It is time to re-open Britain’s garden centres.

As we are now into the fourth week of lockdown, we should be carefully considering our mental health.

If we still need people to stay at home, and we do, but we don’t want them to go stir crazy then gardening, planting and growing is an obvious solution.

This is the case not only for those of lucky enough to have a garden. People in flats have window boxes and other means of growing plants.

The lockdown is killing an industry worth around £1.5 billion.

The UK’s 2,000 garden centres do almost half of their trading – around 40% – in these critical spring months of March, April and May.

But sadly, more plants and shrubs are being pulped on a huge scale with every passing day.

According to the Horticultural Trade Association, plants worth £200 million plants will have to be destroyed if the lockdown on garden centres continues beyond the end of May.

The Association says that if garden centres aren’t open by the end of June, they will have lost nearly £700 million in plant sales alone.

Unlike other industries, which can store stock and will recover once this crisis is over, plants are perishable. Once gone, they are lost forever.

Boyd Douglas Davies, president of the HTA, has urged the government to allow garden centres to re-open as soon as possible. He says: “This is a quick and easy way for the Government to give something back to the public. If you’re asking them to stay at home for a long time, give them something to do in their garden.”

It is no coincidence that supermarkets have been storing more plants. Waitrose, for example, more than doubled its sales of plants over the Easter weekend compared to last year.

This eases some of the pressure on the country’s nurseries, but not by much.

But the argument is not only economic. Our gardens keep us sane. They are a place to connect with nature, a place to unwind, to enjoy the birdsong (is it just me, or has that got louder as human activity has decreased?) and to give us a sense of perspective.

The food shops are open, but our gardens are food for the soul.

You might think gardening is a pastime for the elderly, but this only tells a small part of the story. Our gardens are essential for all of us, not least our children. While we’re “home schooling”, what could be better, and highly educational, than to plant together ?

In practical terms, lifting the lockdown on garden centres would be simple, following the lead of supermarkets.

Entry could be tightly controlled, limiting the number of customers  shopping at any one time. Perspex screens could protect staff, with trollies regularly disinfected. Social distancing could be enforced, and so could one-way walking.

In fact, garden centres would be safer than supermarkets: they are larger, and mostly outdoors. Opening up garden centres would allow them to move stock and start paying suppliers, to get the chain moving again and employees working.

In the first instance, the government should permit the most basic of services – letting the public buy plants, essential gardening equipment and pet care products that are being sold elsewhere in shops and supermarkets that have stayed open. Of course, garden centre cafes would have to remain closed.

Gardening is a centuries-old tradition in this country, a tradition that lies at the very heart of what is means to be British. What better time to get our garden centres open once again to feed the soul ?

Glen Oglaza is a former Sky News political correspondent.