A story of how the love of gardening easily spans generations! Joe describes his grandad’s love for growing and how he now shares this with his children. You can find Joe on Instagram @grow_with_joe to see what he and his young gardening team have been up to!
My Gardening Love Starts
Growing up we were lucky enough to live in a house which had a large garden. The end of the garden was sectioned off and turned into an allotment for growing our own organic fruits and vegetables.
Our grandad was an amazing gardener with his speciality being all things edible so he was in charge of the allotment.
I can still remember from a really young age uttering the words “Have you got any jobs grandad?” Always indulging us, he would let us water the plants, pick peas, dig in the soil or sit shelling broad beans with him. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m working on our allotment that I don’t think about him.
I had no idea at the time that my grandad had actually planted the seed for my love of gardening in later life! I just wish he could see me now.
Officially the size of our plot is 10 rods which is the equivalent of 250 square metres, approximately the size of a tennis court. However, the size of the site wasn’t the issue when we initially took over the tenancy. It was the overgrown state the plot was in.
It was an unkempt mess, disused for an extremely long time. It’s taken a few years to really get to grips with the whole plot. However, after a lot of hard work I feel like we’re finally getting on top of things.
There were 2 makeshift sheds on our plot when we took over, but unfortunately they were completely rotten and falling to pieces. After a bit of searching and asking around on our allotment site, I managed to salvage a shed and two greenhouses, sourcing replacement glass for free looking locally on the internet. I highly recommend new gardeners to try and do the same because having a greenhouse really has changed our gardening experience for the better.
Our Favourites to Grow
One of my absolute favourite plants to grow has to be sweet peas. I almost forget each year just how fragrant those delicate looking flowers are until spring arrives. Then I’m suddenly hit with waves of gorgeous scent every time I’m near them. Sweet peas are easy to grow and they are the perfect flowers for cutting. They will keep rewarding you for months with new blooms, almost issuing you a daily challenge of trying to keep up with cutting them!
As far as edibles go, I get a real satisfaction from growing tomatoes. This year I really wanted our small garden at home to have more of an open air, freshly grown buffet feel to it – something for the kids to be able to graze on as they played outside. With this in mind, I placed lots of different varieties of tomato plants amongst our pots of geraniums, salvias and herbs. It was a real success because the kids absolutely loved being able to pick and eat cherry tomatoes straight from the plant as the fruits ripened! So I will definitely be doing this again next year. Gardening in this way is a real testament to the fact that you don’t actually need a huge growing space. You just need a little space for a pot or two and you can happily grow your own yummy produce.
Gardening Love – Challenges
It’s been challenging for us trying to get our plot into a usable state. Having to dismantle rotting, asbestos ridden sheds, digging up huge tree stumps, clearing mountains of rubbish, overgrown bushes, grass and weeds, really hasn’t left much time to actually grow efficiently. Trying to juggle clearing the allotment and growing at the same time hasn’t been easy. This has had a real knock on effect on the quality and quantity of some of our produce over the last few years. Thankfully, after lots of hard work this year and with help from my little gardening team (our kids), it feels like we will finally be in a really healthy position to give growing our undivided attention.
Why We Love Gardening
Being able to educate our children as to where their food comes from and how to actually grow it themselves is a huge benefit of gardening for me and is one of the main reasons why I do this. I know how my Granddad must have felt all those years ago when we asked him for jobs to do, because I find my own kids saying exactly the same to me now.
It’s probably true that I would get a lot more done without having to direct and help the children dig, sow or weed, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having the kids around me on the allotment is just what I’d hoped for and more. I wanted them to be outside, learning but having fun at the same time!
Whether it be tending to our plot, off on their own exploring, picking flowers, enjoying a picnic or just lazing about enjoying a break in a wheelbarrow. It really doesn’t matter, because it’s these memories I want them to look back on with the same fondness I do with my grandad!
Next Year …
I’m really excited about the prospect of being able to concentrate more on growing produce next year. Especially now that our allotment is in a much more manageable state. I’m planning on taking full advantage of the huge blank canvas we now have, ensuring that this coming year will be our best and most productive year to date. I have a picture in my head of a plot full of blooms with vibrant colours which are surrounded by lush green edible plants of all shapes and sizes. I think with a little dedication and hard work between us, we can make this picture become a reality.
Joe’s Tips for New Gardeners
Gardening should be an enjoyable experience. So I would advise new gardeners not to take on too much too soon, as it can easily become overwhelming and stressful which completely defeats the object of why you’re doing it. Don’t be scared to get stuck in and have a go. Sometimes the best way to learn is a little trial and error, learning from your mistakes along the way.
Also, don’t forget that the gardening community is very special so don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. This could be asking your next door neighbour, someone else on your allotment site or via someone on social media. We’re not in competition with each other. We’re all here to offer support and encouragement which is why becoming a gardener is one of the best things you can possibly do!