BAD TO THE BEAN - MADDY GALE

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The month of June triggers our summer senses; spending time outdoors in the sunshine, having picnics with friends and just simply enjoying the wonderful flora and fauna that is in bloom. For a month that is filled with nature, we thought it would be a lovely idea to produce a botanical themed Papergang box with the help of keen gardener and photographer Maddy Gale. Maddy is the it-girl behind the beautiful @sowedgier Instagram account; a feed filled with allotment goodness, pumpkin trialing and the odd Chinese cabbage. Keep on reading to hear Maddy’s top tips on starting your own green patch, and how she stays organized on her plot.

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Hey Maddy!

As I’m sure you’re aware, at Ohh Deer we LOVE plants, from big leafy greens to wonderful British veggies. As we share such love, it only makes sense for you to be the star of this month’s box. Could you tell us more about how your own love of the home-grown flourished, and what keeps you coming back to the allotment?

I didn’t grow up surrounded by an abundance of homegrown goodness. My grandparents however had the crème de la crème of back yards! I spent as much time outside as I could, pottering around their massive but cozy garden on warm summer days tending to their honeybees and the hundreds of species of flowers they grew. I even had a peacock keeping me company every now and again! (RIP Percy, bless) They also had a communal village allotment where they could choose en masse what to grow. Imagine a quarter acre of sunflowers on a sunny day and picking as many as you’d like. So when I moved home after university in 2015 I had the chance to grow my own flowers, fruit and veg, and rented a plot a short bike ride away from my home.

I’ve had a few seasons to settle into the swing of things and I’ve realised that I depend on my allotment much more than just stocking up the food cupboard. When I leave I am always considerably happier than when I arrived, even if I’ve just gone to pick a handful of strawbs! Scientists have even proved that just sticking your hands in soil makes you happier on a chemical level, thanks to the bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae. So if you have space for just a couple of pots on your windowsill or in your garden, utilise them! Chirpier self coming up.

I’ve realised that I depend on my allotment much more than just stocking up the food cupboard.

We are saddened that we shall never meet Percy </3. When it comes to social media, we often stalk your allotment diary on Instagram (@sowedgier – the name is top notch) – with some lovely photos of your greenhouse mixed with the purple hues of your grow light, how does your talent of photography work with your love of plants?

Hehe I hope you enjoyed! Only humans can be responsible for clashes in colour or design errors so I feel like I’m cheating when I’m photographing something natural, no tweaks needed! 99% of plants are beaut. I’m saying 99% because I don’t like Begonias. Bluegh. So basically, I try to document the development of my allotment, and when I see something that catches my eye I’ll shoot a flatlay of this something and dissect it visually. But overall, I just try to use my of composition to take images that are interesting, educational or beautiful.

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Whilst we are on the subject of photography - Tell us more about your creative process and education as a photographer? Was this a field you had always wanted to venture into, or something that simply found its way into your life?

I took A level photography and, well I enjoyed it, and was good at it! I then studied a degree in photography at the University of Wales, Newport, worked my butt off and earned a first class honors. At the end of first year I was smitten with film photography. I spent weeks in the darkrooms developing film. I remember for a project I decided to take 30 second long shots of tree blossom, ankle deep in mud, in the middle of the night (image below). I thought it had been a complete disaster, but I developed the film and the results were amazing! I do still use my DSLR a lot, but film has ma heart.

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Dedication to getting the perfect shot! What inspires you the most behind the lens and do you have any groovy creative/allotment plans for the near future?!

Hmm. One of the main reasons why I try and keep a photo log of my allotment is because I would love to get young adults into growing. I can’t tell you how much it’s made me a happier, healthier person. I also think it’s incredibly important that if you can substitute some of your shop bought food with vegetables you’ve grown yourself you should. You’re already reducing your carbon footprint dramatically. I’m not saying everyone has time for an allotment, but just try growing tomatoes, or planting some potatoes if you have a sad brown patch in your garden that never gets any TLC!

I would love to get young adults into growing.

I’m really excited for the summer season this year. I’m hoping that I don’t come across as that traditional gardener that grows the same old broad beans and cabbages that people first think of when it comes to allotments. I’m currently attempting to grow an absolute whopper of a pumpkin, and aiming for over 300lb. I’m also growing my own ingredients for kimchi, and considering brewing Kombucha, which is a fermented fizzy fruity tea (it’s going to be the next big health trend, £10 a bottle and all that I’m tellin’ ya). I’m also going to try and source some wasabi to grow next season!

When it comes to planning your allotment and growing the tastiest veggies, what helps you make this process more organised? We all know time goes so fast and before you know it you’ve missed the season! 

At the start of every growing season I will buy a fresh notebook. I treated myself to Ohh Deer’s Road Trip one, partly because it’s beautiful, and because it has alternating plain and lined pages, of which I need both equally for my plot map and sowing charts! I also always keep an Agenda (the Dark Botany design is currently my favourite) as it isn’t dated. I record the days that I’ve done something on my plot, so when I look back a year on I can see what week I planted my tulips or when the last frost was, and see if I’m ahead or behind schedule!

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ALLOT OF ADVICE

As a last burst of plant knowledge - Maddy shares her top 3 allotment keeping tips and advice for those who are keen to venture into the allotment life.

  1. An allotment doesn’t have to be a solo mission, if you think a plot on your own is too much, share it with the family or a friend!
     
  2. Sounds simple, but grow the foods that are your absolute fave things to eat, and things that you know will go in meals you eat regularly. This is THE best thing about growing fruit and veg!
     
  3. You don’t have to invest in expensive inorganic pest control; there can be plenty of natural deterrents. Marigolds are the ultimate deterrent for a lot of bugs, so plant those next to your peppers or squashes etc.
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If you’re considering the homegrown lifestyle but have doubts, don’t base your future gardening prowess on how healthy that houseplant in your bedroom is. Plants are extremely good at coping by themselves, you read up on the basics, and you’re away! (Btw you’re probably just over-watering it.) Plus, you can always ask me!
 

Thank you so much Maddy! 

Follow Maddy and her allotment diary on Instagram @sowedgier

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