To Plant a Garden Is to Believe in Tomorrow

Every spring I am so grateful to be able to begin working in the garden and marvel at the circle of life again. And I love the quote accredited to Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” This year it seems even more apt…

I would imagine during these difficult times our gardens will be receiving much more attention this spring and rightly so. They should be cherished, loved and tendered, rather than forgotten about and neglected as we’re always too busy…

April is a wonderful time for gardeners. Everything is waking up after the long winter sleep and there are signs of new life everywhere. But it can also feel a bit overwhelming. Where to start? What to focus on? Especially if the garden has been neglected a little over the past year or so. Life just gets in the way sometimes…

I know the feeling well – when spring makes its appearance I always write a long list of things I would like to grow and do that year. And then, as time moves on and all of a sudden it is summer, things start slipping. Because summer is a very busy time in Shetland. We only get a small window of opportunity to enjoy our outdoors when it is at its best. So many things take priority over gardening.

From my own experience I would recommend finding two or three hours per week to spend working in your garden. It is not a huge amount of time but it should be enough, providing you follow one simple rule – little but often. Even if it’s just 15 minutes every day, I encourage you to get out there and do a little bit. And you will soon start seeing a difference. Gardening is also a brilliant way to clear your head and get a bit of exercise after a busy day at work, especially if you work in an office and spend most of your day sitting down. I love getting out in the evening after dinner, when the light is just sublime and everything seems so peaceful. 

And then there are the rewards. Of course you’ll enjoy some lovely fresh produce but also you will find moments of calm and happiness. For me a cup of tea after a gardening session is one of the pleasures that money cannot buy. You see happiness is simple, and contrary to what we often think it needn’t cost a penny. We just have to slow down, look around ourselves and enjoy what we have rather than seek something new the whole time, or dream about things we cannot have.

And if you are completely new to gardening you will probably wonder where to begin (just like I did when I moved to Shetland). My advice would be starting small. One or two raised beds is enough and you can experiment with what will grow well in your area and microclimate. Also it is a much less daunting prospect than starting a full size vegetable plot.

And remember anything you grow, however small, the harvest will make a big difference to you and the way you think of and appreciate food. All of a sudden you will think twice before you buy and throw away those supermarket bags of salad. Because growing food takes effort. A lot. But the rewards are enormous. 

Enjoy the spring and happy gardening!

For more inspiration from my Shetland Garden and from our beautiful isles you can follow me on Instagram.

Here is more growing inspiration and information:

Building a raised bed

How to start growing 

Grow your own garlic

Shetland kale

A visit to Transition Turriefield

 

Inspired… and in awe

Yesterday we spent a most enjoyable afternoon in Shetland’s Westside – namely in Sandness. Transition Turrifield held their third open day this summer and they also put on a small farmers’ market and teas, soup, bannocks and homebakes in Sandness Hall. A perfect reason for a little drive West, I thought, especially since the weather was lovely too.

It’s always great exploring different areas and corners of Shetland but the Westside must be my favourite as the lanscape is really beautiful. There are miles of quiet single-track roads with many hidden lochs that shine like gems, nestled in the hills. And sheep roam free. The vistas are juxstaposed with peatbanks with lovely dark peat and white crofthouses, dotted in the landscape. It feels like the Westside is Shetland in miniature. And then there are the egg and veg boxes beside the roads… it’s so exciting buying local produce and having the element of surprise as sometimes there can also be homemade cakes, jams or preserves. The whole experience feels like a little treasure hunt!

So after a plate of tasty soup and a spot of shopping at the hall (we bought some veg, Shetland cheese, pork, beer and fudge) we set of to the croft at Turriefeld. And what a busy place it was! Cars and people everywhere. It was great being back again and seeing how everything grows as the season progresses. In June we spent an ejoyable day with Penny and Alan learning how to build a polytunnel from discarded salmon cage pipes and plastic sheeting. Back then it was a cloudy day with a lot of wind so we didn’t get a chance to finish the tunnel and put the sheet on. (I’ll write about that experience another time.)

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This time the weather was just perfect, it was sunny, warm and there was very little wind. Everything looked green and lush. When we arrived we were given a lovely guided tour of the croft’s growing areas by one of the volunteers and in a few words I have to say I was in awe… Yes, it was amazing to see big juicy tomatoes, beans, courgettes, aubergines… but there were also pumpkins, corn… and melons too! All these were in the tunnels. Outside all sorts of brassicas, peas, carrots and tatties are thriving. And then there were the animals – hens, turkeys and ducks… and the pigs that help to work the ground.

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I could keep going on but basically visiting Turriefield and seeing the amazing work that Penny, Alan and their volunteers do is simply amazing and utterly inspiring. Visiting their croft is real eye-opener and it shows how with a bit of knowledge, some shetler and a bit of digging (or a lot) it is possible to grow many things in Shetland. And do so in a responsible, sustainable way.

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I’m totally inspired and next year I’m planning to reduce the lawn area even more to make space for a few more raised beds… just a shame we don’t have more space as I would love to have one of thoose big tunnels too… (the one pictured below is the one we built in June and it currently used for drying a great crop of garlic before it is used in the new season).

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Find out about my previous visit to Turriefield here. For further information and recipes click here.

More photos here.