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I'm Alys Fowler. I'm a gardener and a writer.
I grew up in the countryside, but now my husband and I live in the city.
I get pleasure from simple things.
and making things from what I find around me.
'This is my garden, a small Victorian terrace backyard, 20 foot by 60.'
Isabel, don't pee there! Isabel...
'This year, I'm experimenting.
'I'm trying to avoid shop-bought fruit and veg and live off my own home-grown produce.
'But this won't be easy because I want my garden to be both productive and beautiful.'
Heaven. Heaven is a home-grown cucumber.
'Each week, I'll focus on different foods.
'From salads to peas, courgettes to tomatoes, even edible flowers,
'and show how anyone can grow, cook and eat from their own garden, even if you live in a city.'
It's the end of April and it's predictably raining.
And this is the beginning of my summer of making the garden both as
productive as it possibly can be and as pretty as it possibly can be.
And, to do that, there are plants in the garden that need to come out and lots of veg that need to go in.
In order to get as much food in here as possible, I need to get rid of
some things which just aren't really helping my cause. This cistus
not only is half-dead,
I can't eat it and I don't think it's that pretty, so it has to go because this is a good spot.
I don't want my garden to look like an allotment. I want my garden to look like a garden.
So I'm going to grow my vegetables in groups
that will look pretty together and grow happily side-by-side.
In my new and beautiful garden, this bit will have some chickens.
This is my compost heap, my huge, ginormous compost heap.
This bit over here is,
sort of, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, apple.
And then, coming up through here is potato, garlic,
wilder salad things.
There's a big sweep of garlic here.
There's going to be more kales, more Swiss chard and...
Jerusalem artichokes there.
Peas growing up all the way through the rose. More lettuce through here.
I think I'm going to have a broad bean moment over there.
Lots of lettuce, can't have too much lettuce. And then some courgettes,
probably where these geraniums are.
So, at the very bottom, down by the shed, I'm going to grow some squash.
And I'm hoping that my neighbours might not mind if I let the squash go up and onto their roof
because it's really sunny up there, and I'll give them half the squash.
And, if there's any space left, I'll put some flowers in it.
People always think of flowers as the pretty bit of the garden,
but there are just as many beautiful vegetables.
And a great place to start is with one particular family known for its
charming flowers and, of course, its wonderfully nutritious pods.
French beans, runner beans, broad beans and mange tout all taste best when picked fresh.
And there is nothing fresher than your own garden.
You can even make cocktails out of some of them.
This year, I'm going to let go of more traditional growing methods
and plant my vegetables amongst my flowers and shrubs.
I'll need to put them where they'll get the best conditions, but I also
want to enjoy the beauty they're going to bring to the garden.
It's April, and first to be planted out are my broad beans which I sowed
back in February in trays filled with shop-bought compost.
most of my plants in modules.
I find it such an efficient way to grow because you raise almost perfect plants away from the slugs.
There's no problem with the seed rotting off in the soil.
But also, as space becomes available, you can just drop it in.
So it's going to be a constant kind of...
because I don't want one plant to overcrowd or compete too much for light with the other one.
I don't think you should ever feel that plants are overwhelming you.
You don't think much of this gardening lark, do you, Iz? No.
One thing is for sure.
All my plants need a healthy home in which to flourish,
and that means feeding the poor soil that I've inherited.
I've had to dig in bags of compost.
Now I'm beginning to reap the benefits.
But I need to address some of my planting scheme.
Part of the issue with this kind of gardening is that you've constantly got to nip
other plants out and give space and light so that the one crop
you do want can get going, and then they can all muddle together.
So, in this garden, I decide how big a plant's going to get, not the plant.
Which means I have to be brave
and pull at things.
My peas and beans are going to need supports to grow up,
and I have this idea in my head that I want to add a kind of sculptural, slightly crazy, hippie, makeshift...
I just don't want tripods all over the place.
So I have a friend over who's an incredible weaver
and maker of beautiful things out of willow and whatnot, just to give a whole new element to the garden.
At least that's the idea in my head.
My local park has a woodland area that they coppice,
and I've got permission for Sally and I to collect what we need.
What kinds of material are we looking for?
I mean, willow's an obvious one. But can you get away with, say, using a bit of oak?
Yeah. If it will bend, then you can weave it.
It doesn't matter if it's oak or ash or hazel.
-Anything that you've cut down.
-Why is willow so good, I suppose?
Lots and lots of reasons.
I mean, it's traditionally been used to make baskets
and weaving for centuries, so there's a reason why it was chosen.
And it grows very fast.
So these will be last year's growth, and you've got nearly 10 foot.
-You can see why, it just is so flexible, isn't it?
You get all the shapes.
-You can really use your imagination.
-There's some stuff that's
been cut because the park just cut it and then leave it as a habitat, rotting-down patch.
So what you want to do, Alys, is just pull out a bundle.
So if we can make up a bundle of some thick bits and some thin bits.
-And as long as it's...
-Nice and bendy, yeah.
Right, I can see some thin bits down at the bottom here.
I've been lucky enough to collect my own willow locally, but it's easy to
buy over the internet, with many suppliers being happy to deliver.
I feel like a proper kind of harvester now.
Before my plants start flopping all over the place,
Sally is going to teach me how to make a beautiful plant support.
Right, OK, let's go with those.
To just help it to bend, you just put it
on your knee, you don't have to press too hard,
-pull it across the knee.
-It's just amazing how much it starts working with you.
It starts to suggest to the fibres inside that that's what they want to do. And that gives you your bend.
'You don't need string to hold it all together, you can use another plant.'
Sue, can I have some of your phormium leaves?
-Is that enough?
'Fortunately, my neighbour, Sue, has a large phormium.
'Sally wants to use the strong fibrous leaves to tie our frame together.'
'Plant supports can be expensive to buy.
'But my lobster pots have cost nothing but a few hours of my time and, once the plants have died back,
'they'll still give some shape to the border.'
There we go.
Well, I don't think it's...
a piece of art.
But I said I wanted organic.
But from up here, it looks nice and natural, it really blends in with the garden.
This will be perfect
for the peas.
One of the sources of my inspiration for growing flowers and vegetables together is permaculture.
This simply means observing how nature works
and then trying to do the same thing in your own garden.
Living proof of its success is the Harland family,
who have been gardening this way for over 20 years.
You could say this whole landscape is quite wild, but actually we see it as
a nature reserve that grows food for us as a family.
Their daughters, Hayley and Gail, have grown up with Mum and Dad's passion for permaculture.
Their garden is also their other baby.
They spend more time in the garden than with us!
When they started, many people thought it
a hippie approach to gardening and that it wouldn't really work.
The way we garden is using permaculture principles.
We create a garden that invites lots of wildlife into it,
invites lots of predators for pests, so that all that you see
is completely unsprayed, it's a completely organic system.
We designed it with zoning.
Zoning is a permaculture design idea whereby you
put the things closest to the house that need the most attention.
So you'd have your most delicate salad plants, your tender flowers.
As you move outward, away from the home, you then site the fruit trees
and then the larger nut trees, the wilder hedgerows that need very little attention.
And it's a nice way to make a garden.
We don't fuss around the edges, as I think you can possibly see,
but the food's there. That's what matters.
But the principles behind it can
be taken and shrunken down to any scale. Even if you've got a patio, you can apply the same principles.
What have you got?
Gooseberries, loganberries, Worcester berries.
Everything I could find, really.
I love it because it's given me the opportunity to be a bit more healthy.
It's nice because it's, like, you think that you can get more
in the supermarkets and stuff, but actually you've got so much that you can get in a garden.
And also, you don't get Worcester berries and stuff from everywhere.
So you get seasonal things.
Sometimes we'll be having blackberry and apple crumbles and stuff, and then other times we'll be making...
-Every berry coulis.
This garden is very much about not purchasing a lot of commercial
materials for the garden, but to try and set up a reasonably self-sustaining system.
We don't all have to totally change the world overnight, but we do all need to play our part.
And if we do that collectively, we can make a huge difference.
It's May, and the weather has turned unseasonably warm.
Now that it's getting hot, it's really important to start mulching around the vegetables
because this not only keeps the weeds down, but it locks in and conserves the moisture.
And this is just blended
farmyard manure and compost
which I've clearly bought from a shop because I don't have
quite enough of my own compost at this point.
When I water, I'm not losing it
straight to the air.
And beans have a critical period when they start to flower and they're beginning to set fruit
and turn into long pods, and they need a lot of water at this point.
And if they get in any way checked
by the lack of moisture, then you don't get good beans.
Every day, I come out into this garden and I just am amazed by it.
I want to look at it constantly, I want to be in it and I want to just see how it evolves.
And this seems so much more gentle, this approach. It doesn't seem to be
bogged down in these strict things that you must do this at this point,
and you must water it at this point.
It just seems to be more free...
And nature seems more responsive off it.
And now I do sound like a crazy hippie!
As a child, my mum kept chickens
and I loved them, so it's something I want to do, too.
Today, the chickens arrive, which is one step closer to me
becoming a little bit more self-sufficient-ish, at least.
Because the chickens will close a loop within the garden.
I'll be able to recycle a lot more of my kitchen waste through them.
I'll get eggs. And then they'll give me chicken manure, which will make the whole garden grow richer.
'So, it's a nice little cycle.
'There are rules on where you can keep chickens, so it's worth checking
'with your local authority planning office before you take the plunge.'
Move this out the way...
Can we go get the chickens?
We can go get the chickens, yes.
No problem at all.
The exciting bit.
-All ready for you.
That's it. And if you stroke her and talk to her...
-..you've got a friend for life.
'I've chosen 18-week-old chickens called point of lay because they're almost ready to start laying.
'And, at this age, they cost about £15.'
That one's feisty.
Lay you some nice dark brown eggs.
'I've got a bluebell and a speckled hen
'who I'm naming after Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas.'
Chickens are basically easy to look after, but you do have to clip their wings to stop them from flying away.
That's one bit I'm not looking forward to.
What we've got to do, they are the flight feathers.
You feel for the end of the wing, so that we don't make... We make sure we don't cut the wing.
And we take off...
The flight feathers. It's only like you
cutting your toenails, no problem at all.
Done properly, you can't actually see she's been done.
-And how often do I have to do that?
-Once every six months or so, whenever she has been in moult.
And when she starts to grow new feathers, otherwise she will replace them.
Just pop them in, Alys. That's it.
They'll find their own way out.
I'm completely in love with my chickens.
They are perfect.
They look so pretty together.
Hi, Isabel, are you coming to say hello to them?
It's June and, as I hoped, nature seems to be doing most of the work for me.
All I'm doing is watering a lot. My runner beans are looking absolutely beautiful.
And the French beans, mange touts and broad beans are coming along, too.
I'm very proud of my broad beans.
It was a bit of a gamble whether they could hold their own.
I thought they might flop all over the place but they've grown up fantastically strong and straight.
And now that they are in flower and are just beginning to finish flower, it's time to pinch out the tops.
This concentrates all the energy into producing the beans,
but it can also help to just keep the blackfly, which are the nemesis of a broad bean.
And, very shortly, I shall be picking beans.
Only a couple of weeks later, and my first broad beans and mange tout peas are ready.
But the real problem with any of the peas is being able to not eat all the peas on the plant
at that moment and actually getting them to the kitchen.
That seems to me to be a monumentous task that I never quite manage.
This variety is called red epicure, they're like little babies wrapped up in cotton wool.
Broad beans make great falafel.
All I have to do is boil up the beans, then add some chickpeas,
garlic, cumin and lots of fresh herbs.
Parsley, mint and coriander.
And then mash it together. The only ingredients that aren't from my garden are cumin and chickpeas.
And the uncooked mixture freezes brilliantly.
And actually, very quick to make for something that
looks like it would be quite a lot of faff.
But there's no faff in this falafel!
That's really bad!
This way. That way, come on.
'The chickens have settled in now and they're easy to look after...'
Oi, oi, oi.
'..except for those moments when they escape.
'I feed them my weeds, kitchen peelings and the chicken poo goes
'on the compost as an activator which speeds up the process of composting.'
You can't escape, go on, back you go. Ooh. Oi.
When you buy young chickens, they don't lay eggs right away.
But my two have now matured and are doing their bit for my home-grown diet.
Thank you very much for the eggs, girls.
So both Alice and Gertrude are laying every day without fail.
And then, every other day, Gertrude gives me this extra big,
extra-special double-yolker, which is just ginormous.
It makes her star hen, really.
That's an Alice egg.
That's a normal Gertrude.
And that's an extra-special Gertrude.
That must be really painful.
This is a good twist on the traditional omelette.
Two happy hens and a handful of herbs.
It's mid summer and the garden is in full swing,
I'm harvesting every day but, to keep my supplies up,
I am continuously sowing and planting out.
But if you don't have a garden to grow in, you can do it just as easily in a container.
You are such a lazy dog.
Even if you just have a window ledge, you can still grow yourself some peas.
But you're not harvesting the pea pods, you're harvesting the shoots.
Pea shoots are the tender tips of the garden pea plant.
These shoots are three weeks old and ready for their first pickings.
They make a delicious salad leaf.
I have to admit, the reason why I have
dried peas is because I thought the package was stylish and nothing to do with liking to eat dried peas.
But then I thought, "I wonder if they're any good?"
And they're so cheap, much cheaper than garden centre peas,
so I tried them out, and they germinate really well.
So these are now my official
favourite pea shoot peas.
And, just to prove exactly how good they are, this packet was purchased in 2007,
and they all germinate like clockwork.
So, all you do is
cram it full because you're not growing them to full size.
Squish them in, give them a good water, put them somewhere warm, on a window ledge,
on a nice balcony, somewhere in the sun.
And, within a couple of weeks,
you have pea shoots to start harvesting.
By August, the garden is at its most productive, and I'm pleased that it's looking so pretty.
At this time of year, it's easy to end up with a glut,
which is a good thing because it means plenty for later in the year.
The minute you stop picking runner beans, they stop producing.
So, you need to keep picking if you want lots of runner beans.
At this point, I'm just actually being very traditional and freezing a lot because...
..now they seem...
Frozen beans don't seem that exciting. Actually, come January,
to add to curries and soups,
Surprisingly, this is just
and they've really been more
than I can handle.
This is a very beautiful dark purple French bean called Nectar Queen.
And it's just the most intense purple colour.
But, unfortunately, the minute you put it into boiling water, it goes bright green.
So, all of that colour is lost when you come to eat it.
But all is forgiven for the way it looks on the bush.
Isabel, don't pee there. Isabel...
I'm overrun with pea shoots, which is a good excuse to do a bit of experimenting.
I'm going to make a "peatini", which is a pea-based martini using a recipe from chef Mark Hix.
All I have to do is blend the pea shoots into a puree with a bit of water.
Then add some gin, sugar syrup and a squeeze of lemon.
Then invite some friends over to try them!
And, because the garden has been so productive, I can serve up
more of my tasty home-grown falafels and a big bowl of salad.
My little garden really rocks. I haven't had to buy
any peas or beans this summer and I even have frozen runner beans to take me into the winter.
The next stage of my grow-your-own adventure is all about salad crops.
Tomatoes and cucumbers.
And lettuce leaves, one of the fastest and easiest things to grow.