After a long incredibly wet winter, followed by a cool, damp and grey start to spring, many gardeners are feeling a bit disheartened and the worse for wear. Poor weather conditions mean that some winter projects such as pruning apple trees were impossible to complete (who wants to prune trees in a gale?!), and many early plantings were submerged by floods or munched by giant slugs.

I am dreaming of eating homegrown sun-ripened strawberries, reclining in the hammock on warm sunny afternoons …. however the view today from my desk is driving rain, high winds and very soggy sheep!

It’s good to keep positive and focus on a productive growing year, but it is also important to remember our well being. The garden won’t thrive unless we are taking care of ourselves too.

Nature is healing

Getting outside and into the garden is excellent for mental health. Being amongst green spaces can reduce stress and anxiety, whilst also increasing your physical wellbeing. Even on the gloomiest of days, spending some time in nature can boost physical and mental health. It is surprising how even the greyest day is much brighter once you step outside.

Here are some more ideas for regenerating the gardener, putting a spring in our steps and a smile on our faces.

Call it a “Wildlife Garden”

Most of us will have plenty of unfinished projects in the garden this spring, and areas which are somewhat battered after a record breaking 12 storms here in the UK. It isn’t humanly possible to do everything - sowing, planting, harvesting, work, family/social life, hobbies and rescue all of the winter damage during springtime, so my advice is to prioritise what really does need to be done - sowing parsnips or putting up bean frames. Ignore what you can’t do now, and call that a “wildlife garden’.

This immediately makes you an eco-warrior and transforms an untidy space into a beneficial area for the wild creatures!

Social media vs real life

I love looking at beautiful images on social media, whether its gorgeous reels of idyllic cottages, immaculate productive kitchen gardens with nary a slug in sight, or store cupboards filled with homemade seasonal preserves that miraculously seem to have been made in a spare five minutes between baking sour dough bread and hand-sowing a gingham frock.

They can be an entertaining break in the day, but it is really important for your well being not to compare your lifestyle, home and garden with these carefully curated glimpses into someone else’s “life”.

They’re not showing you the pile of laundry shoved into the cupboard, pizza boxes in the recycling or the five trays of transplants that were munched by pests!

Some perfect plots are managed by people who have a team of employees, or don’t have to go out to work, look after children or similar commitments, or have a large private income. There is literally no way most of us can emulate it even if we want to, so enjoy the lovely pictures and then be happy with how much you do manage to achieve in your plot.

Enjoy a new project

An excellent way of re-energising and lifting the spirits is to plan a new project. This could be a larger scale project, such as creating a wildlife pond or planting a new cut flower bed, or something much smaller such as making a hoverfly lagoon in an old yogurt pot (see link to You Tube tutorial) or a bee drinking pool in a saucer.

Your new project doesn’t need to cost anything. Gardeners are a resourceful lot and will cheerfully rise to the challenge of making things using other people’s discarded junk.

An excellent project which combines thrifty resourcefulness, caring for nature, and tidying up the garden is to make a “dead hedge”. This structure can be as homespun or as fancy as you wish. You just need some strong stakes for the vertical framework, to hold it all together, and twiggy bits, prunings, etc.

Cut the stakes to the height that you want the hedge to be, plus and extra 10cm or so where they’ll go into the ground. Decide where you want the dead hedge to be, and how wide, and knock the vertical stakes into the ground at approximately 50cm intervals, on each side of the hedge. These will hold the cuttings etc in place.

Layer the twiggy material in between the stakes, gradually building it up. Over time they’ll rot down, so you can just keep adding more twiggy bits as you’re pruning throughout the year.

The dead hedge provides a habitat for insects, birds and mammals. Some add nesting boxes to tall dead hedges, or hedgehog houses at the bottom.


After a long day gardening, take some time to relax with homemade bath salts using garden herbs and flowers.

These also make a lovely soothing foot soak if you don’t have a bath. Plastic washing up bowls make super foot baths.

Makes 10 bath sachets

You’ll need:

  • a regular tea cup (to use as a measure), the sort your granny would use
  • a bowl to mix it all in
  • some non-holey odd socks and string, or cotton/muslin circles (use a dinner plate as a template when cutting out), or re-usable muslin/cotton bags (make your own, or buy online).


  • 2 cups epsom salts
  • 1 cup sea salt (or Himalayan pink rock salt for a splash of colour)
  • I cup of dried lemon balm or lemon verbena
  • 1 cup of dried lavender
  • 1 cup of dried calendula
  • 1 cup of dried rose petals
  • 1 cup of chamomile

To make

Mix together the dried herbs and flowers and salts in the bowl.

Divide the mix equally and pour into the cotton bags or socks, if using. Tie with string.

Alternatively, place the herb and salt mixture in the middle of the cotton circles, gather the sides up around it - a bit like a Christmas pudding - and tie with string.

To use, swish a bag around in the warm water when running a bath to release the fragrance and relaxing salts.

These make great gifts too.

Ring the changes by using whatever herbs you have in your garden. You can use fresh herbs, but these won’t keep and can go mouldy, so just make a smaller amount for each bath, and use fresh.

Tips for if you don’t have dried herbs ready

Tip: Visit international food shops for an excellent economical source of dried rose petals, which are an important ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. They are much cheaper than buying from a whole food shop.

Another Tip: There is no shame in opening up herbal tea bags and using the contents in your mix! Polish stores often have an excellent range of herbal teas which are much cheaper than supermarkets. Usually the lemon balm tea is sold as “Melissa”.



About Stephanie:

Stephanie Hafferty is an award winning garden and food writer, expert no dig gardener, homesteader, edible garden designer and inspirational public speaker. Stephanie is currently creating a no dig homestead on half an acre in West Wales, where she runs gardening courses:

Her garden was featured on BBC Gardeners’ World in 2022. Her books include: No Dig Organic Home and Garden and The Creative Kitchen: seasonal plant based recipes using ingredients you can grow on an allotment.

Follow her journey on her blog, Instagram and You Tube

Website and blog :


You Tube Channel:


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