There’s something wonderful about growing your own fruits and vegetables. It’s not just about putting food on the table, it’s about something else.
Magic comes from a collection of very simple things….
It’s about putting your hands in the dirt.
Plant the seeds and watch them grow.
It’s magical to watch tiny seedlings break through the soil.
There’s always something to look forward to, whether it’s the plants that are growing or the vegetables that are about to be harvested.
I realized that there is a whole community of growers out there who are just as passionate as you are.
I realize that I will fail over and over again, and that’s okay. Learn from each mistake.
It’s getting a little better every year.
Surprises in the garden include wildflowers, plants you forgot you were growing, and things that turned out better than you expected.
It’s about putting dinner on the table and knowing that 70% of it has grown. I may only eat this once every few weeks, but it’s very satisfying!
Reducing plastic waste.
It makes me feel like I’m doing something good for the planet.
It’s about learning new skills.
There’s fresh air in your lungs.
It feels like back pain after digging in the ground or carrying a wheelbarrow all day.
Reaching high for the juiciest berries.
I’m making a soup with lots of vegetables.
Freeze a big batch and you’ll be thankful for it in the winter.
I’ve become a nerd over compost.
It’s a nice steaming tea to drink on a cold morning.
I sit quietly and watch the bees.
You’re noticing more bees, butterflies, and birds nesting in your garden.
It’s the sweetest strawberry and tastiest tomato you can imagine.
I’m finding new ways to cook more zucchini!
Groceries from the Garden with Isa Lamb
As part of my work with Curious Cymru, I found myself at Isa Lamb’s home in Denbighshire, North Wales. I’m working on a project showcasing the best he Airbnb experiences in North Wales and I came here for the gardening experience!
Isa runs Groceries from the Garden, a two-hour experience that teaches people about self-sufficiency and the practicalities of growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. She also keeps chickens and welcomes a wide variety of animals and insects to her edible garden.
Behind an unassuming house in the pretty market town of Denbigh lies the most incredibly inspiring garden you can imagine. Around every corner, there was something to see and eat. I walked up and down the sidewalk many times, each time discovering something new.
A plum tree, laden with juicy fruit, shook its branches and fell to the ground. Tart berries climbing the fence, bright flowers that attract bees and butterflies, carrots peeking out of the soil, frogs hopping along the fence, wasps drinking water from small bowls, raised beds and delicious herbs. Butternut squash growing around a pot.
I came here to come into my own and learn more.
As all good experiences do, the experience started with delicious tea and rose bliss. Bara Bliss is a Welsh tea bread that resembles fruit bread and is surprisingly rich, chewy and fruity.
We sat in the shade of Isa’s garden and she told us how she became a great gardener. Not only does Isa grow all her own fruits and vegetables, she also works on special projects that use gardening as a form of therapy. Isa brings the natural world into hospitals and care homes, supporting people with dementia and other life-threatening conditions.
Lockdown and the increased interest in self-sufficiency
‘Grocery in the Garden’ was born during lockdown, partly due to the increased interest in gardening, and partly because Isa was temporarily unable to visit hospitals and care homes. That’s what happened. Due to the various effects of lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have turned to nature for help physically, mentally and emotionally. Spending more time at home, slowing down the pace of life, and exercising outdoors has allowed many of us to reconnect with nature in ways we’ve never experienced before. There was also an element of people losing control of their emotions and emptying supermarket shelves. Eating food used to be terrifying for humans with mouths, so it’s no wonder there was a growing interest in self-sufficiency.
Isa and I both agreed that growing your own vegetables is a lost art. We have forgotten how to do it, and it is seen as a complex piece of magic that requires enormous amounts of time, money, energy, land, and knowledge.
I myself have taken a huge interest in gardening since lockdown started, but I hate scrolling through internet trends and Instagrammable gardens online.
If you read too much or watch too much, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Also, much of the information out there comes from people with large gardens and dedicated farms, making it seem as if ordinary backyard vegetable growers are a thing of the past.
But lo and behold, backyard vegetable growers are making a comeback!
Breaking down the barriers to self-sufficiency
Isa breaks through these barriers and proves that it’s actually very easy to grow your own and that it’s possible to be self-sufficient in a very average sized garden!
Isa’s grounds are pretty average for a British garden and she loves combining beauty with productivity. Gorgeous flowers bloom next to rows of green onions, and potted flowers mix with herb and fruit bushes. A small greenhouse is overflowing with tomatoes and melons, and a raised vegetable bed is overflowing with delicious food.
Isa’s beautiful chickens live at the edge of the garden and I was lucky enough to be introduced to them by the girls. We discussed the benefits of keeping chickens, practicalities, and tips for storing eggs.
Isa does what she calls “old lady gardening.” It’s a style of gardening that I can also participate in. She may be far from an old lady herself, but she proved that she doesn’t have to be incredibly healthy or strong to develop herself. It is possible to have a garden like this while avoiding her heavy lifting and back strain!
The main lessons learned
The main thing I took away from Isa was the fact that most of her tips and advice were very simple. Isa didn’t do anything complicated or scary.
Nature keeps everything in order, so you need a wide variety of animals, insects, and plants to create a healthy garden.
It’s as simple as putting water in a shallow bowl that the insects can drink from. Insects pollinate our plants and give us more crops!
This allowed the chickens to roam freely and peck away the mess.
The fruit attracts birds and keeps them there to eat the slugs and snails. I mix the grass clippings with the potatoes to give them the nitrogen they need to grow.
Really, all you have to do is try, fail, and try again next year!
Isa’s last words to me as I left were a simpler hint, but honestly, that’s all that matters.
Grow what you eat and eat what you grow.
That’s all you need!
I left Isa’s home with lots of delicious food from the garden and lots of knowledge about how to grow food even in your own small garden!
More info about Groceries from the Garden
To book the Groceries from the Garden experience, you can do so online through Airbnb Experiences.
It currently costs £25 per person for a two-hour experience.
Here is a link to Isa’s Groceries from the Garden website. There you will find more information and her “Ponderings from the Polytunnel”. Please read it!
Curious Cymru is the Welsh Government’s tourism organization, dedicated to showcasing all the amazing, unique and exciting activities currently available in North Wales.
As you can imagine, this is a project I’m really looking forward to working on. It’s great to meet local entrepreneurs who are creating great businesses out of their passion and allowing both tourists and locals to learn more about their hobby.
Details about my Airbnb experience:
Bikepacking in the Bedgerert Forest
Beekeeping with Anglesey honey bees
Historic Bike Tour of Anglesey with Green Lane Bike Tours