Now the weather is starting to get better and we’re spending more time at home, it is the perfect time to start planting some plants. If you’ve only got a small space such as a balcony or tiny patio, don’t worry, you can still fill the space with pots brimming with plants.
I’m a big fan of plants in containers. It helps to control the plants, you can move them around and more importantly, if you rent, they can come with you! Plus, there are so many different containers to choose from.
During this lockdown, if you’re lucky enough to have outside space, it’s important to use it as much as possible. Being outside can help you relax and give that change of scenery from being inside. Seeing nature has been proven many times to help you de-stress, unwind and is good for mental health.
I reached out to Lee Chambers, Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant about the link between mental health and gardening…
“In the current atmosphere, with many of us in isolation, we actively need to boost our mental health throughout this challenging time. An excellent way to promote your mental health is to get outside, get creative, and utilise whatever space you may have, be it a garden, a yard or a balcony. And with the evidence advising that gardening and access to greenery provides a wellbeing lift, and spring upon us, there is no better time to get some fresh air and plant up.
And research suggests that we don’t need to be tending to an acre of perfectly manicured gardens to garner the mental health benefits. According to the BJSM, 10 minutes of gardening per day confer mental health gains greater than tidying your house, and you get a more significant sense of achievement when you create a garden. With this revelation, it’s time to get innovative with your small space and see what you can create!
Gardening is proven to be a reliever of stress. It removes us from our increasingly technology-dominated lives and places us in a setting to create a natural environment, inducing relaxation and lowering blood pressure. It also grounds us as humans and helps us to reconnect with nature, and this is especially true if we grow something to consume.
While gardening, we are increasingly mindful of the task at hand, being intentional with our actions as we create and maintain a space. This allows us to slow down, enjoy the beauty of our senses being engaged, as we dig, prune or weed, and let go of our worries. There is a lot of pride and a real feeling of satisfaction as we choose what to put in our garden, nurture it and watch it bloom. Gardening is so powerful it can increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, giving you a valuable mood boost.
In addition to this, it gets us outside and active, keeping us physically fit and our blood flowing. We can burn a considerable amount of calories just tending a small garden patch, without feeling like its exercise. And being out in the natural light help boost how we feel, and helps us sleep better at night. Even getting our hands dirty is beneficial; the feeling of accomplishment is visible on your own anatomy.
In conclusion, gardening is one of the best ways to beat the blues of isolation. And with the chance to create a small garden of your own today, it’s time to get thinking about what wonderful masterpiece you can create to enjoy all summer long.”
Choosing your container
Planting a few plants in containers and pots is a good afternoon task to do outside. Not sure where to get started or what to plant? Firstly, get yourself some nice outdoor pots. My personal favourites have always been self-watering pots. I have purchased quite a few self-watering pots from Elho over the years, which featured in my garden office revamp with Valspar post recently. These are great as they hold water at the bottom meaning you don’t have to water as regularly and the roots of the plant grow downwards to absorb water. My pots have everything from Acer trees to small ferns in them.
Containers come in all different types of materials. From terracotta to plastic, the choice is endless. It really does come down to personal choice. If you’ve gone for a large pot and a relatively small plant, don’t think you have to fill the entire pot with soil. Previously, I broke up some horrible polystyrene packaging, placed it at the bottom of a large pot, put a used soil bag over it then filled the remainder of the pot in soil. It keeps the pot lightweight!
All plants require different kinds of soil to grow in. This can be a little confusing and to be honest, I don’t worry that much about it (I can hear my grandad sighing if he heard me say this). For my pots, I’ve always had a half and half mix of all-purpose compost with some topsoil. This is then a brilliant mix of organic material which is perfect for planting in.
To finish it off I like to add some bark chippings. Of course, this is not at all vital, it just looks nice and helps suppress any weeds that may grow. However, in pots, you’re less likely to get weeds – unless a bird happens to drop seeds in it.
You can pick up a bag of compost or topsoil from many supermarkets and if you’re looking to get some delivered, take a look at Homebase or Wilko. Alternatively, check out your local garden centre’s website, they may be offering local free delivery and could do with your support right now.
Plants for Containers
Most plants are suitable for container growing, however, some plants hate it and won’t survive for long. So always check when purchasing. Another thing to check is the light intensity they need. Does it need direct sun, or does it love shade? All of this needs to be taken into consideration, so think of where you’d like to place the pots first and get the right plants for that particular space.
Depending on what you like, there are many different plants to choose from for pots. If you like the look of greenery, herbs are easy and simple to grow. That pot of mint you buy from the supermarket? Take it out of the pot and plant it, that’s what I did and I have a mint bush which regrows year after year. Mojito anyone?
My absolute favourite, bulbs are an extremely cost-effective way to create interest all year round. Simply plant these once and they pop up each year and many bulbs multiply each time. Ensure you pick a good amount of bulbs which appear at different times throughout the year as this looks brilliant.
According to the RHS, large floral bulbs are best suited to containers including tulips, lilies, arum lilies and alliums.
Trees and shrubs
There are many small trees and shrubs that work well in containers, such as Acers, Willow and Olive trees. These look great in pots and make for a striking feature. Just ensure the tree doesn’t grow huge and it will survive perfectly.
There is a large amount of choice online at all different prices and sizes, ready to be delivered straight to you. I have three Acer trees in pots which I picked up from Tesco over the years for as little as £10-ish each. Keep an eye out at the supermarkets as they tend to have some brilliant little shrubs for the garden.
Another of my favourites! Alpines are plants that grow in an alpine climate which occurs at high elevation above the tree line. There are many different types including grasses, mosses and many more. They have adapted to survive in harsh environments with low temperatures and dryness.
There are different types such as Sempervivum (looks like a succulent) and Veronica prostrata which blooms deep purple flowers. There’s a very nice choice of alpines! Just ensure your pot is well draining as alpines don’t like to sit in wet soil. They’ll perform much better when it drains easily and the good news, these are perennial so will be there all year round in some form.
Ferns and grasses
For a full display and to feel like you’re in the wilderness, ferns or grasses in pots look amazing. They look amazing all year round and are a great way of creating a good display which is practically maintenance-free. No wonder the Victorians loved ferns, they look so beautiful and are easy to care for! Random fact, the design on a custard cream, originating from the Victorian era, represents the fronds of a fern. Another reason to love a custard cream?
Where to buy plants online
As many garden centres are closed at the moment, the next best place is at the supermarket. So keep an eye out when visiting for your weekly shop.
If you’re looking to buy online, you’re in luck! You may have to wait a little longer for delivery, but ordering online is easy. Here’s a little round-up of some online garden centres I found that are still shipping plants…
- Crocus, crocus.co.uk
- Hayloft, hayloft.co.uk
- Primrose, primrose.co.uk
- RHS Plants, rhsplants.co.uk
- Binny Plants, binnyplants.com
We’d love to see your small space full of plants. Tag us in your images on Instagram!