I always say to new gardeners that you’re on a journey

I always say to new gardeners that you’re on a journey

For every person, gardening can mean something different. A gardener’s personality can shine through what they grow, meaning every garden, allotment, or growing space is unique. In today’s blog post, gardener Jayne describes a picture of what she has grown in allotments in her journey of making a unique gardening space.

As with every story, we start at the beginning of Jayne’s journey with when she started gardening and who inspired her.

“I started gardening, like many people, at a really young age. I had amazing grandparents – who like many of the war-to-post-war generation – had their own grown food in their back gardens. We spent many summers at my Nan and Grandad’s house, under the flight path to Heathrow airport. I have such strong memories of shelling peas as giant jumbo jets flew overhead. Living now in Lincolnshire- beneath the skies surrounded by RAF Scampton and Conningsby – now growing my own – it always reminds me of those very nostalgic summers.

My grandparents were, without a doubt, massively influential, but my late mum and stepdad really got me buzzing about growing my own again as an adult. They both retired to Norfolk just over 25 years ago and developed a real piece of heaven in their own garden, growing what I called an “edible” garden. But it has always been so much more, with space for trees and flowers, of many varieties. Over the last 18 months we’ve sadly lost both of them, but the garden remains and has been a real sanctuary and a place of love and reflection during the harsh grieving process”.

Just like with Jayne, gardening and growing can be a comforting activity for many, expressing yourself through plants and crops. Jayne cultivates a whole variety of food and flora in her allotments, as she details what she grows in the allotments and what successes she has had.

“My main focus, when I got my first allotment, was to grow fruit and vegetables. Trying to recreate that amazing sense of my mum’s edible garden. Over the last 8 years my knowledge has developed through research, experience and the “fails” which are a part of the learning process. Like many gardeners, my first successful vegetable growing was runner beans. Once I grew those ( which are such a great veg to start with) I was hooked. The first cut flowers I grew we’re gladioli. I felt at the time that they were incredibly old fashioned, but I still love them and they’re fabulous perennials to get newbies growing!”

As she expressed before, gardening had helped Jayne through her grief, further presenting the benefits that gardening can bring into our lives.

“I really started growing as a way to be frugal. The need to be able to support my family with fresh organic vegetables. However, I very quickly noticed the sense of freedom and wellbeing time out “digging” gave me. At the time when I got my first allotment, I had been struggling with anxiety and depression. After two years of therapy and medication, I really thought there was no other way to feel “normal”. It’s so well documented now just how significant to wellbeing social therapeutic horticulture can be to support and develop wellness- but it wasn’t something discussed or even mentioned to me at the time. I no longer have therapy- although CBT will always be in my arsenal- I don’t take medication- but I certainly know when I’ve missed my head space time given to me by my dedicated growing space. Like the old saying, therapy with free tomatoes!

I love trying to grow new things. This really has, over the last three seasons, taken me towards growing more flowers and things which support our pollinators. There used to be a real sense that allotments should just be for food – but we are all now so much more aware of our environment – that it just makes sense to support our pollinators. Without them, we just won’t get many of those amazing produce that fruit and vegetable growers know and love”.

Now an established grower, Jayne has developed her own traditions when gardening and provides some tips for those who are new to gardening.

“My gardening traditions are really those I’ve established for myself. Odd things like planting certain produce out linked to relatives birthdays! I always sow my chitted potatoes each year on my brother’s birthday – my sister gets the garlic sowing! I’m also very lucky to have some of my mum’s plants. About five years ago she gave me all of her blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes, as she needed to reduce the amount of work in her own garden. They’ve become so important, as they really represent a piece of her. In addition to this, next year I’ll also be sowing ‘forget me nots’ – which will become a new tradition to tend to.

As gardeners, we all continue to be more aware of the environment and our impact on it. We are all now very aware of the peat-free compost campaigns and the need to protect our peat resources. Gardens don’t need peat-based compost, but as gardeners we need a choice of alternatives. Many of the peat free composts on the market contain coir as a sustainable and environmentally important alternative. However, what I also love, and have done myself, is to use rehydrated coir products to mix in with my own compost and loam in order to create my own made version of what’s on the market. I love its ability to retain and hold moisture. And, as a side effect this year, I also found in my own beds full of untouched slug-loving produce, it appears that the slugs didn’t seem to like coir as much as me. So, a little win-win for this organic grower! I refuse to use slug pellets and this year I seem to have created my own mix using coir, which has also resulted in a good slug repellent. There’s so many ways in which you can buy and use the products. I love it’s versatility.

I always say to new gardeners that you’re on a journey. The results will come, but it’s not a race. Learn about your growing space and regional area. Just because some people grow something well where they are, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. I’d also say grow what you like. That sounds so obvious, but for the first two years of growing vegetables I grew marrows. I grew them as they seemed to be the thing to grow on allotments. I don’t like marrows! I think they’re possibly the only veg that I don’t like… I don’t grow them anymore! I’d also say talk to other growers – especially those in your area. They will know the soil and what does or doesn’t work. I also find being a part of an allotmenting community is fabulous. There’s always the support or exchanging of seeds/ seedlings or produce. I love seeing new allotmenteers where I grow, as they’re usually the ones you can give your over-running raspberry canes to!”

Thank you to Jayne for sharing her story with us, you can continue to follow her gardening journey through her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – @allotmentcooks. Jayne also has a YouTube channel where she documents her growing, you can find her under Allotment Cooks.

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