Monthly Archives: April 2018

  • May - Gardening Blog

    MAY sits on that lovely cusp between spring and early summer. As the whole garden comes to life, you should be able to see the results of your hard work earlier in the year in that beautiful green centrepiece. And as we’re now well into the mowing season, I’m going to focus mostly on that this month – for some mowing means a gentle stroll up and down the garden daydreaming about everything and nothing, but good mowing requires more concentration – and is well worth the effort.

    weeds in a lawn
    MOWING: Most grass looks good just after mowing but yours will look superb after all the remedial work you’ve been doing (and if you didn’t get round to it, make a note for next winter and spring). But good mowing isn’t just about making the lawn look good; it’s a critical pruning technique, and like any technique, it requires a little bit of skill and knowledge:

    1. Height: Different grasses actually prefer to be cut to different lengths, but for a general lawn there’s a simple rule of thumb that we can borrow from the professionals - cut no more than a 1/3 of the leaf blade in one go.  So, for example, if you like your grass to be 2”, then leave it first to reach 3” before cutting.
    2. Frequency: Once a week is enough when growth is good. However, twice a week, removing half as much each time, will not in fact take twice as long but will give you twice the benefit.
    3. Direction: Mow in different patterns to ensure the lawn doesn’t produce ‘grain’.
    4. Blade: Always keep your lawn mower blade sharp. Ideally a rotary mower blade should be given a ‘new’ edge each time you mow. Sounds like hard work? It’s actually really easy if you keep a spare blade – you can switch it in a moment, and sharpen the blunt one when you have a spare moment.
    5. Clean your mower! After every mow remember to clean the underside of the mower. Hard, stuck clumps of dried grass will interfere with its ‘collecting’ performance and drop onto your lawn.

    FEEDING: If you have renovated a couple of months ago in March, you could apply a nice feed now to ensure the optimum health of the lawn.  It’s best never to let the lawn get too hungry, and while feeds can last for up to 12 weeks, things like heavy rainfall can flush it through the lawn and cut this down to as little as a month.

    LAST MINUTE RENOVATION: Both scarification and aeration can still be carried out. However, as we head closer towards mid-summer, you may need to water the lawn to prevent stress; it’s a good idea to look at some weather forecasts to see if nature’s clouds can lend a hand.

    WEEDS: If you have weeds they’ll be doing really well by now! However, my advice remains the same; don’t drown the lawn in herbicide unless you really have to. Spot treatment works just as well even on stubborn weeds, and is much better for the garden.

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    One final tip – the warmer temperatures will really help germination, so if you have small areas to repair, now’s a good time.

  • Gardening – the ultimate workout!

    The 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on 22 April – but you don’t have to run a marathon to keep fit. In fact, for a great all-round workout, gardening takes some beating.

    London Marathon

    Gardening ticks lots of exercise boxes, which is great news for those of us who aren’t so keen on running 26.2 miles or going to the gym every day.

    Gardening is regarded as moderate to strenuous exercise, depending on the activity involved and how we do it. As with most forms of exercise, we’ll feel the benefit more if we do it for at least 30 minutes a day, a few days a week. The half-hour can be spread out over the whole day, but researchers say each session should be a minimum of eight minutes.

    Here are some of the areas of the body that gardening works on.

    Muscles – You know that gardening works the muscles because of how tired they feel afterwards! Legs, arms, shoulders, back, buttocks, neck, core and stomach are all used while gardening. Muscle work is excellent for toning the body.

    Bones and joints – Gardening can feel like yoga sometimes, with all the bending, twisting and stretching. This type of movement is good for increasing flexibility and balance, while resistance exercise such as lifting and carrying also strengthens bones and joints. Bones are further strengthened by getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D – just by being outdoors.

    Heart – Because gardening is quite strenuous, it gets the heart pumping, boosting stamina, breathing and endurance. Your heart is being worked if you feel slightly out of breath.

    Lungs – Breathing in fresh air is good for the lungs and boosts oxygen levels and vitality.

    Maintaining a healthy weight – Over a 30-minute period, most of the main gardening activities burn 150 to 200 calories. Digging the garden and mowing the lawn are especially good – men can burn well over 200 calories if they mow the lawn for half an hour. Sadly, this doesn’t count if they’re using a sit-on mower!

    So, there you have it – conclusive evidence that gardening really is a brilliant all-round exercise. A note of caution, though: Don’t over-do it. Bend and lift correctly, and although it’s natural to have aching limbs after gardening, you shouldn’t feel any pain. If you do, seek medical advice as a precaution.

    This year, almost 400,000 people applied to take part in the London Marathon, and around 40,000 successful applicants will be lining up at the start of the event. If you’re one of them, have a fantastic time. Me? I’ll be outside, doing the gardening!

  • 5 reasons why gardening is such a great stress-buster

    April is Stress Awareness Month,

    so we thought we’d take a closer look at why gardening is so good at cutting stress levels.

    Stress buster

    We’ve all been there … we’ve had a bad day, or something has got us down, so we head out to the garden to do some work. And before long, we’re feeling much more like our old selves again.

    The feeling of improved wellbeing isn’t just in our imaginations. There’s plenty of scientific proof that it’s real.  Last year, one piece of international research looked at 22 previous studies into the health benefits of gardening and concluded that yes, it really does alleviate stress.

    The researchers said that gardening is so beneficial, that governments should encourage people to do it regularly. And they recommended the provision of public garden spaces to increase access to gardening.

    Two major UK studies, carried out by The King’s Fund/National Garden Scheme, and Natural England/MIND also revealed the benefits of gardening in combating stress.

    And in the Netherlands, a study found a “significant” decrease in stress – as measured by cortisol levels – after participants engaged in gardening. When the gardeners were compared with participants in the study who read a book instead, they were found to be much more relaxed.

    Why does gardening make us feel better? Here are 5 big factors.

    1 – Focus: By putting our minds to something that requires care and attention, we are mentally switching off from all the things that are troubling us. The Netherlands study showed that gardening was better for this than other activities.

    2 – Creating & nurturing: Tending the garden is a creative and caring thing to do. And if our efforts lead to something beautiful, then we’re creating a haven to relax in. Plus, we get to feel a sense of accomplishment.

    3 – Physical exercise: Exercise is a natural mood-booster, but if we’ve had a bad day or week, then gardening is also a way of venting our frustration in a positive way.

    4 – Being in the moment: Call it meditation, call it mindfulness, gardening gives us a feeling of space and time, away from what happened earlier or what might happen later. All that matters is what we’re doing now.

    5 – Being outdoors: Fresh air, sunlight (or even a cloudy day), being in nature, listening to the birds sing, getting our hands in the earth – all of these things are fabulous for our wellbeing. We’re getting Vitamin D, oxygen, and a surge in the natural chemicals that are responsible for boosting our mood.

    No wonder we love getting out in the garden!

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