As normality ground to a halt, with the onset of lockdown in March, gardening offered ‘quiet’ and ‘tranquility’ amid the ‘doom and gloom’ of the pandemic. 

Gardening has been proven to bring positive, restorative effects to one’s mental health. Scientific research shows that its restorative qualities can provide helpful support amid stress, helping people to relax. It also furthers people’s self esteem, connecting us to nature and giving us responsibility. This can have a positive effect on some people’s anxiety, giving them the space to feel free, without the negative connotations of social settings. Gardening can also enhance one’s mindfulness, by focusing one’s attention on the present moment. 

In March, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would be going into lockdown, in order to reduce the infection rate of COVID-19. The onset of lockdown was detrimental to people’s mental health. One local resident described ‘missing the fresh air’ and finding herself ‘looking through the window’ in order to retain ‘contact and connection’ with the outside. Beyond the immediate isolation felt, many were worried about losing their jobs and becoming unemployed, and the effect that could have on their financial wellbeing. Lockdown has also been detrimental to people’s mental health by diminishing people’s coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, by stopping them from meeting friends and family. 

However, one keen local gardener said that lockdown had given him the ability to spend time doing ‘tonnes’ in his garden, giving him ‘something to do’. He described gardening during lockdown as ‘a way to get outside’ and to ‘relax rather than sit indoors’. He agreed that gardening had offered him respite amid the pandemic chaos by giving ‘an opportunity to put your energy and mind somewhere else’. He also observed that many on his street spent time in their gardens and did find that gardening gave ‘a focus [...] to take one’s mind off whatever was going on’. He added that his garden served as a space for ‘quiet’ and ‘tranquility’, giving him time away from the ‘doom and gloom’ and allowing him a ‘breakout space’ where he ‘didn’t have to be reading the news’. In terms of the act of gardening, he felt it did have a mindful aspect in that it allowed him to learn ‘new skills’, giving him a sense of achievement and ‘satisfaction of seeing what you’ve done come to fruition’. 

Despite the beneficial, restorative effects this keen gardener felt about his garden, especially during lockdown, he did mention that he felt ‘bad’ for those without a garden, since they wouldn’t be able to experience the same respite as he had felt from his garden. One local resident who, although having some outdoor space, didn’t have the equipment to initiate gardening. She commented that she ‘miss[ed] the fresh air’ and had to rely on what she could do ‘at this moment’. However, she did manage to ‘space’ herself out, even without the beneficial impacts of gardening. She described her walks as ‘giving a lot of benefit’ and commented that they ‘lifted’ her and ‘gave her energy’, as well as having ‘inspired’ her. Because of living in an urban environment, without a garden on her doorstep, she said that lockdown made her ‘more aware of nature’ and made her appreciate the ‘loveliness of nature’ because of the ‘slowing down’. She admitted that there had been a ‘lot of distraction’ prior to lockdown, which had prevented the mindfulness she felt during lockdown. However, she also commented that lockdown had an ‘impact’ in that, even on her walks, she felt that the ‘preoccupation of avoiding people [...] and then maybe getting ill [had] held [her] back’. She also admitted that this anxiety had become stronger since the infection rates began to rise recently and said that her walks, despite their restorative effects, were a source of worry. She recently ‘became more conscious of bumping into people’ and became more ‘worried about keeping a [social] distance’. She did say that gardening could have big positive effects on one’s mental health and that when she did pot some plants, she felt ‘good’. The combined experience of isolation and growing appreciation of nature as a result of lockdown made her realise that gardening can have a positive effect and that ‘gardening entails care, it entails growth, [and] it entails the senses’ and so realised that ‘there is a lot gardening gives’. 

Lockdown, despite its many negative effects, has given people the time and space to appreciate nature, especially through gardening. It has also made people realise how it can benefit their mental health and provide respite amid a crisis. This has, in turn, inspired more people to be a part of the mindful, ‘renewed experience’ of gardening and nature, making them more aware of the outdoors and its nature. This appreciation and awareness could have a lasting impact on their wellbeing and could, perhaps, make our society more aware of the nature we have at our doorsteps, positively impacting the community.