I've loved reading about Ally's plans for her allotment and there is so much advice for new gardeners below. I particularly liked how Ally shares about not worrying about 'being late to sow'- often sowing later in the season can help- so don't panic if you're a bit behind! I love Ally's eco-friendly shares and excited to see the progress of her Luffas this year. Ally is one of the most supportive cheerleaders on Instagram, so if you don't follow her already- then where have you been? go go go...! @theduckpatch
Tell us a bit about you and when did you started gardening, and why?
From a very young age I spent a lot of time in garden centres or at Flower shows so plants have always been a huge part of my life. My two biggest influences for gardening has to be my Mum and My Aunty Wendy they taught me pretty much everything I know (minus my Aunty Wendy's skill in houseplants as I definitely was not blessed with this haha). But I really got into growing once we bought our own house (we were lucky enough to buy my grandparents house so the garden was already filled with so much love and plants that were older than me and my Mum :) ). We started with a small veg patch at home and my love of growing squash was way too large for our garden so an allotment was a must and that is where the growing really got exciting.
Which gardeners inspire you and why?
Well of course my Mum and Aunty Wendy have played a huge inspiration to my gardening life. But finding the Instagram community of growers has really given me so much inspiration to grow so many new things. I would never have thought of attempting to grow a Luffa until this year so I have to thank Debbie aka @mrsbeesgarden for sharing these. Her garden is an absolute dream. Another lady who has truly inspired me is Rachel from @rachel_grows she is so honest and shares the real highs and lows of gardening which is so important for any first time grower. We have definitely all forgotten to water a fair amount of plants or like me never covering the brassicas haha.
What’s the most ambitious gardening project you’ve completed or have planned?
Taking on our allotment has been a long project for me. I pretty much do most of it on my own with the occasional bit of help from Mr Duck Patch and of course Little Duck too. It it a very big space and I never seem to get it full cleared of weeds so this year I am planning to finally finish the layout and add lots more raised beds, plus try to fully convert the 9m x 18m space into completely no dig (but I feel this may be a bigger task then I can manage in one year). Also for 2021 I want to finally get our greenhouse up which has been in our garage for the past two years so all our tomatoes this summer will be completely homegrown.
What is your favourite thing to grow?
So hard to pick just one thing as I love growing all sorts from flowers to veg. One flower I seem to have an obsession with is Dahlias.... each year I add 6 more to my garden (which I actually thought was a large quantity till I joined the Gardening Instagram world haha), Dahlias bring so much joy right up into the cold months of Autumn so I think they are a must for any garden.
When it comes to growing my own produce I absolutely adore squash of all kinds, I think you can never have enough types of squash. Last year I attempted to grow over 12 varieties.... granted the slugs had other ideas haha. I love watching the squash from flower to fruit over the long summer months then being able to keep our family fed over winter. So far I am yet to have a Christmas without a Pumpkin soup from our homegrown squash.
Anything new you want to try in the next growing season?
So many new things will be tried at The Duck Patch this year, I have a large number of tomato varieties I am trying, including the Crazy Barry's Cherry which seemed to be in everyone's garden last year. But the big aim is to grow my own Luffa's, as a family who focuses hugely on our carbon footprint, being able to grow my own sponges would complete our eco lifestyle.
Where is your favourite garden in the world, and why?
Ooo what a hard question this is, I haven't visited many gardens globally unfortunately but there are some amazing ones right here in the UK. I love Wisley as we have spent so much time there with Little Duck since she was born so it is very close to my heart and perfect for families. Cornwall is our home from home and I really love visiting The Lost Gardens of Heligan, they have some really stunning displays of Rhododendrons and an amazing Rope Bridge which is a must if you visit.
What do you wish you’d known earlier about gardening?
One thing I wish I had learned a lot earlier was the massive impact of off the shelf bug sprays and pesticides. Unfortunately I was hugely unaware of the impact these had until a few years ago and after plenty of research I have found so many excellent eco friendly alternatives. Also I wish I had learned a lot more about combination planting, I tried out the three sisters method (Squash, Beans and Corn all growing together) and it was an absolute smasher for space so if you are short of space I highly recommend this.
What advice would you give someone new to gardening?
If you're growing your own fruit and veg grow what you love to eat. There is no point spending months and months of time on something that you don't even like the taste of. Growing your own and finally eating it brings so much joy and is definitely much tastier than anything in the shops. Another tip would be to not worry about if you are late to sowing, anyone on Instagram will tell you that I am the last to sow anything in fact I only just finished sowing my spring bulbs in January. So there is always plenty of time to get involved and you don't need any fancy tools or equipment to start growing your own. Just save those fruit punnets from the supermarket and start sowing.
When not gardening, what do you like doing?
When I am not gardening I am usually cooking or looking after Little Duck, but one thing we love as a family is board games (I am not talking no Monopoly or Cluedo no offence to those who love these games haha). We have a really large collection of Board Games and will spend all day playing them in the winter months and rainy days. It really is a great way to spend time with the family including the kids (plus it gets them away from their screens for 5 minutes).