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Gardening is meant to be fun and not a chore
For Ally (@theduckpatch), plants have always been a huge part of her life. In this Garden Story, Ally shares with us her gardening journey, from going to her first flower show in a buggy to what she loves to grow now.
Ally says her biggest inspirations for getting into gardening came from her mum and her aunty Wendy, “They both taught me so much from a very young age about plants, taking me to garden centres every weekend. It’s no wonder I find myself very at home amongst the plant aisles. The best thing about everything I have learned is that the methods of gardening from my Mum and Aunty were so different so I got to see from a really young age there is no one way to garden.” In this way, Ally says how she has always been involved in gardening in some way even from a very young age, “even making my way to my first flower show in a buggy.”
Having learnt many things about gardening over the years, Ally says anyone who is into gardening has to find a method that works for them. “We all have different gardens, plots, balconies etc, so what might work for me may not for you. Each year I like to set myself a new task for the growing season which I find keeps me learning more each year and takes me out of my comfort zone. For this year it’s growing my own wedding flowers which is a mammoth task but I think all the years previous of trying again and again not giving up has helped me to see it’s not impossible.”
Currently, Ally says she tries to grow anything, even if she has failed to grow them before. “I pretty much will try to grow anything, even if I have failed before I won’t give up! Be it flowers, vegetables, herbs and this year even carnivorous plants, I will alway try it out. One thing I love growing is squash. They are a must for me every year but I have really fallen in love with sweet peas. I grew them last year for the first time and they are now on my forever list for growing each year.”
Her biggest struggle in gardening has been growing herbs and salads, “for me these are just my nemesis”. Ally goes on to say, “I cannot for the life of me ever succeed with growing salad, it’s meant to be the easiest thing to grow but I’m telling you they are lying!” Ally tries hard each year to have that rotating salad throughout the growing season, and is determined to master it one day. On the other hand, Ally has had huge successes with pumpkins and squashes. “They are actually the reason I got an allotment. I grew them for the first time when we moved into our home and just had an obscene amount of squash and have never looked back,” she recalls.
Ally goes on to talk about guerrilla gardening. “Guerilla gardening is basically gardeners/growers gone rogue. You are essentially growing on land that is not legally yours so perhaps grass verges owned by councils or private property land but it doesn’t necessarily always mean illegal. Many people do this working alongside their local councils or private landowners. Its main aim is to try and make use of green spaces that are being ignored or neglected, improving spaces for local wildlife and of course more plants will always help to have a positive impact on the wider climate crisis issue. But it’s not just positive from an environmental standpoint but also for local communities. Seeing flowers and things growing in spaces previously neglected has shown to have a huge impact on people’s mental wellbeing. Also it has shown that by making the space more attractive and well cultivated people begin to fall back in love with their local area and want to nurture it.”
Ally also spoke to us about Chats at the Patch, which started last year in the height of another lockdown. Ally started this as a way to engage with more growers on a range of topics. “We have had guests on for all types of things, not just garden related too. There have been chats on sustainable tips, sow alongs, making your own eco crafts, vegan chats, show gardens, mindfulness… I mean the list is endless. When it started I never thought it would be as well loved and as much a success as it has. Each and every guest has been such a joy and I am so grateful for all their support.” A whole host of amazing guests have been lined up for Chats at the Patch this year with an array of great topics to be discussed, and Ally invites us all to join in.
Ally also shared with us her experiences of using coir-based products. She says, “For me, I am always looking to make changes to our growing to be as sustainable as possible so trying out coir products was a must. I have used it for the last two years in various ways and really find it is a great addition to my growing. My favorite has to be coir pellets. They are such a wonderful seed starter and perfect for a new grower as they are super easy to use. This year I am trying out more coir pots and bits that I know will be such a help in my wedding growing season.”
Gardening has many benefits, and for Ally, gardening has been hugely important for her physical and mental health. She says, “if I am ever feeling overwhelmed by the world and the stresses of life, taking 5 minutes with my plants always makes me feel more centered and calmer. I cannot recommend to people enough how much joy growing a plant will give you. You don’t need a big space, even just microgreens on your windowsill will boost your mood”.
She goes on to offer a few tips to new gardeners or those who are struggling to get growing. “
– Grow what you like to eat or flowers that you love to buy
– Startout with just 1 or 2 varieties of something and dont be swept out trying to much at one time
– At no point do you ever need to sow the whole packet of seeds. You will end up with so many plants and it will be hugely overwhelming ruining your garden experience
– Each year you will have a new challenge and no grower can ever be prepared for what the weather brings. It’s always different every year so what might have worked last year may not work the next year it doesn’t mean you are a bad gardener
– EVERYBODY and I mean EVERYBODY has weeds
And lastly, as Ally says, “enjoy it, gardening is meant to be fun and not a chore”.