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My Gardening Journey by Freddie Borland

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

We asked Freddie to share with us her gardening experience and journey, and what is takes to manage three allotments and a child. This is what Freddie had to say...

My name is Freddie Borland and I am a full time mum to a 21 month old toddler. As if being a full time mum wasn’t enough I have 3 full sized allotments where my boy and I grow our food and spend most of our days surrounded by nature.

What was your introduction into gardening?

I come from a very traditional Cypriot family where we had land in the mountains and grew olives for eating and pressed into our own olive oil. Into my teens and early adult hood I was very removed from nature and didn’t know anything about growing.

I always had a vision that I would like to one day be able to grow my own food and when I was pregnant through the first lockdown I had the chance to get my first allotment. I didn’t know what an allotment was until my husband told me I should go onto a waiting list for one. I found it incredible that you could rent a small piece of land that you could then feed your family from. Once I got my first one I saw my neighbours plot becoming less kept and so went onto the waiting list for that one just a few months after and a few months after that someone offered me their plot that was a mini vineyard filled with established vines that had been there for about 15 years maybe longer. You could probably say at this stage, I was hooked.

Who’s your gardening inspiration and why?

My son.

Watching him first learn how to sow seeds back in the new year to now getting excited to harvest the freshest food and how he knows what food looks like when it’s grown, he inspires me everyday. He loves to grab the ripe berries, tomatoes or peas and eat them on the spot. I’d often turn around and find him munching away on asparagus.

After seeing ladybirds in books he got so excited to see his first real ladybird in the spring and it was so fascinating learning with him how they transform from larvae into the beautiful little garden helpers we love. He now spends half his time running around with a ladybird on his arm.

When I started growing our food it took me on a journey that I never expected to go on. Gardening with my boy has opened my eyes to the amazing natural world around us that I'd

never noticed before. At first my goal was that within 10 years we could be mainly self sufficient and only have to buy foods that I couldn’t grow. However nearly 2 years in and watching my son basically grow up on the allotments, gardening for me is more about how we can grow our food by creating a complete ecosystem on our little pieces of land.

What do you enjoy about gardening?

I love how in a world that is becoming more and more digital being outside and growing connects me back to our roots. There is just something about getting your hands in the soil and at the end of the day stepping back to see the work you have achieved. For me it’s a form of meditation. Sowing seeds, potting on or planting out, harvesting and even weeding, which I know a lot of people hate but for me I could spend hours without even realising on each of these tasks. But that doesn’t stop in the garden, its the same in the kitchen. To be able to take home fruit and vegetables grown by my own hands to then prepare, cook and eat is the ultimate fulfilment.

Tell us about your gardening experiences?

There has been a lot of challenges so far and a lot of lessons learnt. This is my second year on the allotments and I am starting to really get a feel for the space and its environment. We are in a very open area and are exposed to extremely high winds in the winter, strong sun in the summer and clay soil. I have had green houses and water farming systems destroyed from the weather, animals like rabbits, mice, deer, slugs etc eat most of my crops. And this year with the heat and lack of rain my allotments look more like desserts than a space abundant of food and life. The biggest lesson I have learnt is to just keep being persistent and push through. It’s only through failure do we really learn. Also where’s the fun if everything we did succeeded first time around?

What is your secret to managing 3 allotments and a child?

The allotments are our lifestyle. They are an extension of our home. We have a small house with a small garden so when I took them on I saw them as my garden and where I would spend my days not just gardening but also relaxing and playing with my son. I can’t progress as quick sometimes with certain projects due to having my boy with me but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way I work on the allotments has to constantly change and adapt to meet his current development stage. As a new born I could strap him to me and get so much done while he napped and just have a quick tea break when he needed feeding or a change. As he became more mobile it definitely meant tasks took a lot longer.

Our currant typical day at the allotments is starting in the morning and enjoying our breakfast there, we then play, I have a mud kitchen, a fairy herb garden (that’s still in progress), a painting easel, sand pit and swing in a dedicated play area for my boy. I find I can get more work done after I have spent time with him actively playing in whatever activity he wants to do that day. I then can get on with any jobs I have and my son will either join in or if he isn’t interested in what I’m doing he will continue to play or find something he can harvest and snack on. I also have a tent set up so he always has somewhere to go and nap if he needs it or just sit down and get out the sun. This little routine works great for us at the moment but is ever changing depending on him. He currently has the most energy and enjoys the allotment the most in the morning. By the afternoon he is ready for more chilled activities or likes to help prepare dinner with me in the kitchen.

What are your 5 top tips for starting an allotment?

1. If you don’t have running water set up a water farming system and collect as much rain water as you can through the winter months. IBC tanks are amazing and can normally be found on facebook market place.

2. Get to know your space. Are you exposed to the elements, are there a lot of trees and shady areas, what may already be there and established and how does the sun move across the allotment. These are all big factors that will effect what to grow and where.

3. Have a look at different gardening methods and see what will suit you best. I went for a no dig method and I follow permaculture principles. My beds are more of a market garden style rather than raised as i just didn’t have the time to build with a baby and I also like that I can change the layout if I ever want to.

4. Design your allotment. I draw out my idea so I can get an idea of what I want it to look like and where I want everything to be planted. That way when I start I have a clear vision of what I’m trying to achieve.

5. Lastly little and often I find is best. It’s so easy to just want to dive straight in and work for hours straight but that can sometimes be overwhelming and if you have just spent 4 hrs on your new allotment clearing over grown weeds you most likely will be too tired to do that again the next day. So I find an hour or just 30 minutes a day is the most productive over a long period of time. Figure out what time you can give to the allotment to be consistent.

How do you transfer your minimalist lifestyle into gardening?

We have a minimalist lifestyle as a family so that we have more time to do the things we love like gardening. When it comes to keeping my garden minimalist it can be hard as I love to get things second had or up-cycle free items. I only get things as and when I need them so when I first started I built a compost area and just used my hands and a hoe. I then got a spade and wheelbarrow for laying my paths with wood chip and creating the beds. Anything I now find for free I only get it if I have a project in mind that it would be suitable for otherwise I could end up collecting so many planters, pallets, tools etc.

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

Gardening has completely transformed our lives and our perspective on things. Not just myself but my husband too, who doesn’t even garden. It’s really taught me a lot about nature and and shown me a world I didn’t really notice before when I worked in an office Monday to Friday 9-5. I missed so much like the transitions from one season to another and really getting to know what grows around our village and getting to experience the wild life around us. I’ve seen deer, fox cubs, birds coming and going through the year. Also getting to know what food we can forage in our area. There is so much life around us that I never knew about. Gardening has also taught us a lot of life lessons like patience and to also slow down sometimes. To really appreciate what we accomplish.

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

I aim to create a complete closed loop system with our allotments. Everything that’s grown, any waste goes back to make compost or feed our worms where we get home made fertiliser. I reuse any cardboard from deliveries not just from our household but neighbours too and I also collect the waste from a friend who has rabbits to use as mulch on the vegetable beds. I try and get any materials I need for free, second hand and recycle anything I can. I’ve recycled old conservatories, desks, pallets, shelving units, greenhouses, the large plastic bags from building yards. I’m basically like an unofficial recycling centre for the village. Since growing our own food I have noticed a huge difference in the waste we produce as a house hold. We used to fill our general waste bin every 2 weeks and our recycling bin was always bursting. We now hardly even get to a 1/4 full in our general waste bin every 2 weeks and our recycling bin takes about a month to fill. I find it crazy to think of the waste we used to have and how we have reduced that drastically. I don’t even use our green waste bin as all of that goes to our allotment.

What are your future plans for your garden?

My big plans are to one day buy our own land where I’m not limited to what I can do and create an environment to attract as much wild life as I can with a woodland area, ponds, wild flowers, have rescued chickens, our own bee hives you name it. Build my own little paradise in nature. Until then the allotments are where I get to practise and experiment until that day arrives.

Thanks to Freddie for sharing her wonderful gardening experiences with us and I know for me having a six month old little boy that I'm trying to engage with gardening it has been real insight into what you can achieve. You can follow Freddie's gardening journey on instagram @freddieborland

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