Julia Parker loves to grow fruit and veg from her garden on the borders of East & West Sussex and has managed to turn a hobby into a career She runs gardening workshops in her local area and is the author of The Little Grower’s Cookbook. Her Instagram feed @parkers_patch is one of our favourites for gardening inspiration so we caught up with her to find out a little more about her journey.
When did you start gardening?
From a very young age helping my father stake his dahlias, my job was to fill terracotta pots with straw and place them upside down on the stakes to catch the earwigs.
Was gardening a thing in your household when you were growing up?
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
Mainly me although the family love to eat the produce!
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
Everywhere, magazines, RHS and the Instagram gardening community plus there is nothing better than learning the hard way, trial and error.
What are you planning to grow this season?
First, early potatoes have just finished so planting courgettes and pumpkins in their place, luffas planted out, birdhouse gourd in the greenhouse, had huge success with this last year and now have two homegrown birdhouses hanging up. I have peas, beans, artichokes, chard, sweetcorn, mangetout, lettuce, onions including giant onions for a local competition amongst neighbours, cauliflowers, parsnips, broccoli and leeks for the winter ahead. Figs, yellow raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, peaches, pears, apples, greengages, rhubarb and plums. I do grow a lot of different varieties but not too much of anything as I try to avoid a glut.
How does gardening have an effect on your lifestyle?
Hugely, the moment I step outside, especially to the veg patch I feel relaxed and although we are not self-sufficient we do eat healthily from the garden, fresh is definitely best. I also think it has taught my children to eat and cook well, eating seasonally.
What do you find most challenging in your garden?
Keeping up with weeding in the summer months so I cram the beds full to reduce any spare soil keeping weeds away and I always sow too much so I am constantly looking for a spot to squeeze an extra lettuce in.
What has been your greatest success?
Probably eating peaches from the garden and growing a birdhouse gourd from seed.
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
I am considering another bed in the veg patch as I always run out of room for the dahlias I wish to grow.
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
Don’t start with too many beds; only grow things you or your family like to eat. If something doesn’t grow well don’t blame yourself it could be poor quality seed or weather conditions so don’t give up. Learn how to save seeds, it’s fun and easy and costs nothing.
Three people you’d recommend following on Instagram?
Any feedback on your experience of using Natural Grower?
I loved this product for all sorts of reasons namely it’s organic. I tried it for the first time last year on the asparagus patch. As soon as I opened the bag I thought the consistency was great, it’s peat-free, didn’t smell and was light and easy to apply, my asparagus this year is better than ever.