Christmas, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, Megan, mental health, Wildlife

tree branches in snow

Christmas is officially almost here. Although it is an enjoyable time of year for most, for some it can be a struggle. It is a challenging time for our stress levels with changes of routine and lots of pressure. This can be made even worse by an existing mental health problem. 1 in 4 people in the UK experience some kind of mental health problem in their lives. That’s a massive 16.41 million people. Venture into garden therapy and you’ll hopefully see lots of benefits.

Spending time outdoors can relieve stress and improve your mental health. If you’re feeling down, anxious, or struggling with something else, getting out into your garden might help. I myself suffer from depression.  From experience, spending time in nature improves my mental outlook, helps me relax and boosts my mood, even on the downest of days. We’ve compiled a list of things you can do in your garden at this time of year. Try one or more of them out if you want to see what garden therapy can do for you.

Meditate

garden therapy zen stones

Yes it may be chilly, but wrap up warm and find a nice quiet corner of your garden to sit down and meditate. Mindfulness is now a recommended treatment for people who struggle with their mental health. It it also used by people who want to improve their overall mental wellbeing. To get started with meditation, download an app such as Stop, Breathe & Think or HeadSpace. Both have simple, easy to follow meditations for beginners.

Feed The Birds

garden bird on feeding dish

Research has shown that watching garden birds is good for your mental health. Invest in some wild bird care and enjoy the wonders of the many species of bird it’ll attract to your garden. The most common garden birds in the UK are house sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and blue tits so keep an eye out for those. A good place to start is by buying a ready-to-use bird feeder and hanging it on a tree branch in your garden. Alternatively, there are a wide range of bird seed mixes, from general mixes to mixes that will attract certain species such as robins.

Grow Something

hands planting a cactus

Although this may seem daunting to someone who has never gardened before, growing something from seed doesn’t have to be stress central. In fact, you’ll be sure to feel a sense of achievement, nurturing something that started in your hand as a packet of seeds and is now something you can serve on your plate, or admire the beauty of. Invest in a grow kit and see where the world of growing plants will take you. You never know – this time next year you might be harvesting your own veg patch!

Mental wellbeing is boosted by being outdoors so don’t neglect your garden because it’s cold! Using garden therapy can reap great benefits. So get outside, get relaxed, and get happy.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Bird Baths, Composting, How To, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

How To Care For Wildlife in Winter

As we approach the winter months, it is time for a lot of wildlife to find a cosy spot somewhere to hibernate. Species that do not hibernate prepare for harsh weather and a lot struggle to find food. This is where your garden can come in. By learning how to care for wildlife in winter you can save the lives of some wildlife that otherwise wouldn’t make it through the harsher winter months.

Hedgehogs

how to care for wildlife in winter - hedgehog

In order for hedgehogs to survive their winter hibernation, they need to have a substantial amount of fat stored. You can help boost their fat reserves by leaving out small plates of meaty pet food, along with crunchy pet biscuits, which will help take care of their teeth. Once hedgehogs are ready to hibernate they like warm spots under piles of leaves and in logs. We suggest when collecting leaves, instead of composting all of them, place some underneath hedges at the edge of the garden. This creates welcome places hedgehogs can make a home for the winter. Talking of compost heaps, hedgehogs often like to nest in them so ensure you check your compost for hedgehogs before turning it over. Alternatively you could buy a ready-built hedgehog home for hedgehogs to settle in to.

Birds

how to care for wildlife in winter - bird on a branch

As birds do not hibernate, it is important to provide them lots of food and a water source over winter. Food in the wild can be scarce over the colder months. To help prevent starvation, have a variety of foods available to them over a number of feeding stations. Feeding stations range from bird tables to hanging feeders to ground feeding stations. The more variety of bird food you put out, the more diverse a species of bird you will find in your garden. Peanuts, bird seed mix, fat balls as well as any leftover dried fruit are all good choices and will attract blue tits to robins to goldfinches. To find out more about what bird food to put out check out our article here. It is also important to make sure birds have access to fresh water. Keep your birdbath topped up and ensure it doesn’t freeze over by placing a table tennis ball at the surface of the water.

Pond life

how to care for wildlife in winter - frog in a pond

Many of your fish will hibernate at the bottom of your pond during the winter months. It is vital that your pond does not freeze over during extra cold spells. This can trap poisonous gases, as well as suffocate frogs and the like. Help prevent this by placing a tennis ball at the surface or installing a pond heater. If it does freeze over, place a pan of boiling water on its surface to allow the ice to melt. Ensure you remove any fallen leaves and dead plant matter from your pond. If you leave this it can release harmful gases as it decomposes.

Insects

how to care for wildlife in winter - butterfly on leaf

Insects are often long forgotten when it comes to garden wildlife, but they are an important part of your garden’s ecosystem. Many play the vital role of pollination in your garden. Others are great predator control. One way you can help insects in the winter is by letting the grass on your lawn grow wildly. Try and resist mowing it until spring. This allows a place for butterflies and other insects to shelter from the harsh weather. Another way to provide shelter, as well as food for some creatures, is to create a log pile. You can also drill holes in the logs to create housing for solitary bees. Alternatively, buy a solitary bee pollinator house. Once you’ve built your log pile, be sure not to disturb it as not to interfere with the wildlife community inside.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Jenny, Spiders, Wildlife

Spiders are cute.

Wait, hear me out! Ok, “cute” might have been pushing it a little but spiders are essential little creatures you should be thrilled to have about.

why spiders are good for your garden
Look at this little guy. Oh, or don’t. Sorry!

Here are the ten best reasons to love having spiders around your home and garden.

  1. They might make you rich. According to legend, finding a money spider in your hair means you will gain riches beyond your wildest dreams. According to my own experience, finding a spider in my hair meant lots of flailing and screaming beyond my previously wildest screams but hey, who am I to question folklore?
  2. MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR SPIDER’S FAVOUR! They fight to the death. They aren’t fond of each other as they are territorial. If another spider gets in your spider’s space they fight. Winner eats the loser. The best way to control spider numbers? Use more spiders. Like fighting fire with fire but with more legs.
  3. Fancy having royalty in your home? Spider blood contains a chemical called haemocyanin which turns blue when it carries oxygen so they have “blue blood”. Basically like having the Queen round for tea right?
  4. Spiders are efficient predators and prey on all manner of insects. They protect your garden from a variety of pests that would otherwise feast on your flowers and other delicate plants.
  5. Spiders protect you too. They hunt and eat many household pests that can transmit diseases to humans such as mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches and a host of other disease-carrying little beasties. You’re welcome!
  6. Forget the bee’s knees. Spiders are fascinating little creatures which most of us know have eight legs and eight eyes. Did you know that a spider has six joints on each leg? That gives them a whopping forty eight knees.
  7. Full of festive cheer! Eastern European legends tell of a poor family who had no money to decorate their Christmas tree. They put up the tree anyway and when they woke on Christmas morning the tree was full of sparkles from the sun’s early rays caught on beautiful spider webs. I can’t tell if this is magical or horrifying but either way you’ll probably feel a little different about tinsel from now on.
  8. Spiders are super strong. They can carry up to 170 times their own body weight while scuttling across a ceiling. That would be like a human being carrying a double decker bus… upside down… Think comic book heroes but more ridiculous.
  9. Most spiders are not capable of biting through human skin. They can chomp away on household and garden pests but trust me! You’re safe.
  10. You might as well like them, they have us seriously outnumbered. With approximately 670 species of spiders in the UK alone it is estimated that for every individual in Britain there are 500,000 spiders.
cute spider
Cute or creepy, they do have their charms

Convinced? Great! Now how do you go about encouraging spiders to come stay in your garden? Fill your garden with tall plants for spiders to cast their webs on. Flowers will also encourage spiders to settle in your garden. Leaving a small portion of the garden mulched, for moisture and cover and will create a place for the spiders to lay their eggs, a great way to achieve this is to start composting. A great way to encourage spiders to stay in your garden is to plant a beneficial insect border or row in early spring. You can encourage a host of beneficial bugs, from teeny tiny predators to big and beautiful pollinators, there are lots of habitats on the market to help encourage these beneficial bugs to set up shop in your garden.

Not convinced? Don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Studies have shown that up to 18% of Brits admit to being afraid of spiders. Really afraid! Fear not, we have alternative solutions too.

Jenny at PrimroseJenny works in the Primrose Product Loading team working on adding new and exciting products to the website. When she’s not writing, proofreading or drinking the strongest coffee possible Jenny loves to climb and can often be found halfway up a wall at the local climbing centre.

See all of Jenny’s posts.

Garden Tools, Gardening Year, George, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Trees, Wildlife

how to deal with falling leaves

As anyone with deciduous trees in their back garden will know, autumn can be a beautiful, but laborious, time of year. As the foliage turns to stunning shades of reds and yellows, it begins to drop, and drop… and drop. Learning how to deal with falling leaves is a challenge every gardener must face, so to help out we’ve rounded up the best tips for you.

Why do you need to sweep up leaves?

Fallen leaves can smother the lawn, suffocate plants and introduce diseases into the soil. If you can’t see the top of the blades of grass, or if over a third of the lawn is covered, then it’s time to clear away the leaves.

Remember leaves will continue to fall throughout the season, so it’s worth planning a day to clear up the leaves every few weeks until winter.

Are leaves good for wildlife?

Some creatures do like to use fallen leaves as shelter, particularly worms and other insects. So it’s good to do your bit for the local wildlife and leave a small patch of leaves undisturbed.

wildlife in leaves

Is it OK to mow over leaves?

Yes, mowing over leaves can help to shred them and make them easier to mulch. But heavy falls and wet leaves can be tough to mow.

Watch out for pine needles

Pine needles will decompose into an acidic mulch, which is only suitable for certain plants. So it’s worth sweeping these up and bagging them separately from the leaves for later use. Helpfully, pine needles usually drop first.

How to clear up fallen leaves

  1. Rake the leaves into piles. You can use a leaf blower to help create rough piles first (or blow the leaves straight back into woodland).
  2. Rake the piles onto leaf bags or a sheet and gather up. The folding Leaf Eazi Leaf Collector is a great tool for this.
  3. Drag these bags off the lawn and store for later use.

A leaf vacuum is another useful tool for collecting autumn leaves. Look for one with a shredding function to make disposing of the leaves even more efficient.

raking leaves

Should you rake wet or dry leaves?

You can rake up leaves when they are wet or dry. If they’re wet, they’ll form a more grabbable solid lump, but be much heavier to move. Beware wet leaves can also contain mould or mildew, which can set off allergies. To use a leaf vacuum the leaves will need to be dry.

What do you do with leaves after you rake them?

The best thing to do is turn fallen leaves into compost. This saves waste and returns the nutrients back to your garden. Firstly, make sure you remove diseased leaves from the pile and bin them to avoid spreading the infection. If you can, shredding the remaining leaves will help speed up the decomposition process. Then put the leaves onto the compost heap to biodegrade. Use the fresh compost on your flowerbeds the following spring!

Are leaves good for garden soil?

You can mulch some of the leaves directly into the lawn, provided there is not too thick a layer, and send their goodness straight into the soil. You need to see at least half the grass through the leaves for this to work. Start by aerating the lawn. Then chop the leaves into small pieces using a lawn mower. As the leaves mulch, they will decompose and their nutrients will run straight down into the soil.

mulch

If you have plants that like a lot of mulch (like shrubs, garlic and roses) you can make the mulch and then rake it straight onto the flowerbed. The best time of year for mulching is in the autumn, to help protect your plants over the winter frosts.

Help for dealing with falling leaves

If all else fails you can hire a professional leaf cleaner. But clearing up the leaves is a rewarding task, and with the help of our leaf collectors, should be done in a breeze!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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