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My Gardening Journey by Armena Wilson

I am a 40 something women who lives in Birmingham. Just me, my partner and our fluffy white cat - Vader. I work at a large corporate company as a Product Manager that funds my gardening hobby. When I am not gardening I am either at the gym or socialising with friends at the many independent restaurants in Brum.

What was your introduction into gardening?

Oddly it wasn’t by family or even gardening books or TV programs. I used to watch Jamie Oliver all the time. I still love his cooking books even today but when he brought out ‘Jamie At Home’ I wanted to grow my own vegetables to be able to follow his recipes. That was my very early introduction to gardening which back then was all in containers as my ‘garden’ was just a concrete back yard.

Who’s your gardening inspiration and why?

I get inspired by the ‘average’ gardening accounts on Instagram by real people. I love relatable content the most which why I am an avid listener of podcasts like Gardeners Question Time and Talking Heads Gardening podcast.

What do you enjoy about gardening?

Gardening is a way for me to disconnect and completely unwind. I always find it odd when people say they have gardening ‘chores’ to do. Gardening is never work for me or a chore. It’s my hobby and one I enjoy even if it is pulling out weeds, deadheading or throwing down woodchip in winter.

My favourite part of gardening is just being in the garden with a cup of tea first thing in the morning; especially in that early spring sunshine.

I don’t have any jobs I don’t like doing but if I had to choose one I think it would be brushing away all the debris from the massive oak tree at the bottom of the garden.

Tell us about your gardening experiences?

I am going to go with improving my very heavy clay soil. Over the past two years I have spent a lot of time putting down rich organic matter and mulching my boarders. It is by no means a easy sandy soil but it has reduced the massive clumps of clay that I could build a pot out of.

Whilst most people have slugs concerns, mine is squirrels. They can be fairly destructive from nibbling off sunflower heads to digging up tulip bulbs. I have yet to find a way to manage them so I am learning to be more relaxed!?!

I also don’t have a garden tap outside in my back garden so watering is all done by watering cans. My kitchen is at the front of my house so watering in summer keeps me very busy and fit!

How do you manage growing in a small space?

I wanted my garden to be productive as well as beautiful. So I make sure I use every space available. For example this year I grew runner beans up giant sunflowers. I grew dwarf french beans in between my salivas and in spring I let my dwarf early pea grow alongside late flowering tulips.

I absolutely make use of all available space and really push the limits on planting distance and look for dwarf varieties of broccoli and cabbages.

What are your top 5 tips for gardening with a North East facing garden?

  • Watch where the sun falls and for how long. For example in spring I get a lot of direct morning sunshine because the massive oak tree is not in leaf but come summer I lose about 1-2 hours of morning sunshine.

  • Right plant right place. Again watching the sun moving across the garden I am able to pick the perfect place to grow my tomatoes that gets 6-8 hours of sunshine a day

  • Add texture and remember that green is a colour! Ferns, grasses and my hostas really help me here in my deep shade boarder.

  • Having raised beds on what is heavy clay soil is a god send for growing vegetables

  • Get an outdoor rug to add colour and pattern to the garden once it is in the shade.

What impact or benefits do you think gardening has had on your life & why do you feeling gardening is important?

When I started working from home 5 days a week I hated having work in my home; especially as my previous role was mentally and emotionally exhausting. I needed a place to escape so the garden became my go to space to recharge and what sparked me changing my garden.

How do you try to manage the impact your gardening has on the environment?

Everything from the garden is composted. Even if I don’t eat all my vegetables or they go over before I can eat them I compost them. It’s still challenging as I only have 3 bins (about 300ltrs but that only really covers 3 raised beds for a season so where possible I try and revitalise old potting compost or buy in peat free compost each season.

This year I should be able to dig up some of my woodchip path to help with growing material for 2023.

What are your future plans for your garden?

I am considering once again what we are eating from the garden and only growing that. I do consider the cost/taste/grow ratio when growing so I don’t tend to grow carrots but I’ll grow globe artichoke and Blueberries.

My challenge for next year will be growing tulips in all 8 of my raised beds. Tulips are my favourite flower so I’ll be staggering early to late varieties. This will ensure I can transition into early vegetables.

Huge thanks to Armena for sharing her gardening journey with us and you can continue to follow this journey on Instagram @menainthegarden

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