My garden has been a great source of comfort and relaxation in recent weeks. I have done a great deal of pruning, planting, sowing seeds and, of course, some much needed weeding. I’ve also found myself getting around to all the things that I have put off for so long – those little jobs such as mending and repairing garden items and clearing out unwanted material. I always said I would do these things when I got around to it – now I have the time and opportunity to do them and, I’ve found that I quite enjoy doing so.

When I’m gardening, the things that have struck me most are the perfect silences, the beautiful bird song and the absence of man-made noises from aeroplanes and motor vehicles. I’ve found there has been a greater variety of birds visiting the garden, the black birds and robins seem much tamer and come closer. I think that they know that something unusual is going on. 

I’ve also found that the air smells so clean and is refreshing. It is lovely to take in a few deep breaths first thing in the morning before I get to work on the weeding. It is a joy to stand back and see the trees and plants come into bud, then flower and to have more time to enjoy them while absorbing the beauty and colour that is happening all around me. 

I’ve found there has been a greater variety of birds visiting the garden, the black birds and robins seem much tamer and come closer. I think that they know that something unusual is going on. 

I try to clear my mind when gardening by concentrating on the particular task I am undertaking but sad thoughts are not far away. I’ve found myself particularly thinking of the poor children who have lost parents and close relations because of the coronavirus outbreak - gardening time has also become a time for prayer for me. I do a lot of reminiscing during rest periods in the garden, thinking of happier times, especially the mid-50s and early 60s when life was not so complicated for me.

Gardening has helped me during this time of isolation simply by being there and being readily accessible. Time flies by when absorbed in gardening and in fact I become unconscious of time. It provides good exercise, relaxation and an opportunity to clear the mind in a refreshing environment. It helps to put structure and order into the day and gives me a sense of purpose.

Gardening has helped me during this time of isolation simply by being there and being readily accessible.

If you are a budding gardener, I’d say go out and enjoy it - anyone is able to do something. Digging, planting, sowing seeds – there are so many things you can do. Don't overdo things physically and don't set out to be, say, an immediate Monty Don! 

There’s no point in spending a fortune on plants and seeds as many supermarkets have cheap ones. You can also use garden soil instead of expensive compost, or you could begin to make your own from kitchen waste? Simply put raw vegetable waste in a sealable container, add water and in a few weeks, as the vegetable material breaks down, you will have some rich liquid to use as fertiliser. Things like yoghurt pots, ready meal containers and the cores of toilet rolls are perfect for sowing seeds and growing on seedlings. I wouldn’t worry about buying expensive tools and for the smaller jobs just use some old cutlery. Why buy a dibber when a screwdriver is just as effective or when a fork is easy to use when extracting seedlings?

At first, most gardening is just a series of experiments that you develop over time, but when you have finished the work, you should stand back congratulate yourself and take pride in what you see you have achieved – then it’s back to more gardening!

John's garden

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