Gardening column: Creating a sanctuary outdoors

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening column: Creating a sanctuary outdoors

File photo

What has come from the last six months of - let’s face it - hardship for lots of people has been somewhat of an epiphany for us here at Caragh Nurseries. Gardens have become the sanctuary that we need right now, and the number of people who are actually enjoying their gardens much more is just amazing.

With restrictions remaining in place and social distancing being a necessity, experts are stressing the importance of spending time outside, especially as the weather starts to get cooler. The relationship between us getting outside for sunlight and fresh air, and our mental wellness, is nothing new and we also know that time outside is good for us physically.

Nature and time spent outdoors is known to reduce anxiety, promote creativity and contribute to heart health as well as weight management and general physical fitness, so what better way to do this than to get into the garden? Studies show that 120 minutes a week of gardening will increase our well-being and also create a great sense of achievement.

I just love spending time in my garden. I spend regular time outside with a cuppa and my laptop and at this time of year I just put on another layer, as the sun is still warming even though the temperature is dropping.

We also still love eating outdoors. Again, we just put on coats and, as the temperature drops, we light the firepit. There really is nothing better than cooking over coals and sitting around a crackling fire in the garden.

So what can we do in the garden to provide this feeling of wellness at this time of year? Well firstly, leaves are starting to fall. Clearing or blowing these, and pulling the few weeds that have escaped at this time of year will ensure that you are ahead of the game in the spring, and improve the look of the beds.

I love planting my pots at this time with plants that will give colour throughout the colder months. Pick something like skimmias or cyclamens - I’ve chosen white this year in both.

Now is also the time to plant bulbs, so if you have a bulb planter or small trowel then start planting. I’m planting extra tulips as well as adding to my bluebells too. I prefer tete a tetes to daffodils, although I have enough of these and snowdrops, too.

This time of year is still bountiful if you have fruit trees, so keep harvesting that fruit and using it as much as possible. I always fill the freezer with all my fruit items and then nothing goes to waste. I also invested in a dehydrator last year and I use this for apples and pears and add them to granola, it’s just delicious. If anyone is thinking along these lines or has one already, I just love making kale crisps in the dehydrator to eat with hummus - and even the kids love them.

If you have a crab apple tree, then now is the time to make crab apple jelly. My kids just love this too, especially when they have been involved in making it. My favourite crab apple tree is the Malus Evereste which has, in my mind, the nicest crab apples but also has a wonderful white spring blossom. I love trees that give interest at multiple times of year.

On the nursery we are busy grading all our trees and hedging for the winter season and are halfway through that. Next week we will have some information about rootballed and bare-root trees and hedging and all the fruit trees too - and why and how we plant this way.

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