I will always see what my plants are telling me

I will always see what my plants are telling me

Meet @mikesflowersandgardens, the CoirProducts.co.uk Grower of the Month for September 2020. In this blog post, @mikesflowersandgardens tells us about his experiences in gardening, shares tips and his future plans, and reminds us of the wider benefits of growing.

How and when did you start gardening/growing?

At a young age, I used to help in my grandma’s garden, which gave me good grounding and the inspiration to become a gardener. I learnt a lot from her and continue to consult her on gardening matters to this day.

How has your garden changed since you first started growing?

I did some gardening on and off over the years but didn’t really take it seriously until I finally had a decent garden to work with. I didn’t really have a plan or any idea of what to grow, but I spent a solid six days transforming the garden with some help from some good friends so that I had something to work with.

Since then my garden has had a small but workable veg patch, a raised planter for which I used coir peat with some great results, currently my cosmos and dahlia bed.

I then created a larger veg patch and soon realised that in first year you can’t grow everything all at once. So a few mistakes were made (still making them!)!

Early February, this year, the veg patch had a polytunnel put over the top of it. This is what I’ve concentrated most of my energy on. A totally different environment, but again well worth it. I’m about to put up a greenhouse and currently waiting for an allotment not that far from my house. That cannot come soon enough, never enough space!

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

I love to grow everything that goes in a salad: lettuce, rocket, salad leaves, radishes, spring onions, cucumbers and definitely tomatoes. I’ve had a huge yield of tomatoes this year. I can’t get enough of them. This is so we can have as much of a healthy life as we can. Nothing tastes better than walking into my polytunnel, freshly picking, then preparing and eating a fresh salad.

I did like growing my garlic and onion crop in my raised planter again with coir peat. I planted them out as sets last October and we are now enjoying them in our cooking.

I was also very happy with how my beetroot turned out. My grandma did a great job of pickling them.

I’m really looking forward to harvesting my chillies soon so I can create the sauce I keep talking about.

What is your typical day like, when it comes to tending to your garden?

I don’t really have a structured day in the garden, I tend to go out and see what needs doing.

What tips would you offer to other gardeners/growers?

I will always see what my plants are telling me and then if I’m unsure, generally research it, find out if anything needs to be done to ensure good results.

I’ve only ever used blood, fish and bone and the occasional bit of liquid seaweed other than that it should be about bed preparation at the very beginning. Coir peat along with some horse manure is something I add at the start.

You can’t always get things right but I will start over if things go wrong.

Not all seeds will germinate so always put in a few more than you need because anything spare can be given away to family and friends.

My main advice is just keep looking for signs of any change in your plants because they will tell you what or if there is a problem. Also if something fails then it doesn’t matter because hopefully I can get it right next year!

What do you enjoy most about growing/gardening?

I definitely enjoy watching plants grow and the satisfaction I get from reaping the rewards. Nothing beats eating your own produce, knowing exactly the path that the plant has had from seed to harvest.  It definitely reduces costs not to mention how good it is for the environment growing your own is! Also it helped my own mental health and well-being.

What are some of the benefits of using coir-based products?

I decided to use coir this year to give my existing soil a boost, which has given my plants a healthy root system enabling them to establish themselves very well, giving me a really good crop. My tomatoes have especially benefited from the use of coir. My Instagram shows this year the improvements using coir peat has had in my growing. I’m looking forward to starting my winter crop soon using coir based products as it’s definitely the way to reduce our plastic consumption. With coir being biodegradable it just makes sense.

What are your future plans for your garden?

My future plans are to continue in the polytunnel, with crop rotation.  Things will be different in there next year. I’m about to get a greenhouse up, which I will prepare for my tomatoes next year, but using it this year too over winter for a few of my existing plants. We shall see if they survive!?

I’m also trying hard to get an allotment so that’ll be something to look forward to.

I am on the local flower show committee and look forward to next year where we’ll be able to hopefully have our spring and summer shows. This year we cancelled, which was unfortunate, but definitely the right choice.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’d like to say thank you to some good friends who have helped me on my journey. They know who they are.

I do believe everyone should get out and grow something, it doesn’t matter how big of a space you have. It’s really helped with me progressing through life. Essentially, you are looking after a living thing and that will give you the rewards, if you treat it well. However, don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t go as planned. It’ll be a fun learning process, so just enjoy it.

You can follow Mike’s gardening journey on Instagram: @mikesflowersandgardens

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