel frames might take a bit of manipulation and work to create, but they are practical, environmentally friendly and provide a natural and decorative touch to a frosty, sparse winter border. Here, a woven hazel frame will eventually provide support to the Euphorbia growing below it.