This article has been written by Rachel McLeod for Planting Works.

As February draws to an end, the bleak winter months are nearly behind us and spring time in touching distance. After spending so much time indoors in wintry weather and lockdown, we are all looking forward to brighter days and cheery sights. Our wonderful transformation into Spring is slowly happening. Take a stroll outside in your garden or local park and catch your breath. It’s time to shake off the long winter and rejuvenate your senses. Search carefully and you will see signs of new growth on plants and shrubs. Bulbs are emerging from their winter sleep and peeping out. There are carpets of snowdrops, swathes of crocus and fresh new buds enticing us out of our winter lethargy. You’ll hear birds singing a welcome melody to better days. There are already many scented winter flowers that have appeared while you’ve been confined indoors. The transformation is magical and even seeing the tiniest daffodil poking out of the soil and hearing the birdsong will bring a smile.

The bulbs planted long ago in October will soon be revealing their beauty in an extravaganza of colour and perfume. Beneath the winter scaffold of hydrangea heads, enchanting new buds are appearing. The elegant swaying grasses have been cut back in preparation for new life. I love the colour and texture at this time of year and even the frost left on leaves and branches is wonderful. There’s still plenty of rain to keep things lush and encourage new growth. The balmy almond fragrance of Acacia dealbata (Mimosa) and flowering Sarcococcia Confusa(Sweet box) and Daphne Odora smell divine. All around the promise of new life is thrilling and gives us some much needed optimism. After being hemmed up inside for long periods of time, even short periods of time spent outside can help to lift the mood and improve mental health and wellbeing. Being outside in the garden and getting your hands in the soil can provide a welcome distraction, lower stress levels and put us back in touch with the wonders of nature.

As the days are getting longer and warmer this is the perfect time to set some goals. These could just be as simple as spending more time in the garden or even completely redesigning your outdoor spaces. The “problem area” that’s been troubling you could finally be sorted or the patch of bare grass could become a new bed or a simple new seating area. Planning ahead should start now as the ground needs to be prepared and readied for new growth.

If you’re new to this, it’s maybe time to step up and have a go. Perhaps start by nurturing a houseplant, plant a small pot of seeds of your choice on a sunny windowsill or add a new pot to your outdoor space. You could even buy a potted herb in your shopping and put it on your windowsill to nurture and add to your cooking. Starting small means that you’re not overwhelmed and once you’ve got the gardening bug who knows where you’ll stop!

For the more experienced gardening folk, maybe a review of your garden would be in hand. Walk through the garden and make some notes about your likes and dislikes – you could even do this throughout the year as the garden changes with the seasons. Is there room for a tree or a new shrub and some bulbs? Perhaps you’d like to think about colour schemes that are particularly appealing. Spend a rainy afternoon looking through books, seed catalogues or sites such as Instagram #gardening and #gardensofinstagram for inspiration for your garden. Look at Thompson and Morgan Gardening Express and Suttons for planting ideas. Think about having year round interest in the garden and of course what will grow best in the aspect of your garden. With some clever thought and research it’s possible to inject colour and interest into most areas even if it means using containers interspersed in planting areas or painting fences or garden furniture to enhance the area. You could take some photos or even do some drawing of the themes that you like so that you can reference them at a later date.

Thinking ahead to new garden projects, perhaps replanting areas of your garden or growing your own vegetables. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to serve home grown vegetables at meal times. Start with simple planting ideas such as a pot of salad leaves or spinach and think about which vegetables you frequently use and could grow. Tomatoes can be grown in containers against sunny walls and courgettes are a great place to trial ready to use “grow bags”(just cut along the bag and plant the seedling). Not only will you save money and time by growing your own, you’ll be able to give yourself a pat on the back when you gather your harvest. Involve children in this process and not only will they see where their food comes from, they may also be more willing to try new things that they’ve grown and nurtured.

So let’s all emerge from winter with a determined spring in our step and look ahead to new beginnings and better days.