KG’s Olivia Peace chats to top gardening bloggers from the world-wide web. This month she meets Louise Houghton
Louise Houghton has been blogging since 2015
Louise is a stay-at-home mum to her two not-so-little boys. She’s learning Welsh, she’s 50 this year and she has been using her blogging platform as a place to document the progress of turning a jungle into her paradise.
What made you document your gardening?
I had dabbled in blogging previously, but it was different with this blog. It became a way of documenting the progress of the garden from a jungle to what it is now, along with a visual record. Blogging was also a great way of connecting with other people who had gardens, smallholdings and interests similar to mine, so it brought me closer to the community.
How long have you been gardening?
I began gardening about seven months after we moved to Wales, which I suppose means I’ve worked on my little patch of paradise for just two years; although I definitely do consider myself a real novice and somebody who is constantly learning. When we first moved in, there was barely anything in order – we had to establish raised beds in the garden and my husband even built me a wonderful poly house. Once those issues were both sorted, I was away! I’d always wanted to make the effort to grow our own but until the move we didn’t have that luxury of space.
When looking for a house, was garden space important to you?
Yes, when we were house hunting, we were hoping to find a property with the potential for growing spaces and projects as we’re a busy family, we like to get stuck in. As it turns out, this garden was a real project, as so much needed clearing before we could even do anything, including about a dozen non-spreading bamboo bushes, but it was well worth all the hard work (mostly by my husband).
Is gardening a family-orientated activity in your house?
Sort of, but I have to say I’m the main one involved with the growing. We joke in the house that there are pink and blue jobs; the latter tends to be the more hands-on outdoors, which my husband deals with, but I am definitely the keeper of the veg patch out of all of us and that suits the family!
How important do you think it is to encourage younger people to start gardening?
I do think it is important to, at least, get children outside. I am very aware with two sons of primary school age that screens can take over a bit – and in all our lives to a degree – but “make the best of the good weather” is something I say a lot.
We get the kids involved with outdoor jobs and they do help at times with things like my spud campaign – my maincrop spuds are due to go in very soon so I’ll be asking for some help from them again this year.
I also think gardening has health benefits, especially for those with mental health issues, which are increasingly common in younger children these days. So if you start with the youngsters and can imbue in them even a small degree of interest in being outside, then they may come back to it later in life with their own families.
What about you, has it given you any health benefits?
I feel great when I’ve been working outside, even though I tend to get a bit of backache at times – but being tired yet happy suits me – though I’m hoping a “no-dig approach” this year will go towards alleviating that a bit! On days when the weather is still good at about 6pm, I sometimes shun the washing-up and just feel I need to get outside. I go and do a bit more to “make the best of the good weather” and get just a few more seeds sown or a bit of garden prep done, squeezing the best out of the day.
Do you think there’s a stigma about gardening?
Personally I don’t think there is a stigma, but maybe a stereotype attached to gardening. I think it’s something that people can consider to be a pastime of the older generation. However, the proof of waiting lists for allotments and just how long people are prepared to wait, goes some way to prove that younger people and younger families want to have that space to grow their own food. Education is an excellent way of getting young families and their children involved at school with gardening clubs and, as I said before, maybe they will continue to enjoy it and pass it on to their own children.
What’s been the biggest learning curve about gardening? Do you have any self-reflections?
I think gardening can be such a personal thing. You can follow rules set down by others when you first start, which is what I did and still do in some cases. Essentially, I think most people do things the way they have always been done, perhaps having been shown by parents or grandparents. Once you’ve grown a few things you can experiment with other less conventional ideas, or just make it up as you go along!
In fact, a friend came to see me the other day and as we walked around showing her my sowing and growing I told her how I really was just winging it. I’m a very organised person by nature, but right now I’m trying new things like mixed-planting and I do also find myself thinking, “what the heck, I’ll give that a go”. If it doesn’t work then that’s fine, it’ll probably grow the next time, but I think just do what works for you – don’t worry how other people choose to work their little patch of paradise, just do your thing and above all enjoy it. •
Do you have a favourite recipe from what you’ve grown in your garden?
This isn’t so much a recipe but just a yummy thing to eat. Turnips are normally thought of as a winter vegetable, something you put into a casserole or stew let’s say, but I love them sliced very thinly and lightly fried with garlic; my own of course. Or you could use wild garlic, which I’m also lucky enough to have in the garden after being gifted a clump by a friend!
Follow Louise on Social Media
• Louise’s blog: http://welshdreams nowreality.blogspot.co.uk/
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoobyHoughtonEnjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.