We asked James about his gardening experience and journey, as well as why he thinks it is important to encourage our children to grow their own food. This is what James had to say.
Hi, I'm James Martin, I'm married with two children and two stepsons. I'm from Lancaster but I now live in a village in Derbyshire. I work as a courier now, but I have done a few different jobs up until now. When I left school, I went to college and studied joinery and carpentry. I joined the army in 2009 and went into the Royal Engineers and gained many life skills while I was there but I left when I met my wife as I was based out in Germany, and I wanted to move back to the UK. I have visited a few countries around the world but two stand out ones for me are Canada and the Maldives.
I have always been an outside person and I have loved being in the garden since I was a little boy, some of my earliest memories are of me in the garden with my nan, she absolutely loved her garden and her plant pots. She used to take us blackberry picking, and we used bake with them, maybe this is where my passion for growing my own produce was born.
My gardening inspiration was born from my nan, back when I was young, being out in the garden with her. I think these days I take inspiration from different areas, like social media and TV. If I had to say, who do I love watching, it would have to be Adam Frost. I could watch him all day, I love the way he creates a garden and listening to his knowledge.
My favourite part of gardening, wow, there's so many. I absolutely love the feeling of sitting in a garden that me and my wife Philippa have created, watching the wildlife coming into it and the children playing in a beautiful and safe environment. One thing we love doing, me and the kids, is trying to grow the tallest sunflower from seed, seeing their faces when they tower above them is magical. My least favourite job in the garden has got to be weeding the lawn, it just feels so monotonous and boring, but it still beats doing housework.
My biggest success in the garden has got to be getting my children involved, there's nothing nicer than watching them learn and plant their own seeds and see them grow, often into giant sunflowers or tomato plants full of fruits, they absolutely love harvesting our produce and I feel it’s so important to teach them where things come from and why and how they grow. Every year we do the usual, but I feel 2022 is going to be packed with plants, vegetables, and fruits now we have our hands on our own allotment. Watch this space! Our biggest challenge has got to be our new puppy Ronnie, he is a border terrier, and he absolutely loves digging our garden up, not ideal, and hopefully he will grow out of it.
For me, the most important thing about involving children in the garden is that they are our future, it's so important that future generations learn how to garden and grow their own produce, in turn lowering their carbon footprint by eating local food that's more sustainable for a better world. It's all well and good having whatever we want at our fingertips but if we all tried to eat our fruit and vegetables in season it would surely be better for the planet. Children these days spend far too much time indoor wrapped up in iPads and games, getting them involved and out of the house is always a bonus for me, especially when they are learning as well.
I usually have competitions with my kids, to see who can grow the biggest, tallest or the tastiest. A little competition never hurt anyone, right!? They absolutely love been outdoors, so that helps too. They love attracting wildlife into our garden, one thing we do in the summer is lie on the grass and look up, watching all the bat's flying over us at dusk, its magical.
Gardening is my Hobby and my passion. I have been a keen fisherman all my life but having small children means I don't always have time to go, gardening has given me that escape from the stresses of life, it’s my happy place and what better way than helping my kids learn at the same time. I set my Instagram page @a_life_in_the_garden up to document how we get on and even they like to get involved with that. Gardening has taught me many things, not just about the actual process of it but things like been patient and if something doesn't work, either try it again or change how you do it but never give up, life is about learning and having fun and been out in the garden or the allotment does all this for me.
When I'm gardening or down at my allotment, I try to recycle whatever I can. When sowing seeds, I use toilet tubes and old containers that have more than one use, I feel we need to move away from these horrible single use plastics and find more sustainable options. Once I have used them, I wash them and store them until next time. Another thing I do is try to use things I find, for instance if I can find a use for something I always keep it and use it, like making raised beds out of pallet wood, and making my shed out of pallets, all it takes is a little imagination (from my wife also) and the world is your oyster. A big one for me too is also making my own compost, this will stop the single use plastic and it means we are using peat free compost which is also important to us. It means we can get it anytime we want; I have two bins and a composting bay at my allotment, we also have one full of leaves breaking down to make leaf mould.
We try to eat as much as we can that's in season, so we preserve some of our produce either freezing or pickling, this helps us to not have to buy it out of season which is lowering our carbon footprint. One thing me and the kids do every year, is collect seeds from trees, like horse chestnut or acorns and we propagate them, once big enough we plant them in the countryside. We know just how important trees are to us all and we feel we are doing our bit for the environment and having a bit of fun at the same time. Have I got any other ideas to be more sustainable? Yes! Of course, I think I will be planting more plants for pollinators, and I am looking into the idea of going electric as this will reduce the emissions from my garden tools.
My future plans…well, I have loads! Not so much for my garden, apart from making it more sustainable and filling it with colourful flowers, but I do down at my allotment. When I took it over in October, it was just a patch of dirt, overgrown around the edges and full of weeds. We have come a long way in a short space of time and 2022 is going to be even bigger. I have plans to make more planting beds and paths, and a pond to bring more wildlife into the plot, I also want to make a bird feeding station as birds are the linchpin to a healthy garden. I want to try and grow as much of our own fruit and vegetables as I can while getting the children involved.
I absolutely love your ethos at Good Roots Barn HQ, trying to teach people the importance of getting rid of plastic from their gardens is really important to me. The more people do their bit to create sustainability in their own gardens, the better world we will have for future generations.