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Look after your soil
Our Grower of the Month for June 2021 is Chloe (Instagram: @myprettyplot). In this blog post, Chloe tells us about her gardening journey, from the time she started gardening when she was little to growing a variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables in her own garden now. She also reminds us how important it is to look after the soil and talks about the wider benefits of gardening for calming the mind.
How and when did you start gardening/growing?
My parents and grandparents have always had beautiful gardens, when I was little I’d have a little bed to grow flowers from seed. I’d also ‘help’ picking fruit and veg that they’d grown although I’m sure I’d eat more than made it back to the kitchen!
How has your garden changed since you first started growing?
I’ve been working on my garden for just over 3 years now and it’s gone from being mostly gravel with a few shrubs and conifers to a modern cottage style. We’ve built a patio area surrounded by fragrant flowers and herbs which gets the sun all day and then a full border and raised bed. We also have a lawn for the dog to relax and play on which she loves.
What do you grow? Do you have a favourite plant/vegetable/crop, and why?
I grow both flowers and fruit and vegetables, which I’ve recently discovered makes me a potager. I love to grow lots of things but I’m most excited to grow unusual varieties on the allotment like my kiwi berry, pink lemonade blueberry and oca tubers. It’s always fun to eat something different that you can’t buy in the supermarket and they’re the sorts of crops that save money as well. In the garden I love sweet peas and spring bulbs. The bulbs bring so much early colour which is so welcome and sweet peas are so prolific and smell beautiful. This year mine are growing next to the patio to make the most of the scent.
What do you enjoy most about growing/gardening?
I love that it makes you slow down, life can be so full on and busy but when gardening you have to be patient. I also really enjoy spending time outside so it gives me an extra excuse to be out and make the most of the good weather when we get it.
What tips would you offer to other gardeners/growers?
Look after your soil, it’s the most important tool at your disposal. Almost any type of soil will benefit from the addition of organic matter. I find coir is really good to mulch my no dig beds at the plot. The worms bring it down to break up the clay and over the season it helps retain moisture so the clay doesn’t break and crack giving the plants a hard time. I also think sometimes we need to remember it’s a hobby and shouldn’t be stressful. Take time to enjoy your hard work too!
What are some of the benefits of growing your own?
Aside from the physical workout it can be I think it’s great for calming the mind too. Sowing, weeding, watering are all mindful activities that make you slow down. I definitely also eat more vegetables and waste less, it’s so motivating to eat what you’ve grown yourself and be creative by eating more parts of the plant too.
Have you used coir products before? If so, how did you find them?
This year I sowed all my seeds in a 50/50 mix of coir and peat free compost. It’s so cost effective as well as helping regulate water and create a nice texture for small plants to grow in.
What are your future plans for your garden?
While the majority of the hard work in my garden is done I’m still developing the structure over winter. Mostly this is waiting for small shrubs to grow a bit but also finding the right plants for a bit of colour too. My allotment still needs some beds adding, perennial weeds removing and paths creating so that’s where most of my time will be spent this season. Gardens and allotments are never ‘done’ so I’m sure I will always be changing my plans.
Anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy your hobby, don’t forget to enjoy the spaces you create and look after the wildlife too!