Hold on to the simple pleasures of it all

Hold on to the simple pleasures of it all

Meet our Grower of the Month for January Laura (@trug_and_lettuce). In this blog post Laura tells us how she is new to gardening and what she has learnt along the way. Reflecting on how gardening has benefitted her, especially in the last two years that have been difficult for so many people, Laura urges us to enjoy the simplicity of it all.

How and when did you start gardening/ growing?

I’m new to the gardening game – this is only my third year. I’ve always been partial to a houseplant (or 30!) but I would never have considered myself green-fingered at all. It actually started when a colleague gave me a tomato seedling, which then quickly spiralled into a garden overhaul, a plot and, hopefully, a new cut flower patch this year.

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How has the garden changed since you first started?

My space has evolved (and expanded) pretty quickly. What was initially a single raised bed became a vegetable patch, and a few pots became a border. We took a break from working on the garden last summer as we’d been made aware of an unused allotment that the owner needed help tending to. We’re still technically 200+ on the list for a plot so we’ve been very lucky in that respect. We’ve got a great relationship with our plot partner, who lets us have free reign of the space and is wanting to sign it over to us this year.
Now that we’ve got to grips with the plot I’m hoping to find a better balance between the garden and the allotment as I’ve got pretty lofty intentions of growing a cut flower patch within our garden space.

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What is your favourite vegetable crop / plant, and why?

At the plot I’ll grow what I love to eat, and what my partner, parents and grandparents love to eat too. I’m always happy to try new things but, by and large, I focus on growing things that will help me and my family become, in some tiny way, more self-sufficient. Sweetcorn is big on my list this year – I grew nowhere near enough of the stuff last year and I’m still bitter about it now.

Plant-wise, my favourite has got to be ferns, and yet despite all of my attention they absolutely hate me. Suppose it goes to show that you can do everything you’re advised to and sometimes things still won’t work! I’ll crack them one day.

What is your typical gardening day like?

Haphazard! I would love to be able to say that, 3 years in, I have a typical plan or routine but I think that’s still evolving. I’m still behind on jobs, too early or late with things, lax with weeding or just outright forget the basics – not that I mind any of it at all. As long as I’m recording what’s working and what isn’t then it’s all beneficial. Typically the plot is where I put in the most work, the garden is somewhere I seek a bit of sanctuary so I’ve always been happier to let that run a little wild. This might change with the addition of a cut flower patch, we’ll see.

What do you enjoy most about growing and gardening?

The simplicity of it all, I don’t think we often get to feel a genuine child-like wonder as adults. The expectation to always find enjoyment through the big things or place a high value on the superficial is exhausting, especially where social media is concerned. So the basic simplicity of a bee visiting your pollinators or a seed germinating as a result of tending to it, is still pretty hard to beat.

The past few years, as for a lot of people, have been incredibly hard for a multitude of reasons. For me, between the pandemic and experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss, gardening has been the foothold that has kept me steady and it’s part of my fabric now. It unexpectedly gave me a headspace to take a breather, re-evaluate my priorities and figure out what it is that truly gives me a bit of peace.

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What tips would you offer other gardeners/ growers?

1. Try not to compare. The phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ is so, so applicable where gardening is concerned. As with everything, it’s so easy to look at what other people are doing and feel completely overwhelmed. When we arrived at the allotment, I was comparing the space with my neighbour, completely forgetting that he’s had it since the 70s!

2. Throw out the rule book. After a year of trying everything completely by the book I began placing pressure on myself if I wasn’t doing things ‘right’ and I began to enjoy things less. I’ve learnt not to be so prescriptive about things and learn to work with what I personally have or don’t have. Understanding my own space, soil type, pH levels, frost dates etc has been the biggest learning curve and I’m still relatively new to it all. Just record what is happening, whether it’s good or bad. The worst case scenario is that you learn from it.

3. Be generous with your knowledge. If you’ve found something weird or wonderful or just something that works, share it. You don’t know who will find it invaluable and the growing community can be made all the better for it.

What are some of the benefits of growing your own?

I think any level of self sufficiency, no matter how small, can help boost your confidence. Preparing a meal or applying moisturiser containing ingredients you’ve grown does wonders for your sense of self-reliance.

Growing your own is a constant lesson in more than just food too, and can lead to so many other interests. Not just learning your perennials from your annuals, or hard from soft woods but building raised beds, potting sheds, greenhouses, composting etc. It can all be part of it.

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Have you used any coir based product?

Coir coins have been a staple for my seed sowing for a couple of years but I’m looking forward to expanding my use this year, with pots especially. Aside from the more obvious benefits of it being a more sustainable alternative to peat, it’s pH neutral and there is no risk of soil contamination affecting seedling health, which is something I’ve fallen foul of in the past and it was pretty disheartening, especially for a newbie.

What are your future plans for the garden?

Since becoming more comfortable with growing, how I use my harvests has become a huge passion of mine, and not just in terms of recipes. Creating salves, oils, dried flower arrangements, décor etc is something that I feel comes naturally to me. I’ve got a website and blog underway focussing more on the ways that I use the things that I grow. My garden/ plot space is beginning to work in tandem with that.
Also – wildlife! This year I want to focus on making the space more wildlife friendly, more pollinators, bug hotels and ponds is the plan.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Hold on to the simple pleasures of it all. Gardening and growing is a hobby that can snowball and quickly feel overwhelming. Focus on the little wins of it – those seeds germinating for the first time or just putting your hands in the earth.

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