working from home
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

WFH Break Busters

15 minute working from home coffee break tasks

Now that more of us are working from home it’s tempting just to shuffle between the computer and the kettle but it’s essential for our health that we get proper breaks. There are plenty of small jobs you can do outside in a 15 minute coffee break; not only are you getting some much needed fresh air and a little bit of exercise but you are also on the road to having fresh veg and a glorious garden.

  • Plant a tub with herbs and place it beside the barbecue, they can take your grilling to the next level. A pot of Mediterranean herbs gives you a good selection for a range of family favourites. All you need is a large container, place a piece of crock or flat stone over the hole in the bottom and fill with a peat-free compost, such as John Innes No 1. This contains very little plant food, if you give herbs too much feed, they will grow too lush and the flavour won’t be as intense. Try growing rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, chives and basil together.
  • Grow some salad leaves on a warm sunny windowsill, they are expensive in the supermarket and so easy to grow. All you need is a plastic punnet, the sort you get your fruit in from the supermarket, some seed compost and a packet of mixed salad leaves. Fill the punnet with compost, sow some seeds over the top, scatter a very little compost over the top, stand in water until the compost is damp (about 5 minutes), place on a sunny windowsill and keep just damp until they are ready to harvest.
  • Try growing your own chillies, you will need somewhere warm and south facing. You will need a heated propagator, seed tray, seed compost and seeds. Fill the seed tray with compost and sow the seed thinly over the surface they cover with a very thin layer of compost. Stand the tray in water until the compost is damp then place in the propagator and place the propagator in a sunny position.
  • Sort out the garden furniture and check to see that it is fit to last through the summer. Give it a wash down when you have a little more time.
  • Take some photos of problem areas to mull over when you have a little more time and come up with a plan to make your outdoor space more user friendly and improve a problem area.
  • Look where the spring bulbs are coming up and note any empty gaps then you have an idea of what to order when they come into garden centres in August or else nip to the garden centre at the weekend and see if they have any spring bulbs growing in pots.
  • Cut back that overgrown shrub, it’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes.
  • Check the BBQ to make sure it works and if anything is worn get the parts ordered. Start doing a ‘low and slow’ cook in the morning and it’ll be ready for the evening. While it’s on cook a quick sandwich on it for lunch. Click here to see how to cook a tasty beef, onion, pickle and mustard sandwich.
  • Plant some primulas in a container to add a bit of colour to your outdoor space. All you need is a 6 pack of primulas, widely available in garden centres and your supermarket, a large container and multi-purpose compost. Fill the container with compost, make a hole in the compost and pop in a plant, firm in and water.
  • Sow aubergine seeds, early spring is the time to do this but you will need a greenhouse in which to grow them as they need to be as warm as possible. You will need seeds, seed compost, seed tray and a heated propagator. Fill the tray with compost, scatter the seed thinly, cover with a very thin layer of compost, stand in a tray of water until the compost is damp and place in the heated propagator. Site the propagator somewhere light.
  • Just chill and watch nature, take your coffee and just sit and don’t think about work. Place a bird feeder far enough away that you don’t frighten the birds but close enough to see what visits. Make sure you can also see them from your home office space.
  • Dig over the veg plot for 15 minutes; if you do this on every break before you know it the plot will be ready for the first seeds when the soil is warm enough.
vegetable bed
  • Spend 15 minutes making some quick sketches for a garden make-over and jotting down any random ideas. When you have more time, you can pull them all together and formulate a proper plan and work schedule.
  • Prune back summer flowering shrubs and climbers like hydrangea, clematis and wisteria. These can be done one at a time and before long you’ll have done them all and have a stunning summer show.
  • Sweep off worm casts; if worms are starting to make a mess on your lawn just sweep the soil thinly over the grass.
  • Re-pot a houseplant; if your houseplant has roots coming out of the bottom and water goes straight through when you water it probably needs a bit more space. You will need a pot one size larger than the pot it is in and some houseplant compost. Place a little compost on the bottom of the pot then put the plant into it with the surface at the same level as it was in the old pot. Just add compost around the outside and firm in with your fingers, tap the pot on the bench a couple of times to fill in the air holes. Water. 
streptocarpus
  • Sweep the patio and hoe out weeds from between paving stones.
  • Read a seed catalogue outside in the fresh air and have a go at growing something different.
  • Plant a container of scented plants next to your seating area. If you’re not very good at combining plants together just go for a single species such as lavender, which is also calming.
  • Plant a perennial container; a container of shrubs and herbaceous perennials can be cheaper than continually replacing bedding plants and can look just as stylish. You will need a large container at least 45cm (18”) in diameter, good quality peat-free multi-purpose compost, such as John Innes No 3, a small piece of broken crock to cover the hole in the bottom of the pot and 5 medium sized plants. You will need one tall plant, such as a cordyline, small tall slim conifer or a hebe, two medium sized plants, these can be small shrubs or herbaceous perennials. Finally, you need two smaller herbaceous perennials which will trail over the edge of the container such as perennial geraniums or ivies. If the container is going against a wall you can substitute the tall shrub for a climber which can grow against a trellis attached to the wall. If you don’t have the confidence to put together a planting combination just plant with a single species such as lavender or ornamental  grasses such as Hakonechloa.
Hebe Caledonia
Hebe 'Caledonia'