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.

Being a young female on the Internet

The blog title made you worry and start reading this, didn’t it…

Three-quarters of women and girls expect abuse if they post an opinion about politics or current affairs online. People tell you to watch yourself online; be on your best behaviour if you’re going to ‘put yourself out there’.

55% of women suffer anxiety and a sense of powerlessness from this abuse.

I recently wrote a blog about the everyday sexism I receive as a young female horticulturist doing what is perceived as a ‘man’s job’. This article was viewed and read by many different people who agreed that these comments are absurd, misogynistic and patronising.

Then I received more comments.. an influx of direct messages from (in this case but not always) men offering their opinion on the situation:

  1. I was asked where I lived
  2. What my dad does for a living and if I worked for his company
  3. Told I had to meet up with them so they could share their opinions face to face
  4. They tried to add my personal accounts on Facebook, Instagram etc
  5. Made personal comments about my appearance
  6. Sent harassing, inappropriate comments that I have blocked them for
  7. Emailed me for not replying on social media
  8. Being aggressively abused for not replying to the email

The blog I wrote was a personal article on how misogyny affects me; I don’t regret posting it even when people were telling me to watch what I say because it could make others perceive me negatively.

I felt enriched after many of you agreed with me, saying it affected you too but not letting it bring you down and powering through it, consistently breaking stereotypes and changing the world. To contrast this, the horrible comments left me feeling powerless, intimidated and enraged; it proves my point even more and highlights how dangerous the world can be when it escalates from being ‘harmless’ comments.

Statistics from Amnesty International’s latest report, link here.

‘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.

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.

GROW: Samphire

Samphire has an impressive nutritional value, packed with essential minerals and almost no fat. It is a popular ‘superfood’ that is often used to accompany fish dishes or in salads. It has a lovely fresh taste!

I live too far from the coast to get fresh samphire. Like FRESH samphire, the crisp salty young growth that has been harvested that day. Samphire bought from a supermarket is often expensive and disappointing. I saw Sarah Raven were selling samphire seeds and I’ve bought some! They are the best value samphire seeds I’ve found that you can buy.

This samphire should be grown in a pot. Choose a wide but shallow pot that it’ll live in few a while as it self-seeds each year.

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Use a mixture of seed compost and gravel (70:30 ratio) to obtain a moist but well-drained soil to sow your seeds onto the surface of. Then sprinkle a light layer of soil on top of the seeds.

Sow indoors: March-May or September-November.

Sow outdoors: May-June.

Place the flowerpot onto a windowsill or in a greenhouse to start then leave on windowsill or move to a sunny patio.

Water from the base only (into a saucer). Use a mixture of water and salt (1 pint: 1 tsp). Use real sea salt, not table salt or it’ll kill the plant.

Harvest from May-July. Treat it as ‘cut and come again’. Cut the young growth once the plant is established. Don’t harvest too late in the season as the plant will self-seed if left and new samphire will grow next year. Leave the pot in a greenhouse/on a windowsill.

 

GROW: Cosmos

Often labelled as ‘dainty’ and ‘sweet’. Cosmos are so much more than ‘easy to grow’. A border/plot filled with cosmos is alive and thriving. They can grow up to 1.2m (depending on variety) and have stems thick enough to withstand secateurs. These plants are great and should never be undervalued!

Grown by sowing the seeds indoors from February-April or outdoors April-May. It then flowers in June-October!

Cosmos attract bees and butterflies, their open flower heads allow the insects to wallow the in the glorious pollen. Make sure to dead-head during June-October to encourage flowering.

You can buy shorter varieties for smaller spaces or pinch out the tops when they are seedlings; this will encourage the plant to become more compact.

These plants are annuals so make sure to dig them up in autumn, when flowering has finished. You can harvest the dry seed heads and sow the seeds next year.

My top 5 favourites for 2017!!!

  • Mixed Sensation
  • Psyche White
  • Double Click Cranberries
  • Double Click Rose
  • Versailles Tetra

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