“There’s nothing quite like a heavy basket of victory to keep you growing”; stirring words from the inspirational Mrs Bees. She’s a Cornish-based powerhouse of fruit, veg, and flower cultivating motivation! Flashes of attainable majesty! Abundant bounties put to delicious use! The wooly concept of ‘self-sufficiency’ grasped and woven into a stunningly coherent garden tapestry! It’s all there in MrsBeesGarden, Much to our delight, Mrs Bees recently took time out to share her work with us.
The eponymous garden of Mrs Bees (AKA Debbie Beech) has been a long time in the making but exemplifies the virtues of a gradual approach. “Our growing space has evolved over twenty-five years from an overgrown patch of land to a thirty-raised-bed, two-greenhouse ‘Potager’1 garden which now provides us with the majority of our ingredients for home cooking and preserving.”
It just goes to show that even unprepossessing areas can be turned into productive gardens, and that transformation can occur at your own pace. Potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, aubergines, lemons, sweetcorn, courgettes, runner beans, celeriac, kohlrabi, and okra all now abound at Mrs Bee’s; a living testament to her incremental-but-determined ways.
Conscious that not everyone has the luxury of a patch of land — overgrown or otherwise – and ever-keen to inspire, Debbie has continued her garden odyssey by seeking out alternative means of growing. This has included the use of AutoPot Watering Systems as a ‘no-dig’ option. A prospect she approached with enthusiasm and trepidation in equal measure.
“Hand on heart, the thought of trialing AutoPots to grow tomatoes, my number one favourite crop, worried me as much as it excited me.” From Debbie’s point of view this is an obstacle many traditional growers face. “Newer generations of gardeners have the advantage of embracing technology as early adopters. Growers such as myself are seasoned traditional double-diggers who only recently embraced the ‘no dig’ principles over the past two years thanks to social media.” So how did Debbie get on?
“Thankfully, in a troublesome year for the majority of growers, we have had a bountiful tomato season. The easy2grow40 system and FlexiTank were easy to set up and saved precious watering and feeding time. If anything, it’s made us more inquisitive to see what else we can grow in them and to explore the use of watering systems for the rest of the garden — continuing to learn as we grow.”
What Debbie may have lacked in watering system experience she more than makes up for in helpful, straight-forward, sympathetic advice, and unvarnished anecdotes. These are generously shared via her social media feeds and demonstrate just how much traditional and hydro growers have to offer each other. “I love Instagram as a community of like-minded people who rejoice in your growing highs and commiserate in your lows but most of all as a hub to share tips and tricks both new and old.”
Whether your background is traditional or hydroponic Debbie’s advice unfailingly holds water. “My biggest tip for new growers is start small, grow what you love to eat but start with the simple things like runner beans and courgettes. Try adding a ‘new to you’ veg into the mix after that if you can. Celeriac, kohlrabi and okra are just a few newbies here that have immediately graduated to our keeper list.”
Trying new fruit and veg is not only a delectable adventure, in all probability it’ll put you on the right side of history. A plant-based diet is our ancestral past, our healthy present, and our sustainable future. There are all kinds of positive messages to promote eating fruit and veg but frankly, given that meat production and consumption cannot really continue to grow at an unchecked rate, you’re best off finding some kind of fruit and veg you like. While you’re at it, why not grow it just the way you like it — and at minimal cost. Debbie puts this much more gently, but there are parallels in the thrust of her work.
“Hopefully my little Insta page of squares inspires someone to sow that first seed. Watching that it grow into a plant that provides fresh, organic food for your plate is the magic that has you hooked forever.”