Distractions – good or bad?

Distractions are not always a negative thing, you can turn them to your advantage.

What do I mean by that? Well, I am sure you have heard of the term “a welcome distraction”, when something happens that takes your mind off something else less pleasant? That’s exactly it.

When does distraction work?

Right now I am writing this post in the middle of the night as a way of trying to distract myself from my painful dislocated rib! If I just lay there in bed all I will do is think about it, the pain feels worse, it becomes harder to switch off. This just results in a vicious circle that seems impossible to get out of. Unless of course, you distract yourself.

This can work in many situations, for example if you feel sleepy mid-afternoon, you can do something else, make a drink, get a few minutes fresh air, go for a walk. Simple thing like this can easily perk you up and help you resist having that unproductive nap.

What else can it do?

The same goes for anxiety. I found my distraction in gardening. I wasn’t searching for any particular distraction, it just sort of crept up on me. I noticed that when in the garden, my mind was clear. The spiral of worry, overthinking, low mood, it just all seemed to stop when I was in the garden.

It doesn’t take away the anxiety altogether, but it does mitigate it and brings me into the moment. Focusing on nurturing my vegetables, fruit and flowers stops me focusing on negative thoughts.

However, I have found that the more time I spend in the garden increases my well-being overall and has helped me to manage the anxiety better, along with other coping techniques and medication.

One thing I try and do is not to over do it in the garden. If I work so much that I become exhausted (or worse, aggravate my rib) there is a danger. That danger is being put off by that negative feeling you had when you overdid it. I always like to stop when at the point of still feeling like I want to do more. This way I retain the enthusiasm to get back out there as soon as I can. Aiming to do about 50% of what you think you could do in any one session is a good place to start.

The answer is….

It is so pleasing that gardening is now being recognised, and being taken seriously, as a therapy in itself. As I have always suspected and I will say again, for every problem in nature there is an answer in nature.

Ah, my rib is starting to feel better already.

Do you have a distraction that is a winner? Share it in the comments below, I would love to hear it!

Garden update Monday 8 April

Sometimes, you just have to make a sacrifice. And you have to think about smart planting.

Now I’m not talking lamb at the altar or anything like that! I noticed in the greenhouse the other day that one of my Pak Choi seedlings had been nibbled. It was clearly a nibble and not just damaged by accident.

Nibbled seedling
Nibbled Pak Choi seedling

Most of the seedlings were untouched. Despite checking each pot I was unable to find the culprit. So I decided to make a sacrifice. I would leave this pot in situ, and move the other seedlings elsewhere to, hopefully, escape the hungry creature.

This morning the sacrificial seedling had been nibbled even more. The creature must be hiding in this pot! I still could not find it, however.

All the other seedlings that I moved elsewhere looked fine. So, I come to the conclusion that the nibbler was isolated to this one pot.

Healthy Pak Choi seedling
Healthy Pak Choi seedling

Growing pains and smart planting

There are occasions where you actually grow a crop specifically to draw creatures away from other crops. Nasturtium, for example, is great to grow with beans as they attract blackfly away from your precious food.

Another way to deter pests is to grow plants together than repel each others pests. A good example of this is onions and carrots. When grown together the onions repel or confuse the carrot fly, and the carrots repel or confuse the onion fly.

I firmly believe that for every problem in nature, there is an answer in nature. This way you negate the need for nasty chemicals in your growing space. We can only benefit by not ingesting these hideous things. If you lose a seedling or two, or your nasturtiums take the brunt of a hungry fly, you will be safe in the knowledge that the only thing you have put in your body is the goodness of that treasured plant.

Elsewhere in the garden

All the other seedlings are coming along nicely, including lettuce, spinach, calendula, sunflowers, peas, tomatoes, busy lizzies, nasturtiums. The list seems short but the space is filling up. There will be some potting on and planting out happening soon. Mid April is also the time (in my area) to plant seed potatoes. As a general rule of thumb, they can be planted about one month before the last expected frost date. In East Anglia that is the second week of May.

If you haven’t yet got your seed potatoes, there is still time. Many garden centres and supermarkets try to offload their stock of seed potatoes really cheaply now. You might pick up a bargain!

I will also be sowing some carrots soon, outdoors in pot. I have a method for this which means that you do not have to sow more seeds than you need, and therefore do not have to thin the seedlings out. It seems so wasteful to do this. Admittedly you do get a lot of seeds in a packet but with succession sowing you will have plenty and may have some to save for next year.

Now the weather is warmer it feels like all stations go right now, but oh the eating to come in just a few short months. All that extra sun helps to keep my mood afloat, and allows the body to manufacture its own vitamin D.

Exciting times!

Garden update Monday 4th February

Here on the border of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire we avoided the worst of the weather last week. This was to the delight of some and disappointment of others.

It did, however, allow me some bonus time in the garden. I was very happy about this as I was expecting to get very little done due to the impending weather crisis. I needed inspiration this week. Spending a couple of hours in the winter sun does give me a real lift.

A little disappointment

Firstly, I had to plant some spring bulbs. I had forgotten about a bag of mixed bulbs. I discarded some of the bulbs. sadly. They had gone mouldy. This was my fault as I left them in a padded envelope with no ventilation.

Fortunately, I salvaged most of the bulbs, and I have a few more pots which will hopefully bring some glorious spring colour.

There are Puschkinia (Russian snowdrops), Daffodils (Tete a Tete), Ipheion (mixed), and Fritillaria (Uva-Vulpa) in various combinations.

Pots with spring bulbs
Pots with spring bulbs

Then, off to the local garden centre I went, as I felt an urge for instant gratification. The garden seemed drab. I needed colour, and I needed it now. As I had a voucher for £4 off a £20 spend, what more justification did I need?

So, voucher in hand, I added these beautiful primroses to my basket. In addition followed some daffodils, irises, tulips and snowdrops in the green. This means that they have already started to grow.

Primroses
Primroses

Admittedly, I felt a little naughty for buying them. However should the worst happen and my own bulbs fail to grow, I will have some colour in the garden this spring.

One thing I do like is to have choices and back up plans. Putting all your eggs in one basket runs the risk of disappointment.

Getting on with it

I have a lot of seeds. These are just the vegetable seeds. I need to trim this down a bit!

Many seeds
Many seeds

I simply don’t have the physical space to grow everything here, so I will narrow this down to maybe one third. There are a few duplicates in there and some I may will never grow. These are often freebies bundled with other things that I did want to keep. There are a handful of vegetables that I
really dislike. For example squash, celery and aubergine will never feature on my plot.

Once I have decided what to grow, the seeds need to be sorted into sowing months. I sort my seeds by the first month given to sow. The beauty of nature is that if you forget, have a failed batch or simply don’t have time or space, another later sowing will catch up.

Fortunately, many seeds can be sown over a period of months. This is great for things like peas and carrots where you want to stagger your harvests. There are only so many peas you can eat at once. And they don’t usually feature for breakfast!

Don’t panic!

There is still plenty of time to buy seeds and decide what to sow. Many garden centres are having a clear out and you can pick up packets of seed for 50p or less. Often they will have a year or more left to sow them. I would advise to buy only the freshest seeds for parsnips however. They are notoriously bad for germination and old seeds are almost certainly going to fail.

Nonetheless, I find it exciting to make plans for the year ahead and think about the delicious results to come.

What are your seed plans?

Yoga – an introduction

Like many, I thought yoga was just a load of silly poses.

I did not know how wrong I was until I tried it. Last year I attended my very first yoga class. Previously, I had bought a second hand DVD from eBay. However after a couple of weeks the novelty wore off and so did the motivation. The DVD sat gathering dust and ended up being donated to charity.

I’m not really sure what made me go to a class, but I will say this. I felt absolutely AMAZING afterwards.

For me, paying for a class is far more motivating than staying at home and finding a reason not to do it. Some of you may not be able to stretch to paid classes, or prefer the privacy of home. You can find many instructional videos on YouTube like this one which I really liked.

What’s yoga got to do with it?

You may ask, what has this got to do with gardening? Well, you would be right, there isn’t a direct correlation. However, I found this, along with gardening, to play a major part of improving my overall well being. It has so many benefits, it will warrant another post about it soon.

As a sufferer of anxiety, part of my own self help was to try things and see if they worked for me. I can say that for me, yoga was an unexpected find. I don’t feel like I am exercising (and I hate exercising), and I feel so relaxed yet energised afterwards.

My teacher is brilliant, never pushes you to do more than your own limits. She always gives you options depending on your ability, flexibility, or if you have any illnesses or injury. I found this most refreshing, and actually makes we want to try those difficult poses even more.

So, have you found something that helps to alleviate stress, anxiety or depression? Has yoga done this for you?

Take care of yourself. Namaste.

Feeling meh….

It’s inevitable, the good spirits wear off. Usually when the weather is overcast, dark and miserable, like today.

When I feel less than great, I try and remember to do three things:

-something I need to do

-something I have to do

-something I want to do

Feeling meh

Need

Things you need to do are things that, when not done, have negative consequences. Such as not paying a bill for instance. Today, my “need to do” was sending my proof of no claims bonus to my new car insurance company. The consequences of not doing this would be an increased premium. None of us want to pay more for insurance than we should!

I felt a bit better having done that, knowing it is off my “to-do” list, and one less worry on my mind.

Have

Have to do things are the daily chores of life. For example doing the laundry, or washing up. Or maybe even making tomorrows lunches. The sort of things that keep life running a bit more smoothly. My “have to do” today was to put away some clean clothes and put another load of washing in the machine. I know now that there wont be a backlog of clean clothes followed by a backlog of dirty ones! And the bedroom looks tidier, that’s a bonus!

Want

I think this is fairly self-explanatory. Do something every day that you enjoy, you want to do. Watching a film or your favourite TV programme, an hour in the garden, weather permitting, are some examples. Whatever makes you feel good, lifts your spirits, it is all good.

From personal experience, I know how hard it can be to lift yourself out of the fog and into the light. So even on the darkest days both mentally and meteorologically, just three things can made the difference.

My “want to do” today is watching the snooker on the TV, while painting around the fireplace. I find painting quite therapeutic and love snooker, so that works well for me.

What three things can you do today?

Cool beans

Today I wanted to spend an hour in the garden. It was sunny and mild, and we get precious few days like that in winter.

So, my target was to tidy up one of my raised beds and plant some seeds. I chose to plant some dwarf broad beans, var. The Sutton.

Apparently, it is a little early or a little late to plant them, January being the only month they say not to on the packet. However with the weather mild, and cold weather forecast, I had a window and I wanted to use it.

Dwarf broad beans var. "The Sutton" from Mr Fothergills

I set to work and cleared the bed, and topped it up with a bag of fresh compost. Next I sowed these little beauties 2 inches deep. To stop them rotting in the soil, plant them on their thin side. If the soil is dry, water before planting. My soil was already moist so it did not need watering.

Then I covered them over with soil. Most importantly, I covered the bed with some horticultural fleece. This has two benefits. Firstly it helps to keep the soil warm. Secondly it helps to keep the wildlife off. Well that’s the plan!

rhdr

I bought four of these raised beds last year. They are brilliant, easy to assemble, won’t rot, and can be assembled in a variety of ways.

Sadly, they don’t seem to be available any more. However, if you want to try and find them they are by an Australian brand called Birdies. You can see the raised bed on the other side with the onions and garlic.

It felt great to spend some time in the garden again, only an hour, but I accomplished something. It’s really important to remind yourself sometimes that achieving something every day, no matter how small, is so beneficial for your well being.

And you get to eat the result, what could be better!

Potatoes, potatoes

I grow potatoes, I have done for about three years now. This time of year is perfect for deciding which ones to grow. I just love potatoes fresh out of the earth!

There are many varieties out there, and it can be confusing to say the least. It doesn’t have to be, with just a little knowledge.

What do I need?

Having said that, potatoes are really, really easy to grow. If you are short on space you can grow them in a bucket, or an empty compost bag. As long as your chosen container has drainage holes, they will grow.

All you need apart from the container is fresh multipurpose compost. Then you need a fertiliser such as fish, blood and bone or chicken manure pellets. And water, and of course time.

What variety to buy?

There are a couple of things to bear in mind. First of all decide whether you want to grow salad, otherwise known as early potatoes. Some examples are Charlotte, or Swift. Alternatively try main crop, which are the ones you would buy for perfect roast potatoes. Popular varieties are Rooster, King Edward, Desiree, etc. etc.

Early potatoes are waxy and good for boiling and salads, as a general rule. Main crop are floury and are best for roasting and baking.

However there are varying degrees of each and some start waxy and become floury if left to grow on for example.

There are many reputable companies selling seed potatoes. Here are some I have used myself:

https://www.jbaseedpotatoes.co.uk/

https://www.thompson-morgan.com/vegetables/potatoes

https://www.vanmeuwen.com/fruit-and-vegetables/vegetables/potatoes

https://www.suttons.co.uk/Gardening/Potatoes+Onions+Garlic/Seed+Potatoes/

What next?

Browse the potatoes and see what will work for you. Try to choose varieties with good overall disease resistance. I am sure that you want to enjoy the growing process, rather than worry about constantly protecting your crop.

After that, wait for the next instalment. I will cover what to do with your potatoes when you receive them.

Here is my very small but perfectly formed first harvest!

Small potatoes!

Are you new to growing potatoes? What questions do you have?

Garden update Monday 14 January

A knock on the door rudely awoke me early this morning. It was a delivery, I was confused. I had no idea what it could be, had I been sleep shopping?

Luckily, sleep shopping it was not. It turned out to be a bulk delivery of bird food. I had bought 25 kilos of sunflower hearts, 150 net free fat balls and 3 kilos of meal worm flavour suet pellets, yum!

Later in the morning, the delivery was taken down to my little shed, where all my bird food supplies are kept. Then, I realised just how pleasant it was outside today, a balmy 9 Centigrade (48 Fahrenheit in old money).

When suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a little glint of orange in the pale winter sun. What on earth could be so bright at this time of the year? Well, it was this:

A beautiful, perfect calendula, in January! What a delight nature is sometimes.

And so to the jobs

Back to the real reason for the post, a garden update. Not a lot to report, however the onions and garlic are still growing well. Slow growth would be the norm, but they are well on their way. The mild winter, so far, has helped. I am growing white onions and soft neck garlic, autumn plantings for both.

rhdr

I’ve had to put a piece of old fencing over the raised bed to stop the local cats and other wildlife using the bed for a toilet/digging patch. I used just a few clothes pegs and sticks to keep it in place.

It was so nice, just for a few minutes, to feel the sun on my face. I also tidied up some pots, removing all the dead foliage. It is amazing how doing just a few minutes on a small project can made you feel better.

How do you find little lifts in your day?

Happy New Year! Happy New Blog!

Happy New Year

So, having thought about this for rather more time that I will admit to, I decided to finally put fingers to keyboard. It all started, just a couple of years ago. I found that gardening was more than just bunging a few bedding plants in pots. A bit more than watering them when I remembered. I realised that it actually helped me in so, so many ways. For example, from growing some potatoes in pots as an experiment, to designing and building a fully fledged mini garden allotment. Also, and very importantly, to giving time for my poor overworked brain to rest and recuperate after a series of highly stressful life events.

You can imagine that this came as a bit of a shock to me, and my family. Having been pretty much a lifetime snubber of anything remotely green and leafy, it was a real about turn. And it came at the right time, really really at the right time. Just when I needed something else, to calm the stressed mind. To focus on something different, to nurture, and to reap the rewards of my efforts.

So, I’d like to share the journey with you, both what has gone before and what is to come. Gentle gardening and a little crafting, for the body and mind!

Glad to have you as company 🙂