Our featured grower this week is Clare Louise (@4mcds_bloomingplot), who is part of the gardening and podcasting team @loosegardeners. Having begun gardening in 2020, when she started homeschooling her youngest, Clare Louise has come to enjoy gardening and grow a wide variety of plants and crops. For Clare Louise, taking into account changes around her and adapting to these to make the most of the space available is important. Read on to learn more about her gardening journey.
“Gardening for me began in March 2020. During lockdown, I decided to throw myself into homeschooling my youngest in the university of life. His school wasn’t challenging him at all so I needed to keep his mind active – I went and bought some compost, runner bean seeds, seed potatoes and some pots and went for it. He is now only interested in harvests whereas it truly has taken over my life,” says Clare Louise, reflecting on how she got into gardening.
Since then, she has come to grow a variety of plants and crops. While she loves the pretty flowers in her garden, Clare Louise says, when it comes to picking what she loves to grow the most, “Whilst I love the pretty flowers in my garden, it has to be growing my own produce and experimenting. Trying new foods, recipes and sharing with others has become a new normal for me. There is nothing more fulfilling than serving up a meal to your family knowing you’ve grown it from seed.”
Her gardening successes have been varied. “I’d definitely say my runner beans from 2020, and sweetcorn from summer 2022, have been the highlights,” she says, adding “getting my own greenhouse in early 2023 was a massive success, it has enabled me to be a better and more educated gardener.”
Clare Louise also reflected on some of the most valuable lessons she has learnt along the way. “I have learnt to understand that no matter how my journey is going I shouldn’t compare anything. We all live in different climates, with different growing conditions, just because someone is harvesting 4 weeks before me, doesn’t actually mean I’m doing anything wrong, it’s just my location isn’t the same as theirs. I also try to acknowledge that if something doesn’t work straight away, then I have to learn why and don’t give up. Grow what you like and what you want, not because someone else is growing it!”
On the other hand, her biggest challenge to date has been changing weather patterns and mother nature herself, and as such, learning to adapt has to be key! “Gale force winds, harsh winter frosts, and extreme heat waves… these are things that happen that we just cannot control and we have to adapt to them the best way we see fit. I’ve lost numerous crops and plants to the frosts, I’ve had more greenhouse disasters than I care to imagine and I lost a full summers’ supply of tomato plants in the heatwave in 2022 due to blight. The less controversial challenge is FOMO! we all have it – right?” she says.
For Clare Louise, the benefits have been life changing. She goes on to explain, “it has helped my mental health no end and I didn’t actually realise that I needed that help. It has become my therapy and something I’ll be forever grateful for. I’ve become a different, better version of myself, and discovered I actually have some patience”
Speaking of who inspires her the most when it comes to garden, Clare Louise credits her uncle. “My uncle is a huge inspiration, he is now in a care home, but I grew up watching him grow tomatoes in his greenhouse and I would pick them for my parents (I didn’t like them, still not sure on them to be honest)! I feel I’m carrying on his legacy. And, my mum… who hasn’t grown from seed but loves her garden, being able to grow plants for my mum from seed inspires me to keep going and also, there are so many people out there who inspire my gardening journey every single day,” she says.
As for her future plans, Clare Louise hopes that one day she can make the best use of the space she has…” mainly container gardening, while keeping it dog friendly and a place for my family to continue to enjoy no matter their ages.” This would involve learning adapting structures and areas in the best possible way. “My aim for the plot is to have harvests 12 months of the year, but living in Scotland I’m initially aiming for 9 months, then we’ll build to the 12.”