Emma: Lessons from a first-time gardener

Nothing more satisfying that growing your own food

Last year I fulfilled my London living wish and moved into a flat with a garden.  Since then the patchy square of grass has been transformed into a veritable oasis of home-grown goodness.

There is a bit of me who sees this exercise as more than part of my twenty-year-early decent into middle age. With rising food prices, a heating earth and the imminent collapse of society, it’s hard not to think that it might just be sensible to start practicing self-subsistence. Of course, I’m hoping it won’t come to that. Indeed, Life Size Media’s very purpose is to work alongside the companies that are developing the solutions we need to avoid us all having to don drab, baggy clothing and dust off the shovel for our own survival.

A windowsill wonder

However, in the spirit of co-operation I thought it only fair to share my learnings with those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to progress beyond windowsill herbs; however impressed co-director Alisa may be with her mint, it’s not going to feed the five thousand!

Along my journey from gardening philistine to green fingered goddess I have learnt some key pointers to gardening success. Today, I thought I’d share a few of those that seem applicable not only to the garden but to everyday life…


A plum success

1. Some things that look dead will turn out to be secretly full of life.

When our plum ‘tree’ arrived it was, literally, a stick in a box. But we dutifully planted it and I even built a little ring fence around it to make it look more of a feature. I then doubted it all through the winter, making jokes about the enormous plum harvest we would enjoy the following year. However, one day in spring our little stick surprised me with a tiny green bud. And just look at it now!

The blackberry bush


2. Some things that look dead really are dead!

This is our blackberry bush. It has looked like this for about eight months now. Unlike the plum tree which I simply overlooked, having looked VERY closely at this, I can see no conceivable way in which it is going to spring to life.


3. Price doesn’t always represent quality.

Beans galore

Our strawberries were bought from a garden centre in Richmond. Each delicately held in its own little polystyrene pot ready to be popped out and placed in the earth. Our beans are from the pound shop, dried beans, three types to a pack. Our strawberry plants produced a total of four and a half strawberries this year. Our beans have taken over the garden and we have eaten so many beans over the summer that I think I am literally turning into one!


4. Sometimes it’s good to follow the instructions.

Something’s wrong with the carrots

When thinning our neat, 30cm apart rows of carrots, I decided that this was an inefficient use of space, and so dug them all up and replanted them in a grid matrix that my calculations showed would give maximum yield. When all the plants survived the transplant and subsequently flourish I was very pleased with my cunning plan. It was only when I came to dig them up that I realised the slight flaw in roughly shoving young roots into shallow holes…!


5. There is nothing that brings more delight that eating something you grew yourself.

I have never enjoyed stringy beans, soily carrots or misshapen beetroot more. In fact, I’d never enjoyed beetroot at all until I grew my own and put it in everything. There is something innately satisfying about plucking what you need from your own garden and knowing that the food you’re eating was grown 20 metres not 4000 miles away.


Next step self sufficiency