By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
“National Gardening Week is the nation's biggest celebration of gardening and raises awareness of the difference that gardens and gardening can make to the lives of everyone in the UK”.
Whilst National Gardening Week is intended to promote gardening and to inspire “the next generation of gardeners, to experience the joy of growing and visiting beautiful green spaces”, it’s also a reminder to get outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, soak up that vitamin D and look after ourselves, our natural environment and the wildlife that visits us close to home.
Like so many of us who are lucky enough to have outside space, our outside area has been our sanctuary over the last year. It has been somewhere to escape and enjoy some calm. Now, it’s the only place you can socialise and spend time with your favourite people; it’s a sunny spot for fun, laughter and a good old glug of wine!
Rain or shine, we hardly need a reason to get outside these days, but with so many great things to do in and with our garden spaces, we give our top 5 reasons that gardens are worth their weight in soil:
1. Good for mental health
At Keeeps, one of the reasons we love pottery is its mindful qualities, which is why it is often a go-to for people going through a hard time or following a life-changing experience. The RHS website has some lovely stories about how gardening has enriched people’s lives during a difficult time and provided community support.
Much like pottery, gardening provides a meditative experience, allowing you to get in the “zone”, completely switch off and get back to nature. “A report in the Mental Health Journal cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety”. In a society that struggles to fully switch-off, gardening is an easy and cheap way to practice mindfulness, whilst getting some fresh air, vitamin D and some much-needed time away from screens.
Connections are abundant in the garden – with nature, plants, wildlife and those you spend time with, it really is a completely elevating environment for our over-active minds.
2. Good for the planet
Whilst it may seem like a small patch of grass in the grand scheme of things, they all add up and tending to your garden is a great way of quietly doing your bit for our planet.
Plants need carbon dioxide to thrive, which is great, because we’ve got plenty to spare. In return, plants give out oxygen which purifies our air and fights pollution. So, there is no such thing as too many plants!
Plants which attract pollinators, including sunflowers, daisies and lavender, not only look and smell beautiful but are irresistible to bees. Bees (and other pollinators) allow plants to fruit, set seed and breed. This in turn provides food for a range of other creatures including ourselves.
Plants are also a valuable source of food for humans but on average fresh foods travel 1,500 miles to get to our local store. By comparison, your fresh garden veggies travel zero miles to get to your plate. But if you’re not ready to be growing your entire summer salad in the garden (small steps and all that) why not dip your toe in with a tomato or chilli plant or start to grow some herbs.
Little known fact, you can even replant the seeds in fresh chillies from the supermarket, all you need is a bit of compost and some little pots. To get started, you can use cans or old jars, which look quite eye catching. Last year, we grew chilli plants in some leftover Pimms cans before repotting into larger ceramic pots. A great way to reuse and recycle!
3. Garden size or lack of garden is no obstacle
If you’ve ever watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, you’ll know that size is no obstacle to creating an incredible space and with one in eight households in the UK having no access to a private or shared garden, it’s no wonder we are a nation obsessed with houseplants.
Whilst this week celebrates the “garden”, this extends to whatever that means to you. “Gardenless gardens” are the new trend, allowing for the outdoors to be brought into more urban spaces, and this is demonstrated by the “92k Instagram posts and 7,000 average monthly searches in the UK”  relating to balcony and windowsill gardening.
Love the Garden has written a fantastic article giving examples of some sensational balcony transformations, largely using plants and some quirky handmade pottery plant pots and hanging pots which really give you that garden feel.
If you fancy getting a bit more green fingered, give “container gardening” a go which allows you to grow plants which you’d usually find in a garden bed, in a large container – ceramic of course! Gardener’s World have a great article on how to utilise container gardening to create “instant and changeable displays right outside your back door – especially if you’re short on space”.
For further inspiration, Ideal Home and Home Beautiful have written some fantastic articles about bringing your outside space into the home and Pinterest is the holy grail in providing some balcony and garden inspiration.
4. Birdwatching is the new Netflix
An excellent side effect of Covid (one of the few positives!) is that it has created a new generation of “twitchers”. In the last week of January, Countryfile invited the public to “grab their binoculars, look out into their own gardens to take part in The Big Garden Birdwatch”. Beccy Speight, the CEO of the RSPB put the increased enthusiasm down to the pandemic stating “Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people, right on their doorsteps”.
Here at home, my other half has become a full-blown twitcher, with bird feeders being found in all nooks of the garden, hoping to entice our resident feathered friends. As well as keeping the adults entertained, seeing how many different birds you can find in the garden is a great way to keep the kids and grandkids interested in the natural world too. Love the Garden  has a great little article with photos and descriptions of various UK garden birds for identification purposes.
We highly recommend that you get twitching yourself, it’s seriously soothing and also slightly addictive.
In terms of encouraging birds into the garden, much like humans, they are more inclined to visit if there is food and drink on offer. Two very easy ways to lure them to the garden is to buy a bird feeder and bird bath. However, avoid plastic feeders and baths and opt for ceramic or stone. Remember we need to seriously reduce the amount of plastic we consume, and whilst metal is a viable alternative, ceramics are sustainable, weatherproof and hardwearing, a great combo for an ultra-stylish bird-feeder.
Also, avoid buying bird food which is wrapped in a plastic mesh. Not only does this cause more plastic to enter landfill, but ironically it is super dangerous for birds, with Val Osborne of the RSPB issuing a warning that “the netting can easily trap birds’ feet and beaks, causing severe injury or death”.
Our wonderful potter, David Wright has created a gorgeous bird-feeder, stocked at Keeeps, featuring a weather resistant string, that can be tied to a tree of your choice and a seriously cute bamboo stick for the birds to perch on whilst they tuck in. But there are plenty of others out there, and plastic-free is far more joyful.
5. Garden makeovers can transform your life
A simple makeover will completely change how your outside space is used and will make it one that is enjoyed as much as the other rooms in the home. Lockdown has made us reassess the use of our gardens with them acting as our dining room, gym, living room and office at various points over the last 18 months.
If you are lucky enough to have a larger outdoor space, “zoning” the garden can be a great idea and just requires some thought into how you want to use the space. For example, if you love entertaining, are a yoga lover and love working from the garden, zoning could work well so you have 3 different areas for each to be enjoyed, making it a chic and practical space.
If you don’t have time to spend tending the garden on a regular basis, but like having some fuss-free greenery in the garden, there are plenty of low-maintenance plants available which mean you have more time to relax and enjoy your garden. Garden Design have a fabulous list of fuss-free flowers and plants which will help you begin planning.
Pinterest is, again, a fantastic tool for gathering simple, affordable design ideas together for your garden, patio or balcony. Even garden accessories can make a difference, such as festoon lights, Moroccan style screens as partitions, and hanging chairs. Here at Keeeps, we are getting extremely excited about garden design and living. One of our potters is also a landscape gardener and we have been working with her expertise to expand our ceramic gardenware collection in the very near future, so watch this green space!
6. Relaxing time with family and friends
Okay, we said top 5 but we couldn’t miss out the act of sharing your garden space and making loving connections surrounded by greenery.
By giving your garden a little bit of attention, not only do you give the environment and its inhabitants a big hug, you create a gorgeous, relaxing space to spend time in with others. There is simply nothing better than being sat in the sun, with a drink in hand, laughing with your friends. If you close your eyes, you could even be by a pool somewhere in Ibiza!
Many people are renovating their gardens to transform them into a more sociable space – exterior design is the new interior design. Firepits are flying off the shelves with the cooler evenings and the need to keep warm when chatting into the small hours with friends.
It is also an opportune moment to gift your loved ones something that will look beautiful in their garden, or help them create that unique, calm space where they can entertain. Whether that be something simple like a sumptuous blanket, a chic hanging plant pot, or a handmade ceramic birdfeeder, it is definitely the season for garden living and giving.
So, in celebration of National Gardening Week, pot a new plant, treat yourself or a loved one to a bird feeder or consider trying gardening as a new hobby, but use every opportunity to get out into your outdoor spaces to connect with your mind, others and nature.