One of the things that has helped many households to cope with the COVID-19 lockdown rules has been the weather, with most of the UK basking in sunshine for much of March and most of April too.
That has meant individuals, couples and families have all been able to make the most of any outside space they might have, from yards and driveways, to balconies, terraces and back gardens.
So it’s no surprise that some great British ingenuity has gone into using those outdoor areas in ways you might not normally imagine – proving just how versatile even a humble garden can be.
Some of the most high-profile uses of gardens have been charity fundraisers, including of course Captain Tom Moore, who hoped to raise £1,000 by walking 100 lengths of his garden before reaching his 100th birthday at the end of April.
In fact he smashed his target in less than a day and had raised around the £30 million mark by his birthday on April 30th.
Not bad going for walking laps of a 25-metre garden, and a true testament to how the British public took the war veteran in his back garden to their hearts.
Some Brits have adopted a very literal interpretation of the social distancing rules – after all, as long as you’re two metres from your neighbours, you’re staying within the guidelines.
To continue socialising despite social distancing, some have removed fence panels that divide their gardens, allowing them to chat while staying several metres apart.
Other families have placed their kids’ trampolines at the appropriate distance either side of the garden fence, allowing the children to keep each other company while getting their daily exercise by synchronising their bouncing.
We’re all likely to face a prolonged period of restrictions on socialising, especially in groups and in smaller spaces, but again this highlights the innovative approach Brits have taken to enjoying their gardens together while staying the correct distance apart.
Finally, with more entertainment events taking place from artists’ homes, everyone from amateurs to the rich and famous have been gigging from their gardens.
Elton John’s performance on the One World: Together at Home concert is probably the most viral video to come from this trend of garden gigs, but he’s not the only one to take his music outdoors.
In March, the BBC reported the story of musician Liz Hanks from Sheffield, who had organised a series of solo performances by people in their own gardens, to be enjoyed by their neighbours who might be self-isolating or simply social distancing.
“At this time, we really just need these good things to happen in our daily lives,” she told the broadcaster, adding that she hoped more such performances might take place across the city of Sheffield and nationwide.
The headline advice from the government during the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is to stay at home – but what does that mean for people who have a garden?
First of all it’s important to know the difference between social distancing, shielding and self-isolation:
In either of the first two categories, there are no restrictions on enjoying your private outdoor space such as a garden or back yard, and getting fresh air is important.
But can you go in the garden during self-isolation? The short answer is yes, you can.
The NHS advice about going outside while self-isolating may come as a surprise – although you should not have visitors to your home and should have food and medicines delivered rather than going out to buy them, you are still allowed to take your one period of exercise per day.
However, you should be extra careful to avoid contact with other people, and stay well over the recommended six feet or two metres from anyone you see.
Importantly if you have a garden of your own, you are absolutely allowed to use it as normal – the only exception is if you live with other people.
If you don’t live alone, self-isolation can be more difficult. If you are the one displaying symptoms, you must stay at home for seven days, or until your symptoms have gone, whichever takes longer.
The other people in your household should also self-isolate, but for twice as long – at least 14 days, plus a further seven days from the onset of symptoms for any individual who becomes infected.
You might want to minimise direct contact with the other people in your household, especially elderly relatives, to reduce the risk of them becoming infected.
If so, remember to factor this into your use of the garden. Evidence suggests you are less likely to transmit COVID-19 in open spaces, so in good weather you might prefer to sit outside with your family, but stick to the two metres of separation if possible.
Fresh air and exercise are an important part of staying healthy and recovering from illness, especially if COVID-19 leaves you feeling short of breath and generally fatigued.
Self-isolating alone can be challenging but the rules are much clearer. Self-isolating with other family members is more complicated, so do your best to minimise contact and stay home – in your house or in your garden – as much as you can.
Some people actually enjoy cutting the grass, but for the rest of us, robot lawnmowers are rapidly becoming a reality.
Just like the Roomba revolutionised vacuuming floors, the Husqvarna Automower is doing the same for natural grass lawns.
Best of all, it’s an eco-friendly way to keep your grass trimmed, making the robot lawnmower an ethical option.
For proof of the robotic lawn mower’s eco credentials, look no further than the Eden Project, which has been using the robot lawnmower to maintain its outdoor grass arena since summer 2018.
At the time, specialist horticulturalist at the project Niki Hall said: “The arena is now in top condition and this allows more time for the horticulture team to spend in other areas rather than cutting the lawns.
“It is quiet and unobtrusive, though very funky – like a Formula One mower. It has no emissions and low energy consumption. It can also be used in all weathers.”
The Eden Project were won over particularly by the low noise output of this type of lawn mower, and by its ability to cut the grass autonomously overnight when no guests were on-site.
If the Eden Project’s robot lawnmower is an F1 car, then the recently launched Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD is more like the Batmobile.
With its rugged, tank-like construction, all-wheel drive capabilities and twin headlights, it is every bit a mini sports car just for cutting your lawn.
It can work at day or night with noise output of just 62 dB, on slopes of up to 70 degrees – that’s the same as a ski slope – and connects with AI assistants including Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
You can even write your own programs to control the robot lawnmower via its open API or IFTTT (If This, Then That).
Robots are (not always, but usually) the enemy in sci-fi movies and you might not expect having a mini self-driving Batmobile equipped with rotary blades would be the best idea for your lawn.
Surprisingly though, the way a robotic lawn mower works can be even better for lawns than regular mowing with a conventional lawnmower.
It cuts ‘little and often’, leaving the clippings behind as it goes. That means grass is not overly stressed and nutrients are not lost – the cut grass acts as a natural fertiliser, prompting thicker, greener regrowth.
Because it runs on batteries, there are no direct emissions from the mower – and if you use carbon-neutral energy to recharge it, there should be no net carbon footprint as a result of its use.
Finally, the all-weather construction means the plucky little robot will happily give your lawn a trim in torrential rain, with equally good results – and if you’d prefer it not to, you can connect remotely from anywhere in the world and tell it to take the day off!