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Gardening was always a part of my life
For our featured grower, Amber, gardening was always a part of her life. Having found early inspirations through her own family, Amber got her own allotment a few years ago, and now enjoys gardening with her husband and children. In this blog post Amber tells us how her allotment has grown, what she loves to grow, and what gardening means to her. Sharing her gardening successes and failures, she urges other growers to never give up when it comes to growing their own.
Recalling how she first got into gardening, Amber says, “I grew up in my grandma’s house which had a very large flower and vegetable garden, big orchard and lots of berry bushes. My parents also had some land where they have been growing lots of potatoes and other veggies to have food all year round. Of course I’ve been involved in all the garden jobs from a very early age”.
She goes on to fondly recall her childhood memories in the garden, “when I was little, every time there was rain, I used to run to the garden and pick a snack platter”. Usually, this contained lots of garden peas, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and gooseberries. Having picked a snack platter, Amber remembers sitting at home and eating it while watching the rain through the window. “When I had my first child I wanted him to have the same memories and the freshest veggies and fruit on the table. So as soon as we bought our own house and moved out from the tiny flat we rented, I started to look for an allotment in the area and there were some plots available,” Amber says.
The allotment has changed considerably since getting it 5 years ago. When she first got the plot, it was covered in brambles and bindweed. “But when I started to dig I realised that the weeds were not the only problem. Brambles where covering lots of scrap. It was basically a scrap yard. It took 2 years just to fully clear it,” Amber says. Having bought a secondhand greenhouse, Amber says her husband helped her to turn an old shed into a chicken coop with a big run. “He also built a treehouse with a slide for the boys,” Amber says. Afterwards, she bought a secondhand summerhouse and finally built a big 3x6m DIY polytunnel.
Asking her about what she loves to grow, Amber says, “I grow everything. I enjoy growing different varieties. Every year you will find on my plot lots of cucumbers, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, courgettes, spring onion, lettuce, onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, pumpkins etc. The list is never ending.”. Vegetables are a priority for Amber, as she says she is not so good with flowers yet but enjoys growing them too. Although she doesn’t have a favourite vegetable, tomatoes are her biggest obsession, “I probably grow them in all the colours, shapes and sizes you can find. This year I have 38 different tomato varieties growing on my plot. My biggest tomato that I am very proud of growing was the Kellogg’s Breakfast last year and it weighed 1kg.”
Amber’s typical day in the garden begins with feeding the chickens and then spending some time with them. She will then usually walk around the plot, to check everything, and then do the jobs that need doing or what she feels like doing that day. There is always a lot to do in the garden, Amber adds. Sharing with us what she enjoys the most about her garden, Amber says, “the taste of freshly picked veggies is incredible and it is so satisfying to make a whole meal just from your own. I also love to watch my boys eat all the fresh veggies and fruits. It makes me feel that I am doing something right.”
Amber also has some useful tips for other gardeners and growers, specifically saying, never give up! She emphasises, “If something didn’t go the way you wanted, just try it again”. She goes on to say that there are no gardening mistakes, only experiments. As for her own mistakes in the garden, Amber says, “I do not focus on that, I just start the seeds again until I find the way it works for me. Every year is different and the weather is unpredictable, so if it didn’t work one year don’t be afraid to try again next year.”
Speaking of the benefits of growing your own, Amber says, while freshly picked vegetables and fruits are nutritious and something to enjoy, gardening is also a good way of getting exercise, while also helping with our mental health. “My allotment helped me a lot when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was a sanctuary for me where I could clear my mind and focus on growing my own food instead of worrying about things I was not in control of,” she explains.
Having used coir-based products, Amber says she loves coircoins, “it saves a lot of time. It is a quick and easy way to start your seeds and it is mess free too. I also love that all the products are plastic free and there are so many ways to use them.
While she does not have big plans for her garden, Amber says she wants to make her own compost, as well as growing more over the winter so that they can only use vegetables grown by them the whole year round. Lastly, she adds, gardening with her children has also become a wonderful way to bond as a family and teach them important life lessons.