Guest Blogger Poppy’s Farmyard: ‘How my veggie patch has helped me grow as a person’


Our guest blogger Poppy Vink shares what she’s learned starting a veggie patch from scratch and how her budding garden has helped with her mental health.

I’m Poppy from Rolleston, Christchurch (follow me on Instagram @poppysfarmyard). I live with my parents and pets in an old farmhouse on an acre of land, smack-bang in the middle of suburbia.

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I live with my mum and dad; our funny rescue dog, Olive; Eddie and Louis, our fluffy cats; four quails, and two beehives. While a lot of people my age (21) are out flatting, I’ve opted to stay living at home with my parents. Why would I want to leave? I have my own lovely veggie garden, which my parents have kindly given me free rein over, and a big yard where I can plant lots of flowers.

During the week, I study full-time as a pharmacy technician student. My days are quite busy with placement, study, and work, but I always make time for the garden.
On an average day, I wake up at 6.30am, go through my morning routine, and then drive into the city for class. I love learning, but by the end of the day my mind is wandering to thoughts of my pets and my next garden project.

The first thing I do when I get home is check the garden, pottering about and doing little jobs such as weeding and feeding the quails. It’s a great way for me to wind down after class.

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I started the garden from scratch four years ago when we first moved in. The garden had been neglected for years; everything was overgrown and dry, the soil was rock hard. It was hard to know where to start.
The plan went like this: load two tonnes of mulch onto the soil, followed by lots of chopping, landscaping, planting. After a few years of deep mulching, watering and fertilising, the trees and shrubs are full of new growth and shiny green foliage.

When we started landscaping, the backyard was a priority. We wanted to transform the bare patch of gravel into a veggie garden and put in some garden beds. Dad managed to source some fab old railway sleepers that were perfect for the job. Fast-forward a few months and we had a lovely little backyard with three raised garden beds.

Despite asking for the garden beds, it wasn’t until months later that gardening really became my passion, and a form of therapy. I’d been feeling depressed at the time, and my anxiety disorder was starting to rear its ugly head again. I didn’t know what to do with myself, but I knew I needed to get off the couch and go outside. One day when I walked out to the backyard, I looked at the raised beds and felt a surge of motivation, like a big present had been put in front of me and was waiting to be unwrapped. I started off small, doing the weeding, planting some brassica seedlings, and putting together a herb garden.

‘Discovering’ gardening was incredible. It’s the most therapeutic activity I’ve ever done. I always felt like I didn’t have a real hobby, or anything that I was particularly good at until I found gardening, something I didn’t have to be perfect at to feel good about.
All the imperfections are the best part because I’m always learning something. I’ve made so many mistakes: I managed to kill, underwater or overwater quite a few seedlings; had many bug infestations; planted veggies in the wrong spots where there was either too much or too little sunlight.

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All these experiences taught me how to do better next time, but also that sometimes things just don’t work out the way you had in mind and that’s ok! I don’t kill quite so many seedlings nowadays, and amongst the mishaps there are lots of successes. Each time a new crop works out I felt myself beaming with pride and accomplishment. Growing your own food is incredibly gratifying.

This year I had my first winter veggie garden. I found particular success with leeks and Romanesco broccoli, but my favourite was kohlrabi, something I’d never grown or eaten before.
I’m now planting spring seedlings and starting some more for summer. I think the year goes by a lot faster when you’re always planning for the seasons ahead. This summer I’m planning to grow pumpkins near the beehives to ensure they get pollinated properly as last year’s pumpkins weren’t too flash.

 

At the moment, we have two beehives out the front of our house underneath a huge cherry blossom which the bees hum around all spring. The hives have been a great addition to the garden, providing lots of pollination and making delicious honey (we get approximately 10kg per year). The neighbours seem to like them too. While I’d love to say that I take care of the hives on my own, I don’t do any of the work; a local bee man looks after them and harvests the honey for us.

My gardening obsession isn’t slowing down. Recently I’ve added a new raised bed which is twice the size of the others, five half wine barrel planters (some of my fave things to plant in), and a shed. I’ve even upcycled a few old baby baths to use as planters.
We’ve chopped down some large hedges that were blocking the sun from the greenhouse, which has cleared enough space for me to plant a fig tree and start a ‘no dig’ veggie patch. My garden has grown a lot in the last year and I seem to have grown with it. I’m figuring out how to positively manage my anxiety, learning to be more patient with myself and my plants, and learning how to be happier and healthier.

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To keep up with Poppy’s garden developments follow her on Instagram @poppysfarmyard)

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