When and why did you start gardening & was gardening a big thing in your household when you were growing up?
Jim has always been a keen gardener and helped his dad as a young child in his allotment and their garden at home. He also works in the gardening retail sector. On the other, I hand started gardening when my children married and left home. I had very little interest in gardening when I was younger but loved to watch my grandfather garden on his vegetable plot. I started to help Jim out in the garden at home and loved it. A great way to relax after a busy day at work.
- With a little more time on our hands, we decided to get an allotment in 2016. Our garden at home is too small to grow vegetables and the allotment site is just a stone’s throw away from where we live in West Yorkshire.
Who else gets involved with your plot other than you two?
That first year we had a little help from family but that didn’t last long. Winter came and the family were not as enthusiastic as we were. We tend to our plot by ourselves as a rule. This year my sister has helped out as Jim is on light duties awaiting surgery later in October. We share all our harvests with family and friends.
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
We love to buy gardening magazines and watching gardening programmes and YouTube. These were our first go-to choice for learning. Instagram came a little later when we acquired a plot. There is lots of inspiration on Instagram. We made an account simply to photograph our journey. A bit like a diary. We made some lovely friendships on IG who gave oodles of advice.
How does gardening have an effect on your lifestyle?
Allotment gardening has had a huge effect on our lifestyle. It’s now become a way of life. Being out in the fresh air, whatever the weather has helped with the stresses of everyday life. We eat more vegetables than we ever have done and it’s a perfect way to get some exercise. It’s totally transformed our sense of well-being.
What did you grow this season and what’s next?
This season we grew an array of vegetables including potatoes, peas, onions, garlic, beetroot, carrots, summer and winter squash. Brassica’s included calabrese, red cabbage and kohlrabi. In the greenhouse, we grew tomatoes, peppers, chillies. We are lucky to have a polytunnel and in there we grew extra tomatoes and cucumbers. We built a herb bed in year 2 which now supplies us with all our culinary herbs. As well as that, we have a well-established fruit area that contains raspberries, red and black currants, gooseberries and blackberries. We have a small grapevine but this hasn’t produced any fruit as yet. Next season we will try out melons as we haven’t had any success with growing them in the past and some different varieties of tomatoes and squash.
What do you find most challenging in your garden/plot?
In our first-year couch grass was most challenging. Now mostly no-dig couch grass is no longer an issue. We are organic gardeners and now find slugs and snails and other creatures more of a challenge. This year magpies were our nemesis on the plot. We had to net most crops until they were big enough to hold their own.
What has been your greatest success?
Climbing courgettes have been a game-changer . Learning how to grow squash vertical too. This way of growing frees up space to grow catch crops like radish and other salad leaves underneath. Introducing flowers to the plot has been so beneficial too.
Three top tips you would give to someone starting out?
1- plan and clear your plot over the autumn and winter months. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Garden in small sections. We love raised beds as this feels less overwhelming.
2- order your seeds early and only grow what you love to eat.
3- during the winter read as much as you can and talk to other plot holders, especially those that have been there for years. They know the site and are always happy to share helpful hints and tips. Above all have some fun.
Three people, you’d recommend following on Instagram?
If you have a kitchen garden you need to follow @mrsbeesgarden and @growwithhema if you have an allotment it’s @hayleys_lottie_haven They all have had years of experience and are my inspiration to either grow something different or to grow something better.