Gardening is a great tonic, but don't force it if you don't feel like it, says Ruth

It’s great to be out in the garden again because I sort of lost my mojo last week. Maybe it was because despite the sunshine we were buffeted by a cuttingly keen northeast wind, or maybe it was because for the first time I was starting to feel quite overwhelmed by the ongoing virus situation.

I know we keep saying that gardening is wonderful for giving a tremendous physical and mental boost – and it is – but if you don’t feel like it, don’t force yourself and don’t feel guilty.

It’s OK not to be OK the whole time and anyone who tells you to buck up and find that stiff upper lip needs to give themselves a good talking to. We are all entitled to wobble because these are strange and uncharted times and we have been going through them for what seems like forever.

Hopefully we have someone we can turn to for support, but if you feel alone or you are concerned about someone else, please don’t forget The Samaritans.

They are there 24 hours a day, every day to listen and support, and their number is 116 123, free to call.

You can also email them at and find further details at

Cut forsythia straight after flowering for great blooms next year

If you do feel like getting into the garden, this is a good time to be cutting back plants that have already flowered.

I have already tackled our forsythia and given that a good trim, because its bosom forms on the previous year’s growth and I want it to have as long as possible to produce flowering shots.

I also cut back our winter heather which usually starts flowering from early February right through to early May, forming a massive pink cushion that gives a wonderful blast of early colour as well a important first food for post-hibernation bumblebee queens.

Lightly shear off the dead flowers without cutting into the mature wood beneath

It doesn’t need much to keep it in order, just a gentle trim with the shears to remove the brown, finished flowers and make way for new growth. The main plant is so large it’s hard to feed afterwards so I usually leave a few f the trimmings to fall through it and enrich the soil.

Two other new heathers, planted this year, are way too small for the shears so they get a trim from the secateurs.

Deadheading will keep this exhausted pulmonaria in good shape

On my garden wander I also noticed a pulmonaria (lungwort) that had finished flowering, was starting to topple outwards and had fallen foul of powdery mildew, a fungal problem caused by dry soils and still air.

So I removed the flower stems to create a tighter, neater clump, and fed and watered the plant which will hopefully now revive and may even flower again.

Stay safe, take care, and happy gardening.


Keeping the roots damp can help prevent plant stress powdery mildew


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Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.

Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

John Negus, questions, answers

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Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at:

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Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

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