Enjoy what you have achieved

Enjoy what you have achieved

Meet our Grower of the Month for June, Ceri (a_dirty_hoe_is_a_happy_hoe). In this blog post Ceri shares with us how she started growing 12 years ago, and later got her own allotment. She tells us what she loves to grow and what she finds the most rewarding about gardening. Read on to find out all about Ceri’s gardening journey. 

How and when did you start gardening/growing? 

I started growing about 12 years ago. My mum got an allotment and I used to go up and help her out. A year later, my husband and I thought we’d like our own allotment and the plot next to my mum’s was available, so we went to the council to sign up for it and actually left being signed up to two plots as they offered us both the available plots on the site. 

We live in a terraced house which at the time had no real garden, it was all slabbed and needed some serious work, so as money was tight at the time, getting an allotment was great as it gave us an outside space to enjoy, rather than the broken slabbed outside area which we just didn’t want to spend time in. 

        

How has your garden changed since you first started growing?

When we first took over the plots, they were both very overgrown (but we were up for the challenge), so we decided to clear and make simple beds going the width of the plot (each plot is 4mx 15m). Over time I realised these beds seemed too large and far too regimented for me so they’ve been broken down into smaller beds and I think the plot now has a quirkiness about it, which totally suits me! This past year we’ve started replacing some of the raised beds and I decided it needed some colour, so myself and my 5 year old have been adding some colour (purple, pink, blue and yellow). The little one helped in choosing the colours! We’ve also set up the second plot as a fruit area and have recently added some chickens. 

We have since also sorted out our garden area, which has been artificially grassed for ease with a little one, but have added a small greenhouse which I use for starting my seeds off in and we’ve a few pots around to add a little colour. It’s a much nicer space now to spend some chill time. 

What do you grow? Do you have a favourite plant/vegetable/crop, and why?

On the fruit plot we have 2 pear trees (which were donated to me from one of the other plot holders as he was getting rid of them from his house garden), raspberries, rhubarb, redcurrant, blackcurrant, whitecurrant bushes,  blueberries and strawberries. On the veg plot, we are growing beetroot, onions, potatoes, peas, beans, leeks, pumpkins, courgettes, sweetcorn, cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli. I think my favourite veg to grow is beetroot and climbing French beans! I love the colour on the beetroot leaves as they grow and it just brings a smile to my face, also pickling it, it just tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the shops, even if it does change the colour of your hands for a day or two whilst prepping. The climbing French beans, once they are established, look pretty with all their flowers, and they produce so well, it gives you the sense of achievement that you can actually eat what you grow! 

I’ve never really been great at growing flowers, but as I read more and more about the importance of bees and their decline, I’ve started trying more to add these onto the plot, I have had good success with sunflowers, and have started growing nasturtiums and marigolds, to encourage insects onto the plot. I’m also trying to grow some China aster, carnations and a couple of other flowers this year. 

What is your typical day like, when it comes to tending to your garden? What do you enjoy most about growing/gardening?

My typical day when it comes to gardening…. every morning I go out into the garden and check on my seedlings in the greenhouse (water if necessary, although this task is always taken over by my little one). Up the allotment, we usually go up as a family and we usually have a plan of what we’d like to do, but the first thing I do is go for a walk around and enjoy seeing what’s growing or has been eaten by the slugs. 

We don’t have a time frame for completing tasks, they just get done when they get done. Sometimes we can be rather productive and tick off a few of those jobs (weeding, planting, clearing and tidying up), other days we might clear a bed, and then chill on the decking area watching the chickens and toasting some marshmallows and occasionally drinking a bottle of wine. We enjoy the space and being outside. It’s a quiet area, with plenty of birdsong around and the sound of a small stream that runs down beside it. A couple of the other plot holders have children, so it’s lovely to see the children running around and playing outside instead of on iPads and such.  

Both me and the hubby work from home (me as a home baker) so when I’ve no orders it’s truly nice to get out away from the kitchen and unwind. Time seems to fly by up the allotment, it’s so easy to lose track of time. We love spending time up the allotment as a family, unwinding and working together. The thing I love most about growing and gardening is how much it can relax you, take you away from the day to day stresses, the extra family time we spend together and teaching a 5 year old where her food is coming from and how sometimes we need to be patient, as plants will grow in their own time. It fills my heart when my 5 year old can walk around the plot and identify the plants and makes me chuckle in summer when I catch her standing by a bed eating all the strawberries, raspberries and peas and still telling me she’s hungry. 

What tips would you offer to other gardeners/growers?

Tips and tricks…that’s a difficult one! I’ve always kind of worked on the basis that seeds and plants want to grow, and so as long as you give them somewhere and some water, they will do their thing. Sometimes we can overthink it, ponder on the many reasons or causes of what’s wrong and what needs changing. Growing for me is my way to relax and get away, so I try not to stress and overthink it. I try not to get disheartened if a plant dies as you can always read a book, ask google for advice and try again! 

I do have some advice for first time growers though, those who take on an overgrown plot, my biggest bit of advice would be to always take photos before and at the end of the day, even if the job/task isn’t finished. It will help with keeping motivation up, especially on those days where you feel you are tired, aching and haven’t progressed. The photos will show you something different! 

Also a little and often is the best way to keep on top of it all! It’s amazing how much quicker the weeds grow! Little and often will also help with reducing the back ache at the end of the day after long days (wine also helps!)

Something else I always like to do is take a moment to enjoy what you have achieved. I like to sit and enjoy looking at my plot before heading home.

What are some of the benefits of growing your own?

The benefits for us of growing our own is that we can teach our little one where her food is coming from and the life cycles of food. There are reduced food miles and we can grow varieties which aren’t available in the shops. My little one’s face was a picture the first time she saw a purple carrot! I wish I had taken a photo!  Also the flavour is just so much better! The other benefit of growing our own and I’ve mentioned previously is getting to spend the extra family time together away from screens (TV, computers and iPads). 

Have you used coir products before? If so, how did you find them? 

I haven’t used coir products before, a few years ago I bought a coconut husk product and I didn’t like it. It was new to the market and a cheap product so I think that had a lot to do with it. So I’m really excited to try your product and see how I get on with it. Following other growers on Instagram, I’ve seen and heard good things so am looking forward to seeing it myself. 

Grower of the Month June Ceri  

What are your future plans for your garden? 

For my garden, I would like to add another small planter or two now the little one is older and less likely to pull out all the soil and plants and she can help look after it. At the allotment we are currently working on building an area to add a bigger shed for all the tools and materials needed for the chickens instead of having them rammed into our little shed we currently have. I’m also working on some small little areas to add flowers to give little havens for insects and bugs, along with replacing our bed borders and painting them up, so if they aren’t in use over the winter months, the allotment still looks nice and loved, plus it will look like a nice place for our little one to hang out in. 

Anything else you would like to share?

When I first got into growing, it was because of my mum. We would go up together and enjoy spending time together (even on our separate plots), we would stop for tea breaks and snacks. When my mum passed away 4 years ago, it was difficult to go to the plot and not get upset as she wasn’t there, but my younger sister took over her plots and she’s kept it going and now when I go up there I don’t feel sad, I remember the fun, happy times and the good memories we had together and I can now impart the knowledge she gave to me to my little one. 

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