A Huge Learning Curve

A Huge Learning Curve

In this week’s Garden Story, we spoke to @Marie 4_muddy_boots who shared with us her gardening journey. From spending all their spare time clearing out the totally overgrown plot they got back in 2016 to learning about organic methods of gardening, Marie reflects on a journey that has been an invaluable learning curve.

A-huge-learning-curve-3Reflecting on how her love for gardening really began, Marie says how she started helping out her husband, Jim, in the garden. “Jim has always been a keen gardener and helped his dad as a young child at his allotment and their garden at home. He has always worked in the gardening retail sector. I started gardening much later in life. I had very little interest in gardening when I was younger but I did love to watch my grandfather garden on his vegetable plot. I started to help Jim in our garden at home and found it a great way to relax. Once our children left home it gave us a little more time on our hands at the weekends. We decided to get an allotment in Oct 2016 as our garden at home is too small to grow vegetables and the allotment site is just across the road”.

A-huge-learning-curve-6The allotment Marie and Jim got was totally overgrown, and they spent every bit of spare time during the autumn and winter that year clearing buried carpets, bricks, and metal. “Getting the keys felt so exciting, although I definitely felt extremely overwhelmed by the task ahead,” Marie says. For instance, they faced a huge problem with couch grass. But, as Marie recalls, “it was a lot of fun despite it being hard work”. By the end of November, the raised beds and paths were in place, with all of them made from reclaimed / recycled wood. Their first crop (garlic) was then planted. As the seasons went by Marie and Jim introduced more and more raised beds, which are now all no dig. “We find having raised beds has enabled us to garden in bite sized pieces and no dig has helped enormously at not only keeping weeds to a minimum, but giving us great harvests too,” Marie says.

A-huge-learning-curve-5Marie and Jim hope to grow a variety of vegetables and cut flowers this season. “Jim loves growing potatoes and a third of the plot will be devoted to growing them. I love growing peas, carrots, summer and winter squash. Uchiki Kuri being my absolute favourite winter squash . It tastes wonderful. We also grow calabrese, red cabbage and kohlrabi. We have had an unsuccessful couple of years with onions and leeks due to white rot. We have decided to try again one last time this year. This season I am sowing some celeriac and Florence fennel again! I have never quite got the hang of growing these and fail every year.”

They have also recycled the greenhouse where they grow tomatoes, peppers,chillies. “Tomatoes are one of our favourite crops to grow. Jim prefers the cherry variety Sungold and I prefer the larger varieties such as Costoluto. We will be growing Aubergines and cucumbers in the polytunnel,” Marie says.

A-huge-learning-curve-9There is no doubt that vegetable gardening has become very much a way of life for Marie and Jim. “A healthy way of life, being outdoors in the fresh air, planting out seedlings or deadheading the cut flowers gives us a huge sense of well-being. Personally my most loved aspect of gardening is seed sowing and nurturing the young seedlings until they are ready for planting out. Then watching them grow into wonderful tasty vegetables ready for harvest,” Marie says. While Marie would happily stare at the magnificence of what they have grown and definitely end up harvesting them when they are past their best, Jim prefers maintaining the land and is super tidy and organised. Marie goes on to add, “he usually clears up my mess as I seem to be an untidy gardener. He plants out the young vegetables as he has an eye for a straight line.”

A-huge-learning-curve-10Marie and Jim set out to be as organic as possible from the very start of their allotment journey, which has proved to be a huge learning curve. Each season, they would make changes in the way they gardening, for instance, making their own compost or buying peat free compost for the shortfall. Marie goes on to say, “we are unable to make enough compost to fill our plot. We use coir based compost and coir coins for seed sowing. I find the coins incredibly useful and give amazing results. I do find tiny seedling fiddly and I can be a tad heavy handed. My seedling definitely benefit in the long run from no root disturbance or damaged foliage or stems from my feeble attempts at potting on. Being organic gardeners is still a work in progress and we learning all the time.”

A-huge-learning-curve-2When it comes to finding inspiration, Marie says they are inspired by Charles Dowding and decided to try a couple of no dig beds in our second year. “Jim was definitely a traditional gardener and was initially skeptical. But they were very successful and gave us great harvests. Over the years we converted other beds to no dig. We do love this way of tending to our plot. By not digging it prevents soil disturbance and soil erosion. Weeds are kept to a minimum giving us time to concentrate on other jobs. Today 3/4 of the plot is now no dig just leaving the fruit area to convert at some point.”

For Marie and Jim, every lesson they’ve learnt in their allotment has been invaluable.

Comment (1)

  • roy clough

    Well done to Marie and Jim and her sister Michelle who have done a lot of work here

    March 13, 2022 at 7:37 am

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