An Interview with The Guide to Gay Gardening

Recently we caught up with Geoff, the man behind The Guide to Gay Gardening. From keeping hens to making the most out of a smaller, urban garden – we talk about it all and everything in between. Take a look at our interview below.

Our Interview with The Guide to Gay Gardening

1) What would you say drew you away from the bustling city of London back to your gardening roots?

To be honest, I’m a country bumpkin at heart! I originally moved to London for university, and had a few great years being a social butterfly and loving everything the city had to offer. However, gardening and farming roots have been worming their way back into my heart for several years, and I’m now gradually heading back to rural isolation.

My husband is a complete townie though, so we’re moving slow and steady so he doesn’t go into shock!

I grew up in a Vicarage with ¾ acre of landscaped gardens that were tirelessly worked by my mother. I would love one day to have something similar.

2) How would you be able to tell if your garden is tired and needs reinvigorating?

In my opinion, the most common tell-tale sign is lacklustre growth. Plants want to grow and thrive, to produce flowers and set seed, so they’ll do their best even in the worst soil. But when the fertility of the soil really drops, you’ll notice poor growth and low flower production. It’s at that time when you need to start enriching the soil.

For a quick fix you can utilise sprinkle or water-on fertilisers, but long-term you should be looking at adding compost, leaf mulch and manure to the ground.

There are times when particular plants will get old too; become leggy, woody and generally not look their best. Some extra love and attention often works – adding fertiliser, performing some drastic pruning to encourage new growth etc. I normally offer my plants a season but if there’s no change, it’s time to pull them out and replace.

3) How can someone make the most out of a smaller garden in terms of landscaping?

Landscaping in smaller gardens should all be about creating the illusion of a larger area. The best spaces work when walls and fencing are hidden so there’s no obvious hard boundary. Going up is a must in any small space, helping to create height, and offering a great way to cram even more plants into your garden. Also, limit the palette, both in terms of colour and plant variety. It’s easier said than done – talk to any plant hoarder (of which I’m one).

It’s also hard to do when you’re building a garden gradually instead of buying everything up front. But by creating a clear idea of the garden you want from the outset, especially in terms of plant types and colour, you can still impulse buy at nurseries but with a framework to guide you.

Japanese Anemone seedheads

4) You like to make the most of your own produce. Would you say sustainable gardening is important to you? If so, why?

Sustainable gardening is really important to me. We only have one planet, and we can only use its resources once. Then they’re gone. Using peat-free compost, for one, is a great step gardeners can take, and starting your own compost heap leads to great dividends – not only in reduced waste being ferried to landfill, but in beautiful, rich soil to smother your garden with.

When it comes to growing your own, there is nothing better than wondering what to have for dinner, walking into the garden and formulating a recipe from what’s in your vegetable beds. You really don’t need a lot of space either. I have three large raised beds, a greenhouse and I grow all my climbing food (beans, peas, cucumbers etc) up the fence.

If you’re new to gardening, I’d suggest starting small; just try growing a few various crops in your first year and expand as you get more passion and experience.

5) What advice would you give to someone who wants to breed chickens but doesn’t have acres of land?

Chickens are wonderful creatures, and you do not need a lot of space to keep two or three hens; plenty if all you want are a few eggs for the family.

I would highly advise people to have a static coop, particularly in a small space. The idea of shifting the coop around the lawn every few days might seem appealing, but in reality your lawn will be ruined extremely quickly. Therefore, it’s better to set aside a small space of your garden for the coop, add a roof to prevent it becoming a mud swamp in winter, and enjoy the spoils.

In terms of the hens themselves, it’s really important to do research. There are a HUGE variety of chickens and they range from true fowl (big) to little bantams. Like dogs, different types also have different traits; for instance, Light Sussex are fairly quiet and docile, whilst Buff Orpingtons can be extremely noisy. Silkies make great pets too as they’re fluffy and can’t fly, but their egg production is low and they often go broody. So, before getting your hens, do a little reading and find out which would suit you best.

Breeding chickens is easy, but you’ll need a rooster – and that’s noisy. I live in a very urban area at the moment with understandable neighbours. However, I also box my roosters at night, meaning that they go into a cardboard box every night. That allows me to create a false dawn for them – they don’t start crowing at 5am!

6) We see that you’re a horticultural writer. What experience do you need to get into that business?

In my opinion, the experience you need is…experience, both of writing and gardening. I have no true qualifications in either; I’ve just written and gardened for a long time. There are a huge number of opportunities online, whether you’re seeking horticultural copywriting work or sending out article queries to magazines.

If you’re interested in the area, ensure your writing is up to scratch and that you know your topic inside and out. Then send out some queries and get the ball rolling.

Growing beans in a trough

7) In terms of gardening, what is your favourite season and why?

I really don’t have a favourite season. For me it’s all about the change. There’s something about those changes in weather that are inspiring; they hold the hope and excitement of what’s to come.

Winter’s deep, crisp frosts are glorious, and when those first snowdrops and crocus start appearing, spring makes a small appearance. Equally, the change of spring to summer brings a time of towering grasses, flower-laden shrubs and long days. Then as autumn comes, the leaves begin to turn and thoughts can turn to the following year.

8) What advice would you give to anyone who wants to make a career out of gardening?

Do your homework in terms of plants and then take a step into this fascinating world of horticulture. There is a tonne of different career paths, whether it’s setting up a nursery, becoming a designer, having a go at plant breeding or setting up a landscaping and maintenance business.

If you want to do the latter and you already have some basic garden knowledge, consider starting out small; perhaps finding a couple of clients to look after at the weekends. That’s how I started out; helping some elderly ladies in their gardens alongside my full-time job. If you enjoy it, you can easily build up a larger client-base.

And don’t worry too much about horticultural know-how; you’ll never know everything, and learning on the job is ideal. If you come across a plant you don’t know, leave it until the next week and do some research in the intermediary!

Thanks for that fascinating chat, Geoff. Remember, for all of your gardening requirements, Shedstore is your one-stop garden shop and first port of call.