Nothing tastes quite as good as homegrown vegetables and many chefs have taken to growing their own seasonal vegetables and unusual herbs. Anna Greenland and has been responsible for setting up veg gardens and growing the highest quality organic food for the kitchens of star chefs, Raymond Blanc, Tom Aikens and Jamie Oliver and she was head gardener at Soho Farmhouse. Anna created the vegetable, fruit and herb gardens from scratch. She is now turning her own patch of land in Suffolk into a productive market garden and beautiful potager. From here she cooks fresh, seasonal food and creates herbal preparations to support her well-being. She shares her passion for herbs, organic growing and cooking through classes, collaborations and social media.
When did you start gardening?
How much knowledge of gardening did you have when you started?
A little from my parents but was pretty ‘green’!
Was gardening a thing in your household when you were growing up?
Yes – I come from a long line. My Grandmother was a great inspiration, gardening into her 90’s. And my parents were keen gardeners with an allotment for many years.
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
My little girl helps (or hinders!) who is nearly 2. My husband is also coming round to it and gaining an appreciation.
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
Instagram is a good source for visual inspiration.
Otherwise trusty old books – Charles Dowding is my go-to for veg growing advise. I also love my cookery books and let them guide what I grow. Mark Diacono and Sarah Raven have been great for this.
What are you planning to grow this season?
I’m concentrating on getting my plot ready for next year. It’s a brand new site so am ensuring I get the soil right first with green manures and good compost. I’ve been growing lots of lovely tomatoes and cucumbers in my polytunnel.
How does gardening have an affect on your lifestyle?
I couldn’t live without it. It puts me in a great mood and supports my health with exercise and nutritious food.
What do you find most challenging in your garden?
My new site was conventionally farmed for many years so the soil is going to be a challenge due to compaction and lack of soil life.
Dogs and babies are also an ongoing challenge, destroying seedlings and pulling off flower heads.
What has been your greatest success?
I set up the Productive gardens from scratch at Soho Farmhouse – turning a muddy field into an abundant garden. It was really tough but I’m glad I challenged myself to do this. But equally I measure success by creating little havens and thriving ecosystems in smaller spaces. Anything that gives back to the wildlife and soil around us, leaving a plot more alive and vibrant than when you found it, I feel is an achievement.
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
This current site in Suffolk is a huge challenge – an acre of land to bring back to life and the setting up of garden school to run courses.
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
Get proper hands on experience as well as courses and books. Find a local community garden or organic farm to volunteer/work on and if possible, find yourself a mentor.
Nurture you soil. It is where it all begins.
Don’t be too tidy! Work with the natural world. Encourage wildlife into your garden and build healthy, diverse ecosystems.
Three people you’d recommend following on Instagram?