Our #GrowInspired series features our innovative and creative garden partners. Whether they’re working with two acres or 200 square feet, we are constantly in awe of their hard work and kick-ass gardens. These are some of our favorite growers and gardeners who inspire us to get out and play in the dirt.
Joe Harrison is a UK-based gardener, father, plant lover and garden writer. He lives in Suffolk, a seaside town in the east of England, with his partner Donna and four children. Joe’s “Grow With Joe” Instagram page has amassed a huge following for his colorful garden photos, helpful gardening tips, and adorable photos of his family out in the garden. We chatted with Joe about his favorite plants to grow, his garden challenges, and he even took us on a virtual ‘tour’ of his garden. He is one of our favorites to follow on Instagram — go and follow him, we promise you won’t be disappointed!
On How Joe Got Started Gardening
Gardening for me started from a very young age. We were lucky enough to have a large garden growing up, part of which was used for growing our own produce. My grandad would expertly tend to a variety of fruits and vegetables and it’s here my passion was ignited. I remember asking him if he had any jobs that needed doing; although looking back, I was probably more of a hindrance rather than help! He would always indulge me and give me something to do like watering, weeding, picking peas or shelling beans; all memories of which I look back on with great fondness.
Why Joe Loves Gardening
Gardening is so rewarding and has so many physical and mental health benefits. I almost feel like a child again as I sprinkle all sorts of different fruit and vegetables seeds over fresh soil. The excitement of seeing the green shoots of new life poking through the soil never leaves you; it never fails to make me smile and lift my mood. It’s this magic I’m sharing with our children.
A Virtual Garden Tour
We have a small, square courtyard garden which has a large table so we can eat outside in the summer, a few dozen terracotta pots of varying sizes filled with aromatic flowers, herbs and strawberries and a small section of grass for the kids to play on. In addition to this we rent an allotment which is seconds away from our house and it’s here the bulk of our homegrown produce can be found. Allotments are measured using a scale of ‘poles’ or ‘rods’ which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times; ours is 10 rods which is the equivalent of 250 metres, about the same size as a doubles tennis court.
When we took on our allotment it had been disused for a number of years and was extremely overgrown with 2 rotten sheds which were near to collapse. It took a lot of hard work to get the plot usable again, but little by little we have achieved it. Last year we were finally in a position where we could make 4 raised beds using old roof tiles and reclaimed wood which should make our growing more manageable. These beds take up half our plot and will be used for produce which doesn’t need a great deal of room, such as lettuce, corn, beetroot, spinach, brassicas etc. The other half of our plot will be used to grow things which enjoy lots and lots of room to spread out and scramble like pumpkins, courgettes and squash plants.
On Getting His (Adorable) Children Involved In Gardening
One of the main reasons I took on our allotment was to educate our children on where our food comes from, how to grow it themselves and of course making lots of lovely memories along the way too. With so much technology and different screens to compete with now, it can be a challenge at times to get the kids outside, especially during winter (but then I can’t say I blame them). During the warmer months our allotment is a place for them to sow seeds, water plants, play hide-and-seek, discover nature and of course to enjoy a lovely packed lunch in the sun. I also find that giving them a little ownership of something really engages them too. If they’ve sown their own seeds, they’re always excited to visit the greenhouse to water their seedlings and check their progress.
Joe’s Favorite Veggie To Grow
We do tend to gravitate to growing things we know and love each year (with a sprinkling of new fruit and veggie varieties here and there), but for me one of the most satisfying and delicious things to grow has to be tomatoes. They really signify summer and I always feel a sense of pride and achievement each time I grow them. We’ve actually been really lucky in recent years because we’ve been able to enjoy picking them in our greenhouse well into October, which has been a real treat.
His Favorite Flower
When I think about my favourite flower to grow, the runaway winner has to be sweet peas. This beautifully fragrant cut flower is a must on our allotment. We normally sow over 100 seeds and have them growing all over our plot. If sown early enough, you can start to enjoy these gorgeous flowers as early as May and if you continue cutting them daily, you can have a constant supply until the end of summer. They look and smell incredible and it would appear that the pollinators enjoy them just as much as we do, which is an extra added bonus.
On Garden Challenges
During the wet, cold winter months it can be easy to forget just how hot our summers can be in the UK. Now of course I realise that our hottest summer day perhaps doesn’t compare to some temperatures other gardeners across the globe have to endure, but for us Brits 25-30 degrees Celsius is a little on the warm side! Whilst these temperatures are perfect for sunbathing on the beach or lounging next to a pool, unfortunately the effect on the garden means watering and lots of it. One of the rules on our allotment site is that there are no hose pipes allowed to be used via the communal water tap, which means watering our huge plot using just water cans which can take a few hours — twice daily. We’re hoping that with the addition of our new raised beds, filled with lots of lovely water-retaining organic compost and well-rotted horse manure, it will help alleviate the need to water quite as often this year. This will hopefully save us lots of time so we can get on with other things on the plot.
C-BITEs In Joe’s Garden
We used C-BITEs in our garden this season to build a frame to protect our strawberries and brassicas from garden nuisances!
Joe’s Gardening Advice
If I were to give one piece of gardening advice it would be to roll your sleeves up and just have a go. If you’re a complete beginner, don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice if you get a little stuck — the gardening community is so supportive and encouraging. If you have a go at sowing something and it doesn’t go as planned it really doesn’t matter; nothing is a failure as long as you learn from it. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is so satisfying and rewarding and you get to enjoy your own fresh delicious produce as a result; what’s not to love?!