Meet Steve Newland, a father of three and avid gardener from Wakefield. His love for gardening has seen his hobby grow from his back garden to two allotments!
Hi Steve, when did you start gardening?
Had an allotment for nearly 20 years but loved my garden before that.
Was gardening a thing in your household when you were growing up?
Yes definitely – my dad was very proud of his lawns but mum has always been (and still is) the keen gardener. I’m still learning things from her
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
Mostly me and Mrs N with very occasional ‘help’ aka picking and eating from my grown-up children
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
From mum, reading and the web but also the vast amount of hints, tips, ideas, and general ‘what I’m doing now’ posts on Instagram
What are you planning to grow this season?
I got a second allotment last June so this year is the first full year I have extra space. I plan to grow lots of the usual things – potatoes, carrots, beetroot, beans, peas, cabbages, kale but also lots of tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouses. Oh yes and loads of garlic, leeks and onions. I love onions.
How does gardening have an effect on your lifestyle?
I resigned from my job just before covid became a thing and haven’t gone back to work since. Gardening has been the perfect pastime to fill all the extra hours I now have – so much so I’ve decided not to work full time ever again. Being outside in all weathers makes me feel so alive and I can’t wait to get out to the garden or the plots after being like a caged tiger during spells when I’m stuck indoors
What do you find most challenging in your garden?
It’s always a challenge to grow tomatoes outside due to blight so I’d love more greenhouse or poly space. I’m rubbish at growing carrots but an improving. Also swede and turnip doesn’t seem to grow well for me and onion seedlings usually die 🤣 No idea why but that’s gardening
What has been your greatest success?
I think learning to improve my soil by going No-Dig and understanding the importance of feeding your soil with manure, compost and natural mulches. In the past, I just used to throw fertilisers around and hope for the best and it’s just not sustainable and doesn’t work. In terms of veg, I have to say growing heirloom tomatoes. I adore the colours and flavours.
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
I think this is really the second allotment I got last year. It is still a huge job to tame. It was full of plastic, old rubbish, bindweed and thistle and I’m slowly reclaiming it and converting to NoDig beds with wood chip paths. I would love to have a small plot of land of my own but that’s a dream.
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
There are so many good tips but having had an allotment for so long I’ve seen so many people get one and give up so my advice would be firstly accept it will take time and hard work, don’t expect things to be perfect in the first or second years. Secondly – the old cliche of ‘a bit at a time’ this is really important as getting a small area really well prepared and ready is far better than trying to get everything only part done. Get a small section ‘perfect’ and move on to the next bit. It’s amazing how the progress spurs you on to do more. Lastly, enjoy the journey, it’s a never-ending one and learns to grow only the things you and your family love to eat.
Three people you’d recommend following on Instagram?
This is so hard as there are so many wonderful gardeners out there. For inspiration growing in an urban setting like a balcony, there’s nobody better than @thefrenchiegardener
For beautiful flowers and fabulous factoids it has to be @rudge_yorkshire_gardener and
for the daily feel-good factor, laughs, great pictures and a dog who never tires of chasing squirrels (but never catches them) it’s the lovely @mrsbeesgarden