THERE has been a gardening boom under lockdown and people have been buying in trees and houseplants in huge numbers.

Across the UK, people have planted 322 million more plants this year than in 2019 as a result of being in lockdown, according to the DIY chain Homebase.

People have planted 183 per cent more trees and spent on average three more hours a week in their gardens, the company found.

Homebase said people have invested £102 each in sprucing up their outdoor areas, which adds up to £5.4 billion across the county.

The company said even those without an outdoor space have been getting green-fingered – the average person bought two new houseplants in the last three months.

All Homebase branches in the UK – including its store in Hove – are now open, with social distancing measures in place.

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But Homebase fears business will start to flag as restrictions are lifted.

In a survey, it found 36 per cent of people in the UK will tend to their garden less as lockdown eases.

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The company is urging people not to neglect their gardens and has launched a campaign called the Great British Green Up. The retailer has created a series of how-to videos, featuring the BBC’s Instant Gardener Danny Clarke, to give budding and established gardeners advice.

Stephen Pitcher from Homebase said: “The Great British Green Up is our way of inviting the nation to keep up the good work they’ve been doing in their gardens. Whether you were born with green fingers, or have just potted your first plant, the Homebase website is full of handy hints and simple changes you can make.

“It has been a joy to see our customers get out and enjoy their gardens in the last few months. We know in the challenging times we’ve lived through gardening can be brilliant for mental and physical health, and it’s very heartening to see the impact that is having on the environment as well.”

The company said it also hopes a sustained gardening boom will benefit wildlife. It has seen a 15 per cent increase in sales of flowering perennial plants, which are ideal for bees and butterflies, and it said the trees it has sold will provide a haven for birds and even small animals like hedgehogs.

Professor Sir Ian L Boyd, of the University of St Andrews, said: “Scientific studies show clearly that gardens are an important resource for pollinators like bumble bees, honeybees, solitary bees and hoverflies.

“Urban landscapes where gardeners have intentionally planted flowers which attract pollinators are very likely to be contributing to sustaining pollinators, and trees and other shrubs also provide cover and food for other species.

“The data showing increased attention to gardens and planting of flowers which attract pollinators during the current lockdown is to be greatly welcomed.

“We need to build on the few benefits from the lockdown and it would be good to see this new interest in gardens sustained into the future.”