Monday, 24 June 2013

Spotlight of awesomeness: A Q&A with What You Sow

If you saw the recipe for my oven-baked cheesecake mug cake last week, you'll have noticed the enamel 'Dig for victory' mug from garden-inspired shop, What You Sow

"Dig for victory" - lemon and orange cheesecake mug-cake, baked in an
enamel gardening mug from What You Sow
If you haven't already stumbled across this gem of the gardening accessories world - I suggest you have a click around. Not just for those with ample gardens, founder Lyndsey is an expert when it comes to working with small outdoor spaces; having lived in central Brighton for nine years (where gardens are scarce and balconies abundant) before moving to Kent, I can really relate to this. What You Sow specialises in garden gifts and lovely things for the garden, in the shop you'll find an assortment of beautiful handmade, design-led and practical items, which will enable you to grow your own flowers and vegetables - and to improve the green spaces in your life. 

What You Sow also has a wonderful gardening blog with garden tips and some really cute crafts projects - covering everything from home-made garden accessories to home furnishings and gift ideas. 

Founder Lyndsey volunteering as a gardener for Emmaus Brighton
- how cool is her sewing box planter?
As someone new to gardening, I've found myself leaning on, What You Sow, founder Lyndsey a lot recently for advice; gardening has been Lyndsey's passion since childhood. Having spent years working in retail, in 2012 Lyndsey decided it was time to step out of the rat race and do something she'd always wanted to - she kindly agreed to share some of her company story and expertise in this Q&A for Cakes & Catwalks:

The beautiful What You Sow webshop

- What was the original inspiration behind What You Sow?

What You Sow evolved from my rediscovered love of gardening and the desire to get more greenery into all of our lives, even if we don’t have much opportunity to access green spaces. I’m really interested in small space and community gardening, and discovering practical and unusual ways of using plants. Decent tools and pretty things can make the gardening experience so much more joyful, so the tools and accessories I sell on What You Sow are a nod to that. To me, gardening and crafting go hand in hand, so on the What You Sow blog I share DIY projects and creative gardening ideas.

- What's your first memory of gardening?

As children, we each had a patch of soil in my Grandma’s garden and were allowed to tend to it ourselves. I filled mine with flowers and tiny plastic accessories and ceramic figures that I’d found in jumble sales. I think if we were to go back have a good look, the little figurines would probably all still be there now.

- Which are your favourite plants to grow and why?

I’m a lazy gardener, so plants that are easy to maintain yet produce a high yield are my favourites. I used to hate courgettes, but after growing them myself and learning how to cook them, they’re one of my staples. You’ll leave the plant for a few days, come back and the vegetables have quadrupled in size. Sweet peas are the most glorious flower, they sum up so much of what I love about gardening; the variety in their colour, their sweet scent, their abundance, and the ease of collecting their seeds and being able to share them with friends the following year. And lavender makes a wonderful window box plant as long as you include plenty of drainage. 

Sweet peas - ready to flower
- What would you recommend as a starting point for garden novices?

Start simply by growing something that you love to harvest or pick, like your favourite flowers or herbs. And don’t give up if things don’t do well at first, try again or adapt. There will be certain plants that you just can’t seem to keep alive but others that you will become an expert at. I’ve never managed to grow peas so now I just settle on eating the shoots in salads. And ask for advice from people around you. I survived the first year on my allotment solely by reacting to the questions of my boss, an experienced gardener, who would frequently ask me “have you put so-and-so in the ground yet?”

Pea shoots - Lyndsey recommends eating these in salads!
- Do you have any advice for gardeners who are short-on-time?

Share your green space with others. An allotment, veg or flower garden is a huge commitment so if you don’t have time to tend the allotment you finally secured after 8 years on a waiting list, ask your friends if they would like to share the plot. Other ideas are to take care of a friend’s garden or seeing if there is a “grow your neighbour’s own” scheme in your area (or offer your garden up to other people if you have one). And there may be a community garden local to you. It’s nice to spend time in the garden with other people and share the work plus you’ll benefit from their knowledge.

- Which are your current favourite gardening products?

The Sophie Conran range of hand tools are a joy to use, well-made and really stylish looking. I am using the three-pronged weeder a lot at the moment, it’s an excellent way of getting rid of weeds for good by twisting them out by the roots. 

The Sophie Conran three pronged weeder
In terms of other products that I love, the seasonal guide tea towel is ace. It gives you advice on when you should be eating (and harvesting) what and is made of organic cotton. This was my biggest selling line for Father’s Day which I think tells us a lot about British family life. 

Beautiful printed tea towels
The latest addition to the shop, is the Snail Plant Pot and saucer. They’re adorable, and you’ll never say that snails are a nuisance again! There’s an added bonus too, that you can use the saucer as an adorable cake plate instead if you like! 

I love the idea of using this snail saucer as a mini cake plate!
- Can you give me your best gardening tip?

Enthusiastically receive gifts and advice from more experienced gardeners. They will have had the time and know-how to better prepare for the gardening year and will have spent years finding out through trial and error the best ways of doing things. Also, keep an eye out for local seedling swap events in the Spring, this might be just a gathering in your local church hall, where gardeners swap their spare seedlings, it’s a great way of picking up things that you didn’t get round to sowing on time.

Thanks Lyndsey! If you'd like to find out more, you can find What You Sow on instagram where she mostly posts pictures of plants, flowers and a craft project every now and then.

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