This Week’s Guest Blogger is Boris Mackey, the Community Outreach Manager for Rehab 4 Addiction, a UK Based addiction helpline

Mental Health at Christmas Infographic

Surveys show that Christmas is the nation’s favourite time of the year. The December holiday comes with expectations of warm fires, snuggly Christmas jumpers, and too much eggnog.

However, although Christmas is largely seen as time for relaxation spent with family and friends, it can also lead to stress and anxiety for a significant proportion of people. If left unaddressed, these pressures can have a very real negative impact on mental-wellbeing. 

Financial concerns, worries about feeling lonely, and anxieties about family drama are all among the causes of stress; most people can probably relate to feeling anxious about Christmas in one way or another. [1]

Despite this, if you find Christmas stressful, there are several practical steps that can be taken to reduce negative feelings, and therefore the impact on mental well-being. 

Although the season comes with promises of relaxation, in reality it can be one of the busiest times of the year.

Preparing for Christmas parties with work colleagues and friends, having long lists of presents to buy, drinking too much alcohol and more errands than usual can all mount up to become very time consuming. [2]

It’s easy to let all these pressures get on-top of you, and become stressed by the prospect of a never-ending to-do list. However, there are several ways to combat these feelings and ease the pressure on your mental well-being, including (and most importantly) learning how to say the word ‘no’.

Saying ‘no’ is a powerful tool, but it can be a difficult one to use. A lot of people struggle to decline invitations, worrying that they will be letting down their family or friends. [3]

However, agreeing to take up more errands, or attend another event, when you’re already busy is counter-productive. If you spread yourself too thin, you will have less time and won’t be able to complete your tasks as effectively.

Instead, focus on what it is that you want to do, and the parties you do want to go to, rather than what you simply feel obliged to do.

If you can politely turn down offers for things that you don’t think will make you happy, you’ll be less busy and will have more time to dedicate to things that you truly enjoy. Being overly busy can be very stressful, but by choosing to say ‘no’ to some things, you can begin to alleviate that stress. 

Being too busy can also lead to another common source of Christmas related anxiety. When we have less time and find ourselves more busy than usual, we’re more likely to see negative impacts on our physical well-being, which is strongly linked to our mental well-being.

Being too busy can make us over-tired, and it can also impact our diet and exercise routines.

Overeating and a lack of exercise during the Christmas period are common concerns, and can cause down-swings in mood, and negatively impact mental well-being during the Christmas period and after it.

If you, or a family member, have ever struggled with maintaining a weight that you’re happy with, this can be especially difficult to manage. This can contribute to a negative cycle: we eat badly when we’re stressed, and eating badly makes us more stressed.

The best way to break that cycle is to avoid it by steering clear of known causes of stress and pressure. Learning to say ‘no’ can again be helpful, as it can make it easier to manage our time, avoid causes of stress, and stick within a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Check out the infographic below to see more tips on how to avoid Christmas related declines in mental well-being, and make the most of the festive season.


[1] Loneliness at Christmas Statistics

[2] You can learn more in the article titled Alcohol rehab in Bristol

[3] Coping with Mental Health at Christmas

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Beth Otway a Freelance Gardener Writer, Photographer and Horticulturist at

Beth Otway’s Wildlife Gardening Tips


We don’t all need to possess large gardens to help wildlife, small spaces can form valuable refuges and habitats. Wildlife gardens are especially precious in our towns and cities, where space is at a premium.


Instead of putting up a fence, could you plant a hedge? Hedges are more resilient and longer lasting than fences; they withstand stormy weather and provide food and shelter for wildlife. Hedges will enhance any style of garden, adding beauty to modern, traditional, and wildlife gardens. Hedging plants, like blackthorn, hornbeam, holly, hazel, and beech, can often be purchased as multiple plants in low-cost bundles and so can be very economical to buy.

Why not plant an edible hedge and grow your own fruit, nuts, berries, and edible flowers? You could grow your own elderflowers to produce your own home-grown and home-made elderflower cordial and if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could create your own elderflower champagne! Alternatively, leave the elderflowers to ripen to berries to produce your own elderberry wine, syrup, cordial, cassis, gin or jam.

There are many options when it comes to choosing plants for edible hedges, including:

  • hazel or cobnuts (Corylus avellana)
  • damsons (Prunus insititia)
  • sloes (Prunus spinosa)
  • plums and gages (Prunus domestica)
  • elderflowers and elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
  • blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)
  • redcurrants (Ribes rubrum)
  • gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa)
  • rose hips (Rosa)
  • apples (Malus domestica)
  • pears (Pyrus communis)

Look out for bare root plants, which can be ordered from nurseries and delivered during the autumn and winter months, while the plants are dormant.

Shaping your hedge

When trimming your hedge, only trim the top and sides. Allow your hedge to grow right down to ground level, so hedgehogs can nest and hibernate underneath. Avoid cutting hedges whilst birds are nesting – birds usually start nesting in late winter or early spring and their nesting season continues until September.

Planting trees in urban environments

If you’re planting a tree in an urban area where there are high levels of traffic, choose a tree that’s tolerant of pollution. Hornbean (Carpinus betulus) trees are especially useful as they survive in areas where pollution levels are high, making hornbeams the perfect choice of tree for an urban environment. Acer campestre, Alnus glutinosa, Corylus avellana ‘Aurea’, Mespilus germanica, and Taxus baccata are other tree options for city gardens.

Bare root plants

Bare root plants provide an environmentally friendly and economical way to purchase top quality plants including trees, roses, hedging, top and soft fruit plants, for gardens and allotments. These plants are field grown, so at the nursery they require far less water than plants grown in containers. Bare root plants can be grown, purchased, and delivered without using plastic, and because bare root plants are grown in the soil, these plants are usually peat-free.

There are so many benefits for gardeners who purchase bare root plants. I find that bare root pants tend to become established more readily than container grown plants. Customers ordering online, who are unable to inspect their plants will have no risk of purchasing a pot-bound plant, if they buy a field-grown, bare root plant.

Mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are UK species of fungi that occur naturally in the soil. These useful fungi form beneficial partnerships – symbiotic relationships with plants. Mycorrhizal fungi and plants effectively join forces in a lifelong alliance. The fungi attach themselves to the plant’s roots, creating a fast growing and extensive root system, that takes in a far greater quantity of nutrients and moisture than the plant could procure alone. This partnership greatly benefits plants, protecting and supporting plants through times of drought or stress.

You can purchase a concentrated amount of these beneficial, UK grown, mycorrhizal fungi at nurseries and garden centres. Mycorrhizal fungi are especially useful when you’re planting bare root plants, container-grown plants, or moving plants within your garden. A gel form of mycorrhizal fungi is available for bare root plants; whilst there are also selections of mycorrhizal fungi especially formulated for container grown plants, roses, bulbs, lawns, and other plants.


Nettles are food plants for caterpillars of a number of butterfly species, Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, and Tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars, all feed on nettles. Nettles are also an important food plant for the caterpillars of many moths. If you want to help butterflies and moths, nettles are well worth including in your garden!

Although it’s wise to grow stinging nettles in an out of the way area, so you can avoid stinging yourself; choose a sunny location, as butterflies lay their eggs on nettles growing in bright sunshine. I have planted a number of large containers with nettles in my garden, as planters are a good way to contain and manage these plants.

Nettles offer other benefits for gardeners; they attract ladybirds and can be used to a make home-made fertiliser. Nettles are edible and make delicious soups and teas.

Peat free compost

If you want to help nature and the environment, avoid using peat-based composts. Peat bogs are precious habitats that desperately need our protection. Peatlands cover just 3% of our planet’s surface but our peatlands hold more carbon than all the world’s forests; in fact, peatlands store more carbon than all our vegetive plants combined.

I’m a peat free gardener. Over the years, I’ve found that the majority of plants actually prefer peat-free compost. I even grow blueberries and Rhododendrons successfully in peat-free compost. I run Compost Trials to find top-quality peat-free composts (see my Compost Trials in full at

Artificial turf

I’m deeply saddened to see how popular artificial turf has become. These artificial layers of plastic cover the ground, preventing birds and other wildlife from reaching the soil and foraging for insects.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance solution for your garden, why not plant a flowering lawn, using naturally low growing plants like thyme (Thymus), daisies (Bellis perennis), clover (Trifolium), thrift (Armeria maritima), and birds foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)? These plants will flourish in a sunny or partially shaded site with well-drained soil.

If you’d prefer a green lawn, why not create a blissfully relaxing space using scented chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)? Chamomile grows best in well-drained soils, in bright and sunny areas.

If your garden is shaded or damp underfoot, why not think about cultivating a smooth velvety carpet of moss?

Why not take part in No Mow May and leave areas of long grass for wildlife? Grasses are food plants for many insects, including butterflies and moths.


If you are planning to have a bonfire, the easiest and most wildlife friendly method is to gather your bonfire materials together in one go and light your bonfire immediately (or at least the same morning or afternoon).

If you have already gathered branches, leaves, and plant material, all set for having a bonfire another day, your bonfire stack might have appeared to be the perfect hibernating spot for hedgehogs and other wildlife. In this instance, it’s best to dismantle your bonfire and move all the materials you want to burn, checking for hedgehogs and wildlife as you go, and then light your bonfire in another spot. This will take extra time and effort, but it is worth it to know you haven’t killed a lovely hedgehog!


Hedgehogs need to be able to roam through a large area every night to source sufficient insects and food, to find a mate, and a safe place to nest. We can all help hedgehogs by ensuring that our gardens are connected. Make a passageway underneath a fence to allow hedgehogs to pass from your garden into your neighbour’s plot. Hedgehogs can’t manage steep slopes or steps, so cutting a hole at the base of the fence is often most effective solution. When adding a new fence, remember to always add a hedgehog passageway.

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Please don’t ever give hedgehogs bread or milk – although hedgehogs relish the taste of bread and milk, they’re unable to digest this type of food – it makes them seriously ill. Instead, if you’d like to feed hedgehogs, leave out a meaty cat or dog food made with chicken or turkey, or complete cat biscuits. Look for cat or dog food without gravy, seeds, fruit, bread, dairy, fish, beef, or tripe, as these ingredients aren’t good for hedgehogs.

For more tips on sustainable gardening, visit my website:

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alex Law, the Head Gardener at Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Shropshire

I was trying to get my head around the relationships between plant processes and the environmental factors under our control in a glasshouse or other protected growing environment. These spaces are incredibly dynamic, where the knock-on effects of adjusting one or two variables are numerous, so it makes sense to try to disentangle this web, to have a better handle on what we can do as gardeners or growers to ensure the healthy development of our protected plants or crops.

The mind map I’ve drawn below looks complex at first but is an attempt to make visual sense of a complex set of processes. Concentric rings are used to show three headings (‘Factors’, ‘Significance’ and ‘Control’), colour is used to link different branches of the diagram to core environmental factors (main colour of text boxes and corresponding arrows); control over pests, diseases and nutrients are included as these are further environmental factors but I wanted to give them slightly less emphasis compared to the more interconnected climatic factors. If I were technically gifted, I’d like to make the bullet points in each text box appear as pop-ups in a more interactive fashion, which would make the map less cluttered, but the points offer important explanations so I’m afraid there’s a lot to take in! I hope this helps others to understand what’s really happening in their protected growing environments.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Michelle Irizarry who owns Shellbie’s Garden

Composting for a Healthy and Sustainable Garden

My name is Michelle. I am the owner of Shellbie’s Garden LLC. As part of my business, I create dried flower and nature-inspired gifts and home décor with the flowers that I have grown from seed. I love plants, flowers, and gardening, and growing my own flowers and using them for my business is always an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

There are many factors involved in having a successful and healthy garden. It takes research, time, hard work, an open mind, and quite a bit of patience. I find that gardening can be both challenging and rewarding. One thing is true…each day in the garden is a learning experience.

Gardening is not simply throwing some seeds on the ground and waiting for them to grow. There are certain things that need to be done if you want to reap a good harvest. Aside from dealing with common garden issues such as insects and animal pests, weather-related factors, and other problems that can thwart your success, I have learned that I will have a much healthier garden if I have good garden soil.

I decided to improve and amend my soil, however, instead of buying countless bags of compost at the store, I chose to try my hand at making my own. I had wanted to try it for a long time, and I finally took the plunge. I believe making your own compost is rewarding, money-saving, and great for the garden.

What is compost? Compost is decomposed organic material that you can add to your soil to help your plants grow and thrive. Over several months, microorganisms break down the biodegradable material to create a rich, dark, nutrient-filled soil called humus. If you start composting in autumn, you should have some nice soil amendment for spring. A good compost should consist of a balance of the following materials:

· Browns such as dead leaves, twigs, branches to add carbon

· Greens such as fruit/vegetable scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds to add nitrogen

· Water for moisture, but compost should not be sopping wet or soggy

· Oxygen for compost to thrive and to aerate it to prevent bad bacteria and rot

Why is compost good for the garden? The rich humus created from composting feeds the soil, produces healthy plants, suppresses pests and diseases, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. In addition, unlike store-brought fertilizers, which can be expensive, compost is free. Lastly, having a compost bin is sustainable because composting is a natural process of recycling organic materials, and it lowers your carbon footprint.

How do you compost? If you have plenty of outdoor space, you can create an area any size you prefer in your yard, or you can simply buy a large trash can with a lid. I decided on the trash bin and purchased two 32-gallon containers. I also bought a mini metal trash can with a lid for the kitchen for fruit and vegetable scraps. I dump the little can in the larger bin once a week.

Before you start filling your compost bin, drill five holes in the bottom and several holes around the entire bin to allow oxygen into the container. (See picture below for an example). When you start adding to your compost pile, begin with a layer of twigs or straw to allow oxygen to enter from the bottom and to prevent the materials on the bottom from getting slimy or producing bad bacteria. When adding materials, make sure the pieces aren’t too large. If they are, chop or shred them to help them decompose faster. Add alternating layers of green matter for nitrogen, and brown matter for carbon. When the bin is full, cover and let it sit for the winter. Every few weeks, you should turn and mix the compost with a pitchfork. This provides oxygen which helps to aerate the pile and quickly break down the materials. This is important, because if the compost is too wet, it will become slimy, bug-infested, and have a terrible smell. If this happens, you will not be able to use the compost. Conversely, if the compost is too dry, it will be too dusty and unable to decompose, so try to have it moist, but not drenched.

In summary, the secret to a healthy compost is to make sure it receives oxygen, some moisture, balanced layers of green and brown materials, and make sure to turn it a few times over the winter.

Thanks for reading and keep growing!


Click to visit Shellbie’s Garden:

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mark Lane, who is a Trustee of Gardening with Disabilities Trust Charity as well as a Garden Designer, Writer and Broadcaster

A Full Workout in the Garden

For many of us, the idea of having to go to the gym every day is both daunting and a chore, yet us gardeners don’t think twice when it comes to spending a day or just an hour in the garden. Exercise is good for us, both aerobic and anaerobic. Now, we could all start the day in our leggings and ankle warmers (I must be showing my age) in the great outdoors and do some star jumps, running on the spot and lunges, but gardening can burn a great number of calories. Research is telling us of the importance of being outside and the effect it has on our mental, spiritual and physical health and wellbeing. Gardening has therefore been shown to reduce our blood pressure, lift our mood, lessen our anxiety and spark our neurons.

The term biophilia is our innate need for greenery and for being outside. We are outdoor creatures by nature, that over thousands of years have succumbed to the warmth and safety of the great indoors. We have dropped the spear for a knife and fork and an open fire for central heating, but as living organisms we need to exercise. Now, I’m not advocating running across fields with a herd of buffalo, but I am on a mission to get us moving more, getting involved in social and community activities and just enjoying the warmth of the sun or the feeling of rain on our skin.

Gardening is good exercise. Cognitively, from the initial stages of looking through catalogues or the Internet for what new plants to grow or which seeds to sow we are stimulating our brain. In fact, research has shown that after just two gardening sessions there is a noticeably marked therapeutic improvement in our mood.

Gardening can help keep our mind clear and sharp, and again research has shown that gardening can significantly reduce the risk of dementia. Gardening promotes problem solving, learning and sensory awareness. Many people notice improved concentration, quicker recovery from mental fatigue as well as strengthening the brain and feeling connected to memories. While gardening, from amateur to professional, we are constantly learning new processes, plants and techniques.

So far, I have been writing about active gardening, but there is also passive gardening. Watching a garden, pot or border grow is still a magical process for me, but studies have shown that looking at greenery, a pot full of plants and gardens can improve focus and subsequent tasks. Also, nature improves cognitive ability in short timeframes, so mental ‘top-ups’ are provided. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems are working. Also, the presence of trees and green space give you a stronger feeling of unity with neighbours, being more concerned with helping each other and having stronger feelings of belonging. Parts of the brain, when using a fMRI, associated with empathy and love light up when nature scenes are viewed. Nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our immediate and larger environments.

Without having to watch a clock or count down the minutes until you are done, you can easily spend an hour or an entire day working out without feeling as though you are putting yourself through a gruelling workout. Ideally you need to garden for 30 minutes to provide a beneficial workout. If you weigh 11 stone you can burn 347 calories in an hour gardening, and at 14 stone 437 calories. I would always recommend that before venturing outside you undertake some gentle stretching exercises to prevent injury and to improve performance. Your muscles might be tight so it is essential to stretch for 15 minutes before any physical activity. This will also provide a cardio warm-up.

When outside, work at a constant steady speed to keep the heart rate up for the 30 minutes, such as digging and turning compost, and then swap to a less strenuous activity such as pruning. The important thing to remember is to swap hands whenever possible and alternate legs, whether leaning, stretching, walking or pushing up from a kneeled position. Think about your posture and use repetitive techniques rather than erratic movements. Keep your back straight, knees bent largely and your shoulders down – these will reduce stress on your lower back and muscles and help avoid aches and pains. In no time at all your body will be more toned, more flexible with improved strength and endurance. A little tip is to set a timer on your mobile phone or carry an egg timer and set it to 30 minutes. Pacing yourself and your activities is important. You will find that you will get more done in an allotted time if you pace properly.

It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what level of ability you have, gardening is an activity that almost anybody can do, and why not? It is good for our cognitive, spiritual and physical wellbeing. (my YouTube channel with hints and tips)

@MarkLaneTV (Twitter)

@MarkLaneTV (Instagram)  Thrive Charity

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Geoffrey Juden the Chairman of the East London Garden Society


The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

The Bethnal Green mulberry tree is an ancient black mulberry tree in Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The exact age of the tree is unknown, Chartered Arboriculturist Julian Forbes Laird states that the earliest probable year of origin of the Bethnal Green Mulberry is around 1800, but it could be up to 400 years old and the oldest in the East End of London, some say it dates as far back to Bishop Bonner of the later period of Henry V111’s time.

In the archive of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel there is an inkwell made in 1911 from a preserved slice of a tree, which is recorded as having been taken from a broken bough of a mulberry ‘reputed to be that under which Bishop Bonner went to sit in the cool of the evening’. If Bonner’s tree is not the current Bethnal Green mulberry tree, it could have been the mulberry from which a cutting was taken to propagate the current mulberry tree on this site.
The site is a conservation area, designated by Tower Hamlets council, therefore should be offered a priority when it comes to redevelopment, considering the tree is classed as a veteran tree. These days and times it is also important to promote environmental concerns when it alludes to development.

The trouble with The Bethnal Green Mulberry tree is that it is symptomatic of a malaise within our present planning system, at the same sight there are 27 mature trees to be felled, within this 27 eleven protected trees are to be felled, together with placing the entire conservation area under ecological stress.

I always believe that there is a garden in people’s minds, we may not agree with the interpretation of their garden, never less it is a person’s right to engineer their own garden. The matter of the conservation area in which The Bethnal Green Mulberry stands is that it is a natural garden, pre-ordained by at least 400 years of time. Knowing Tower Hamlets planning decision to, initially fell The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree, with its friends in the conservation area, left the local population to raise funds to save what is an iconic natural garden from extinction, the fact that the position was moved within the council to have The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree moved to another area to placate the local population, bore no weight as no guarantee could be given that the veteran tree could be saved. Raising over £20,000 for a judgment on the council’s decision was the only way forward, luckily it was found the council were in the wrong over this natural garden, it makes a statement, although an expensive one, that when it comes to urban green space, something which is becoming a rarity, we must all beware.

We should not have to fight to save nature, our gardens, whether natural or not, there should be a commonality of sense on the best way forward.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Karin, who is participating in The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.

Neorodiversity and Growing in Prison

Like many of us in prison, things in my life have not always been happy and merry. When I look back, I realise I lived most of my life trying to fake normality, often very successfully. I longed to be ‘standard’ and to fit in. I was told as a young girl that I was rude, that I needed to listen, to pay more attention, not to interrupt

A hectic and rebellious early life and many reprimands for not being normal led me to see myself as lazy, absentminded, difficult and naughty. I was bright and capable in my own way but I didn’t know it. I fought myself and tried hard to be what I thought was normal. My parents were at a loss with what to do with me and tried make me good with strict discipline,

I am now 60 and in prison. Since being in prison, I have had 2 important self-awakenings. I was diagnosed with ADHD recently which has been the most liberating moment of my life. I also have learned a new passion in growing and nurturing living plants in the glasshouses of the prison. ADHD continues to hinder my communication and make me doubt myself but learning new skills helps. In prison I have been working toward new qualifications and a new life. The Glasshouse project nurtures house plants in UK prison glasshouses and has been a true blessing, allowing me to find my own green fingers and care for myself whilst caring for living green things. Being around plants, I have found comfort and tranquility that would have been unimaginable a year ago. I think every person with ADHD would benefit from learning the intricacies of growing and gardening. It truly slows down the feelings of urgency and the outcomes are so beautiful, full of love and life.

I embrace my neurodiversity. I look back at the decisions I made in my personal and professional life that led to super-high highs and fiasco lows and I wonder if I’d known about my ADHD, or learned skills like growing, if I could have negotiated things differently, allowed my talent to overcome my deficiencies.

I am in prison and it is what it is. Every day is a struggle. Every day is also a blessing. I try to make the most of my time here. Now I recognise what I am and I accept my ‘abnormal’ way of thinking. I’m making my disability my super-natural power.

Provided by The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.  For more information or to order direct delivery of our very special house plants, visit

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Adrian Thorne, Gardener and Owner at Peerless Gardening

Adrian Thorne has recently finished the RHS Masters of Horticulture program and chose the views of professional gardeners on adapting to climate change as his final dissertation project. This blog a very cut-down version of his dissertation, but he just wanted to give people food-for-thought rather than the whole thing.

I’m fairly sure I once heard gardening described as the art of problem-solving, and I’d imagine that chimes a bell with many of us. We make do, adapt, alter, come at problems from different angles – whether doing the smallest job or the largest project. Climate change is going to require us all to adapt in a variety of ways if we are to continue the hobby we love and need. Now bear with me….I’m hoping this won’t be too depressing reading.

I’ve spent the last nine months asking professional gardeners for their views on adapting to climate change, and what happens in professional gardening often flows through into amateur gardening. We talk a lot about mitigating climate change, stopping emissions (think about electric tools and peat-free compost) but we don’t talk so much about adaptation to the changing climate (think about heavy rainfall, drainage, heat waves, droughts etc). The results have been really interesting – we are already seeing a lot of professional gardeners start to change plants for species that are more resilient to climate change, those plants that can take the temperature extremes and are perhaps a bit more resistant to new diseases.

It’s not just the plants that need to adapt – we need to be looking at adapting the hard landscaping of our gardens too. We may want to make sure paths can cope with heavy deluges of rain and don’t become an impassable bog, or consider shade areas for those hot times of the day, or the important topic of water management and rainwater harvesting.

Domestic rainwater harvesting could become a necessity for some gardens

The third area of gardening I want to encourage people to adapt is the gardener herself – we may have to think about what times we go out to work in the garden, about when professionals can work in our gardens, and what our expectations of our garden are.

Shade areas from hot sun will be important not just for plants but for the gardeners trying to work

Nearly all of these problems are surmountable, and I said at the start of this blog gardeners are very good at problem-solving. We do need to get ourselves time and space to think through the solutions and to get them in place early so we’re not caught napping. I’m hoping to continue this research to look more into how are gardens and gardeners are changing.

This Week’s Guest Blog is from The Glasshouse Project, a horticultural rehabilitation project, growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK



Provided by The Glasshouse project, a horticultural rehabilitation project growing, nurturing and selling house plants from disused prison glasshouses in the UK.  For more information or to order direct delivery of our very special house plants, visit

Many of us are aware that poor mental health is a growing concern, but not many of us know that plants can help address some of the root causes and symptoms of mental health issues. A growing number of scientific studies find that nature not only benefits our physical health, but also that the presence of houseplants in our homes, schools, hospitals and places of work can bring improved psychological wellbeing1.


Stress is a common mental health challenge that can lead to anxiety and depression2. Studies show that when plants are introduced to our indoor environment, there are significant decreases in stress. Working and living in environments that include nature, people report up to 40% less anxiety, fatigue and hostility or anger, as well as a 15% spike in reported wellbeing3.

This year, RHS Chelsea Flower Show added an area of inspiring and beautiful house plant exhibits, which illustrates the growing trend for indoor gardening. We talk to so many gardeners who have beautiful gardens, but claim they are unable to grow indoor specimens! Caring for indoor plants does take a different approach – the number one killer of house plants is over-watering which even the most able outdoor gardener might struggle to comprehend. If you would like to enjoy the benefits of nature indoors, it will require a bit of care and attention, but don’t be daunted! Plants usually come with instructions but here are some easycare, hardy plants that just might improve your mental health and increase your air quality + they are all gorgeous!


The Zebra Plant (Calathea Concinna)

This beauty is a vibrant reminder of the natural rhythm of life as it follows a circadian rhythm, spreading its leaves to the sun and moving throughout the day to maximize light intake, resting at night. This will be the easiest pet you’ll ever have!

  • Place this plant in medium bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room
  • This plant doesn’t like to be too dry, so put your finger into the soil to test and water when the top inch of soil is dry, approximately once a week.


Aloe vera

Egyptian stone carvings depict Cleopatra using this in her skin rituals and Alexander the Great conquered the African island of Socotra in order to use its aloe to treat wounded soldiers.  This plant gives all the benefits that nature offers and requires very little in return.

  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room.
  • Wipe the leaves with a wet cloth every month or so to clear dust for healthy sun absorption.
  • This plant likes it dry so water only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry to touch and ensure water drains, so roots don’t sit in water.


Monstera (Monstera deliciosa)

You’ll probably recognise this beauty as it sparked the latest interior jungle trend. It’s not just a pretty face though – NASA reports that the Monstera is one of the most effective plants for reducing air pollution.  Lucky for us, it’s also very easy to nurture.

  • Place in bright, indirect sunlight in a warm room.
  • Wipe the leaves with a wet cloth every month or so to clear dust for healthy sun absorption.
  • This plant doesn’t like to be over-watered, so err on the side of less.  Water only when the top 3 inches of soil are very dry to touch and ensure water drains, so roots don’t sit in water.
  • Mist weekly if you think of it as this plant loves a humid environment – perfect for a bathroom or kitchen!




1)    RHS:

2)    Mind:

3) Marie Claire

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Mike Rogers an Allotmenteer, Armchair Gardener, Blogger and Sofa Flying Book Buff

On the windowsill

Back in the early spring I sowed some annual flower seeds in small pots to start at home before taking them to the allotment to harden off then plant out.

They included Cosmos ‘Sonata White’, a compact shorter variety, three of which were noticeably smaller than the others. I decided to keep these at home so replanted in a 5″/12.5 cm pot to grow and hopefully flower during the summer on the living-room windowsill.
I’m glad I did as they grew to around 8″/20 cm by early June when they started flowering, and have continued to do so right through to the end of September.
At any one time there have been at least a handful of flowers showing , and I was surprised to find they have a slight fragrance which I hadn’t realized before.

I also did the same with the smallest of the sunflowers ‘Musicbox’, a knee-high variety, I grew. It had only reached 6″/15 cm by early summer then went on to just over twice that height by late August when it finally flowered, much to my delight. The flower lasted a couple of weeks when three more buds appeared, two which I pinched out leaving one to flower in mid September.
Even without flowers this sunflower looked good, remaining compact and well proportioned although it did lose a few of the lower leaves.

I had great fun growing these plants on the windowsill, was really pleased that they did so well and I’ll be trying again next year.

I write regular posts on Flighty’s plot blog  about my allotment. I’m @Sofaflyer on Twitter and in the charity’s excellent ‘Cuttings’ book