Lydia Lakemoore is a qualified personal trainer, student medical herbalist and advocate of organic gardening methods. Three years ago, Lydia became part of the ownership team at The Herbalists, Jackson’s of Yorkshire and helped save it from closure. More recently, Lydia launched her own range of organic products, including organic soap and dungarees made from end-of-line fabric, which aims to support local manufacturing and dressmakers. We caught up with her to find out more about her gardening life.
When did you start gardening?
I was raised on a non-commercial farm/smallholding, so I was lucky enough to start gardening from the moment I could walk and hold a spade. It has come in and out of my life at various times but that’s what’s nice about gardening…it’s for everyone and you can just pick it back up at any age and continue your own lifetime of learning.
So gardening was a big thing in your household when you were growing up?
Yes, it was a huge part of my upbringing. We’re a big Mediterranean family who always came together for mealtimes and everyone would arrive with different homegrown ingredients or baking that we would then all share. We would have sunflower competitions and my Uncles would always bring their champion onions around to show off to my Dad. Gardening was always the thing that brought us together as a family because it was our common interest.
Who else gets involved with your plot? Is it a family affair?
I generally garden alone…or I have for most of my adult life. The little patch of land that I currently plant on has become my space to be alone with Nature. I also still help my parents do a lot of the growing on the smallholding but we all work different hours and therefore finding communal gardening time is often difficult, to be honest.
Where do you get inspiration and gardening advice from?
My late Uncle was my main garden guru growing up, he gave me all of his best-growing tips and taught me all about DIY too. He was always exceptionally giving with his time and knowledge. But I’m also heavily inspired by a lot of female gardeners that I have found on Instagram and at The Healing Garden UK, which is a botanical garden in Sussex that is female-led. It inspires me because gardening was always quite a male-dominated pastime in my household growing up and so it’s nice to find that balance.
What are you planning to grow this season?
The pumpkins and squash are currently dominating my patch. So is a huge patch of giant sunflowers, sweet peas and dahlias. I grow a lot of different foods, herbs and flowers so right now my little patch of land is bursting with life with carrots, broccoli, sweetcorn, rocket, coriander, lettuce, chard, dahlias, onions, celery, beetroots…and more!
How does gardening have an effect on your lifestyle?
Gardening is a huge part of my lifestyle. I have actively tried to connect a little more with Nature every single day and as I thoroughly enjoy learning more about how to grow and use different food/plants this has led me to study as a Medical Herbalist which has, in turn, led me to be a part of the Healing Garden.
What do you find most challenging in your garden?
This is a difficult one because I quite enjoy it when my garden throws me a challenge that must be overcome. However, I suppose there have been a lot of slugs around this year which did mean sowing my carrot seeds 4 times, as they kept getting munched.
What has been your greatest success?
I think the onions and parsnips from seed win this year…although it changes yearly!
Any big growing challenges you plan to take on in the future?
I’ve just joined the team at the Healing Garden which is a Botanical Garden in Forest Row, Sussex that focuses on botany, ecology and herbal medicine. Everything there is grown biodynamically so I’ve been doing a lot of biodynamic growing recently as I continue on my little never-ending mission to improve my growing skills.
Three top tips you would give someone starting out?
1) Find your North: Where is your North, South, East and West? Plants need full sun, partial shade, full shade etc. Therefore you need to know the movement of the sun over your plot/garden in order to utilise these movements that literally enable your plants to grow.
2) Stop digging: going ‘no dig’ increases your soil quality and involves a lot less work!
3) Let Nature in: allow and trust Nature to care for your land with you. The more wildlife you allow into your garden the less work you will have to do yourself. We can’t fight Nature, trust me, we’ll never win!