How did Wild Nettle Gardens come to be?
Wild Nettle Gardens was set up by Caroline Nettle in Jan 2018. The idea was to plant healthy fruit bushes, medicinal herbs, and super foods. All pesticide free, and all grown with love.
Despite never having grown anything to eat before, and with very little gardening experience, no funds to speak of and no real plan, Caroline located a piece of land on a farm in Carmarthenshire and set about developing the plot. In retrospect, agreeing to farm on a piece of land with no soil- it had had farm machinery parked on it for several decades- that was relatively difficult to find, was possibly not the best first start I could have chosen, but never the less, in early Jan, my first bed was built.
The farm had lots of horse manure, and wood so that is what I used.
Here is a video of the plot at the very beginning-
And it was all going well, the weather was appalling but I was finding that I really wanted to get up and go to the farm, and despite it taking a lot longer than I would have liked, I was enjoying it.
Then this happened-
The hut that I was living in off-grid burnt to the ground along with all my possessions. I was lucky to be alive said the firemen and if I am really honest, I was in complete shock for a good few weeks/ months.
However, some amazing things happen when disaster strikes! Several people I did not know sent me iPads, money, seeds and plants, clothes and much more, and many many friends contributed to the GoFundMe campaign that was set up for me. Some very generous (almost) family members also helped financially, and slowly and surely I got back on my feet.
Having the garden to grieve, rant and cry in was a real blessing, and it taught me how beneficial it can be to be in nature when you are overwhelmed. What a great discovery as I head towards a care farm!
Starting to Plant
By the end of April, we were starting to plant. It had been a very wet, cold winter and everyone was late to plant- but me more than others because of the fire and I was still making the beds!
So it was taking shape, but I think an up front plan would have been better! However, slowly but surely we (Nicholas my volunteer who came one day a week and was such a fabulous help over the year!) planted, built beds and then came the summer.
My biggest mistake by far was not creating a market for the product. This was mostly due to the fact that I was not sure what would grow and if it would be any good. The summer came, and much of what I had planted was weeks behind other local growers, and starting to flourish!
Here is the update from the end of May when I had my first blackcurrant – sadly the birds got most of the rest of them!
And then came a very hot summer. 2 months of having to water sometimes twice a day and it took around 90 mins each time. Not having the funds for irrigation really helped me to see how important it is to be productive and 180 mins of watering a day was not efficient. The well ran dry and they said that had not happened since the eighties. It was a very good lesson in having the beds close together- it took so long to get around!
I also learned that you cannot put young plants in 31 degrees heat….to the detriment of many small herb plants and newly planted species! Oh well, the compost benefited!
First Produce Customer – Tea Traders!
By July, lots had started to grow and I was started to harvest a little from a few varieties- courgette, herbs, peas and more- all very delicious. I had also started delivering lettuce twice a week to Tea Traders in town – who kindly said this about the lettuce…
“Its not every day I get excited about lettuce….but this is delicious! Thank you Caroline from Wild Nettle Gardens..”
I had also started a market in Carmarthen on a Friday- which did ok but not sure it was really the right market for fresh produce. A very valuable experience all the same!
And here is the July update…
I carried on doing the market for around 9 weeks, but gave up in the end as the other vendors were saying it was worse attendance than it had been in years. This could be down the the hot weather, or a number of different factors.
By late summer I had already decided that if I wanted to continue with Wild Nettle Gardens- which was not a given at the beginning of the year- I would need soil. So I started looking around, and also digging up the plants I wanted to take with me and putting them in pots so that I could easily transport them. Some of them were happier about this than others!
Moving a Market Garden.
At the time of writing this, Jan 2019, 55 of the bread crates with my plants and bushes are still in Wales, and the rest got moved by my sister Sophie just before Christmas. We hired a van and filled it with everything we could, and drove up to Darlington very slowly. So we are still looking for a good way to get the rest of the stock up here, but will wait until we have found the land.
However, here is a video to show you what the gardens looked like as got towards the end of the year-
And so I ended my first year gardening in Stockton on Tees with some of the plants in the garden, and all the equipment squashed into my sisters’ garage.
To recap – I learned how to build beds, plant seeds directly and indoors to plant later, what to plant with what, how plants grow, what abundance there is in nature, how to do a market, how to delivery quality products regularly, and much much more.
It has been a delightful, tough, challenging and rewarding year, and I cannot wait to start 2019 and get those plants into the soil and watch them grow over time.
I know this has been a long read, but I wanted to recap my first year in gardening so that any other blogs do not have to go over what has passed.
Thank you for reading this, and if you are able, please consider becoming a Patreon – you can help us from as little as $1 a month- – if this is of interest- please follow this link- https://www.patreon.com/wildnettlegardens
Happy New Year to one and all!