Explaining the buzzword: ‘plant-based’

The ‘plant-based’ diet consists of foods derived from plant sources; this can include fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes, nuts and meat substitutes such as soy products.

The term ‘plant-based’ does not mean vegetarian or vegan. A person that consumes a ‘plant-based’ diet may also eat small amounts of dairy, meat or fish.

Grain-based diets started 10,000 years ago. “60% of calories that fuel humanity come from the seeds of three grass species; wheat, rice and corn.”* Humans have done and always will consume a ‘plant-based’ diet.

So with a a majority of us already eating a ‘plant-based’ diet, what is this infamous buzzword trying to convey? (Aside from being a marketing ploy aimed at middle-class people that assume that it’s living off avocados, ‘ancient grains’ and bistro salads). Basically a ‘plant-based’ diet is preferable for the sustainability of the planet and for your own well-being. Quite simply, eat less meat. This will significantly reduce emissions and help our planet in the long-term. An introduction into a good, well-rounded diet is to use slow cooker recipes that use cheaper, smaller cuts of meat or choose recipes that have no meat at all, for a minimum of 1-3 meals a week.

Be wary of the buzzword ‘plant-based’ though. It doesn’t automatically mean ‘healthy’. Many influencers use it to promote fad diets that can leave people nutrient deficient or have them gain weight as they aren’t eating correctly; it can also cause digestive issues.

It’s also used in marketing to sell packaged foods e.g. vegan pizza, salad bowls etc. This is detrimental as these foods aren’t ‘healthy’ just because they have ‘plant-based’ written on. Making your own meals and infrequently supplementing them with packaged foods is a reasonable idea for any working, busy individual or family.

Statistic: *James Wong. 2018. Twitter.

Here’s hoping that ‘Bigfoot’ could exist

In a world where a large, ape-like creature could possibly exist is a world that I dream of living in; large forests, woodlands, green cities filled with flora and an abundance of wild, natural landscapes. Bigfoot should be able to hide from us, undetected, in the darkest deepest corners of wild areas.

This isn’t the world that we currently live in. “In the UK, 97 per cent of our hay meadows and wild grasslands have been wiped out since the 1930s (The Wildlife Trusts).” We can almost confirm that Bigfoot doesn’t exist as its ‘supposed’ habitat is divided by grey roads, towns and cities. Whatever Bigfoot eats, I’m pretty sure it’s not concrete or tarmac. Further to this, “The world has lost just over half of its biodiversity – 52 per cent since 1970 (Living Planet Report, 2014 WWF),”; a shocking percentage. We haven’t left room for enough plants or trees that create these desired environments; let alone space for any undiscovered species of ape.

How to help:

  1. Leaving parts of your garden ‘wild’ and ‘un-manicured’. By this I mean: letting the grass grow, sowing wild flower seeds, leave brambles/’weeds’ and encourage a meadow-like vibe.
  2. Leave hedgerows and trees to thrive. Don’t replace them with fencing (unless necessary).
  3. Increase native planting in your borders, containers and in the lawn itself. I use Penlan nursery as a guide on British native perennials.
  4. Increase amount of planting overall; fill borders, containers etc to the maximum. Watch the amount of weeding, tidying and work you have to do on the border decrease and the amount of wildlife increase dramatically.
  5. Grow fruit and vegetables.
  6. Visit conservation areas, wetland centres, moors/grasslands etc for inspiration but also to support these charities; this will help these areas thrive.
  7. Volunteer for ‘In Bloom’, the Forestry Commission or local horticulture groups; all who are trying to keep environments green and not grey.

This list seems so trivial, but it’s a small step towards bigger plans. Imagine every UK garden as a haven for wildlife and flora; this in turn will create an abundance of green space that will start to spread into large towns and cities. At the moment, I can walk a mile without seeing a plant and this drastically needs to change.

Article inspired by ‘Wild Thing‘ a podcast by Laura Krantz and Foxtopus. Ink.

Also inspired by Singapore, written about in this National Geographic article: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/


Starting out as a gardener

I began my gardening career in 2015, I took on a few general maintenance clients and did some work experience with various companies. It was great, but without a network of people to learn from/aspire too, I was lost.

What I’ve learnt in these past few years:

  1. Be energetic, enthusiastic and friendly. Interacting with customers and other gardeners is useful; it builds strong relationships that can provide future work.
  2. Create a Twitter/Instagram account and connect with fellow horticulturists on there. Read their blogs and listen to their podcasts because you will learn a lot!
  3. Never turn down an opportunity! Use the connections you build in person/on social media to go on courses/find work experience/expand your knowledge.
  4. Knowing what tools are necessary; take a look at my toolkit blog here.
  5. PPE is absolutely necessary.

Finally, garden maintenance is a great place to begin in horticulture, you learn a lot more about plants and from doing a job than you do from just reading about it.

Favourite seeds for 2018

I have three medium sized vegetable beds. One of these is filled with strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, a gooseberry and dahlias; the other two are empty and ready for spring.

Sorting through the seeds I’ve been hoarding over the past few months and I’ve found some that I am so excited to try and grow!

It can be easy to sow seeds that are tried and tested; each year I choose a few that are new and unfamiliar to me.

  1. Tomato ‘Black Russian’
  2. Tomato ‘Yellow Pear’
  3. Kale ‘Dwarf Green Curled’
  4. Broccoli ‘White Sprouting Early’
  5. Pumpkin ‘Munchkin’
  6. Squash ‘Turks Turban’
  7. Borlotti Bean ‘Lingua de Fuoco 2’
  8. Kohl Rabi ‘Delicacy Purple’
  9. Samphire
  10. Trachymene Coerulea ‘Blue Lace Flower’
  11. Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’
  12. Dill

Let me know the new seeds that you are trying this year on Twitter or Instagram @eogardening.

‘The plastics’ – mean girls of gardening?

The use of plastic is a huge debate in gardening right now. Us gardeners create wonderful gardens for wildlife and grow our own vegetables to avoid buying too much plastic but we sow our seeds in plastic trays and buy plants in plastic pots? This should change!

Plastic has filled our oceans and landfills. It takes hundreds of years to break down and we use it for the convenience.

Module trays, flower pots, compost bags, seed trays, compost bins… the list continues. I’ve heard that Monty Don has commented on the over-use of plastics however, as he hasn’t mentioned any, here are some alternatives.

I won’t suggest using terracotta pots as they are expensive; they are also heavy; people with limited mobility need lighter materials that can be handled easily. On the other hand, they are worth the money if they are available to you.

  1. Flowerpots:
    • Make your own 9cm pots using a paper pot maker and newspaper
    • Recycle cardboard tubes from toilet/kitchen rolls
    • Buy biodegradable peat-free fibre pots
    • Buy The Hairy Pot Plant Company from local stockists, link here. Great company and great plants! They also sell hairy pots without plants in; look here!
    • Make your own using cement mix, vermiculite and coir. Blog to follow on this soon.
  2. Seed trays:
    • Biodegradable coir seed trays, available here.
    • Wooden seed trays
  3. Plant labels:
    • Try to use plant labels made of slate, bamboo, aluminium, copper or oak. Interestingly, pencil becomes permanent when used on aluminium.
  4. Compost:
    • Best peat-free compost I’ve ever used is Dalefoot; check it here. It does come in plastic bags but these can be used to make your own leaf mould compost.
  5. Compost bins:
    • Make your own using wooden stakes; hammer these into the ground and staple chicken wire to it to create a wire frame
    • Use old pallets for an entirely wooden bin
    • Reuse one-trip bulk bags
  6. Dibbers:
    • Wooden or metal dibbers are available to buy
    • You could whittle your own wooden one (be careful when using sharp knives)!

Thought of anything else? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram @eogardening.

Can social media become your horticultural tutor?

Being self-employed means I work alone. It’s hard to experience new things/be exposed to new gardening techniques when I don’t have a traditional, real life, role model; so I’ve let the people I interact with on social media become mine.

After a few years as a gardener, you find yourself beginning to repeat what you’ve done year after year; using the same tools, same techniques, sowing similar seeds and planting the same plants.

Last year, I challenged myself to follow every new person I came across on social media that would enhance my horticultural knowledge; botanists that specialise in unique plants, garden maintenance business owners that thrive and private gardeners who have long-term experience etc.

It’s provided a great wealth of knowledge and taught me things that makes jobs easier and a lot quicker. I’ve also discovered new plants that have diversified my planting plants.

Instagram is most valuable for video content, which is easy to follow; horticultural theory can be complicated to understand. It’s also great for tool reviews, there are so many different tools on the market and finding one suitable is difficult. Twitter is best for discovering unusual plant species, seed exchanges, diagnosing a pest/disease and general chat!

It’s also nice to upload a post and be given confirmation that what you’re doing is correct!

Some of the best (I could have continued this list for days):

  1. @fittleworthhousegardens
  2. @stvnhwrd14
  3. @ljclementsgardener
  4. @s.hockenhull
  5. @thomasdstone
  6. @mightyoaksfromtinyacorns
  7. @rekha181
  8. @botanygeek
  9. @alysfowler
  10. @headgardenerLC
  11. @DHgardening
  12. @londnplantology
  13. @j.l.perrone
  14. @hugh.cassidy
  15. @papaver

 

Let me know who else I should follow in the comments!

 

*NOTE: as a professional horticulturist you should study for qualifications.*

I’m told I’m ‘good at my job’ as long as I stay in my gender assigned role

What type of person do you picture when you hear the occupation ‘gardener’ or ‘landscaper’?

A middle-aged, well-built white man with a van who mows the lawn, cuts hedges and is very capable of doing jobs you can’t do yourself?

What type of person do you picture when you hear ‘female gardener’?

An older, white, partly-retired lady with a few hand tools and who loves flowers?

I work in a white, middle-class town in West Sussex that lives by social norms and conforms to gender stereotypes. Attempting to work as a young female professional can be difficult as my knowledge, strength and capability is disputed everyday. I’m told what I can and can’t do; this is very frustrating.

I often lose out on work as people believe that I am not up to the task because of my gender and age. Regardless of this, if you are a gardener, you are already kick-ass; we are clever people that aren’t easily intimidated by larger, more complicated tasks.

These outdated views are not always held by my ‘older’ clients and it’s refreshing to be encouraged/trusted by these clients to do my job.

Although these comments aren’t meant to be malicious, assigning stereotypical gender roles causes unequal and unfair treatment; it can also cause difficulty in relationships.

A few of the comments that I receive on a daily basis:

  1. “You’re only a gardening lady”
  2. “Don’t hurt yourself, we’ll get a man in to do it”
  3. “That task is too big/complicated/difficult for you, we’ll get in a professional”
  4. e.g. I split my own wood, “Does your boyfriend help you with that?”
  5. “Is gardening just your hobby… something to keep you busy?”
  6. “Do you know any men that will do that for us?”
  7. “It’s a cute, little gardening business”
  8. “Do you know what you’re doing?”
  9. “Are you alright reversing your van out the drive? *client walks behind van, chaotically waves arms, gets in the way*
  10. “You want to buy a van..ok..here’s our most feminine model van” *points to a nondescript white van in a row of white vans*
  11. “Don’t hurt yourself trying to use this power tool, we’ll get a strong man in to do it *winks*”
  12. “My sister likes gardening too, pottering about the the garden, deadheading and weeding”

If you feel you’re in a safe space, you can challenge these stereotypes and speak up; often people don’t realise they are stereotyping or conforming to bygone social norms.

A new wave of gardeners are appearing; people of every age, gender and ethnicity. I am excited that learning to garden is becoming more enticing; house plants and GYO are especially popular at the moment.