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A Fresh Start!

Your mind tends to wander when trying to tame the shrubs, bindweed and tree stumps for hours at a time on an abandoned allotment on freezing February days.

It was whilst sheltering from the driving winter rain in what once would’ve been a fine figure of a shed left by the previous tenants, now reduced to a rotten, derelict death trap that the idea occurred to me; why not write a blog about our progress? Weekly instalments of all the jollies and japes, the hilarities that occur and the inevitable blood, sweat and tears experienced when taking on a disused, overgrown allotment and restoring it to its former glory.

I genuinely remember thinking to myself; ‘An allotment blog is such a brilliant idea, I bet no one has thought of doing that!’.

I came home full of vigour and had a quick look online to discover that of course there were thousands of brilliant, really well written, well established gardening blogs already being produced regularly.

Undeterred (well ok a little deterred if I’m being completely honest), I pushed on with my idea and went with the blogs anyway.

The Shed (and Ivy of Course)

I had no knowledge of how to blog, where to blog or how to get a blog ‘out there’ into the blogging ether, but I gave it a go anyway. A lot of googling took place and as if by magic, my new blogging site was born; ‘Grow With Joe’.

I would make notes on scraps of paper as I cleared the decade old rubbish and weeds, keywords and reminders of the daily goings on or random occurrences during our plot visits. Keywords that spring to mind like ‘cat shit’ or ‘weird ugly grub’ or ‘hit allotment neighbour with snail whilst chatting to him’, all of which would somehow be miraculously turned into award winning and popular blogs upon my arrival home.

So that was that, over the next 6 months to a year I wrote about anything and everything I could which was gardening related. I wrote about our allotment experience, what things to sow and grow for that time of year and visits to National Trust gardens.

It was all really fun to write about and I did get contacted by Grow Your Own magazine to feature in their ‘My Month On The Plot’ section which was ridiculously nerve wracking but so exciting all at the same time.

I would share my freshly written blogs via my new Twitter account (aptly named Grow With Joe of course to match my blog site), hitting the ‘Tweet’ button and sitting back waiting for thousands of people to read each week, who of course would all then share these pieces of incredibly witty, funny, must-read, expert gardening offerings. It would only be a matter of time before the award nominations and writing job offers would start rolling in. The mundane boring office job would be no more, a thing of the past, a distant memory of which would make me shudder at the mere thought.

Of course nothing of the sort happened and with viewing count on each blog virtually non-existent, the self-doubt crept in. The pressure of thinking of witty useful blogs (that nobody would actually read) each week soon had me second guessing myself. What once was a fun thing to do quickly became that horrible ‘haven’t done my school homework and it’s Sunday night’ kinda feeling whenever I hadn’t written a blog for a while.

So what once was a weekly without fail blog post soon turned into a 2 weekly occurrence and then a 4 weekly post and then, well you get the idea.

I’ve always read blogs and magazine articles from fellow gardeners and have enjoyed them. However, one thing I’ve always been conscious of is that I didn’t want to be influenced by the writing style of others. I’ve always wanted my writing to be relatable and perhaps something that someone who has no interest in gardening would enjoy reading too. So you’ll find that my writing style perhaps isn’t something you would find in academic books per say, but hopefully it will be enjoyable to read and easy to follow which is something you don’t get in lots of those award winning gardening books and blogs. (Although as I write that sentence; ‘something you don’t get in lots of those award winning gardening books and blogs’, the penny finally drops as to why perhaps those nominations have never come flooding in).

You’re probably thinking at this point; why have I started writing again? Why even bother to write THIS blog?

Well, those are very valid questions.

Why? Well, you can thank everyone’s gardening hero – Monty Don.

Whilst sitting in the garden one summers evening in July reading a copy of Gardener’s World Magazine, I came to Monty’s regular feature ‘The Full Monty’. I could hear him saying the words to me as I read the piece. His writing style is magnificent, drawing you in with each word as if he is speaking directly to you. His way of writing sums him up perfectly – his style, his way of speaking, his mannerisms – it’s just ‘Him’, if that makes sense?

I almost had a little epiphany which I know is extremely dramatic, but it made me think; Sod it! I’m going to start writing again. In my own style. About the things I want to write about. When I want to write about them. Whatever’s on my mind basically, my gardening week. The highs, the lows and my thoughts about things without any added pressure. * If no one reads it then that’s fine, I can use each blog as a little therapy session to exorcise those gardening demons and doubts I’ve had each week!

* Side note – The ‘if no one reads it then that’s fine’ isn’t strictly true if I’m being completely honest. I would really like people to read my blogs I’m just trying to soften the blow and make myself feel better when/if no one reads them.

So what I’m basically saying is strap yourself in, because this is going to be a very bumpy ride from here on in…….!

The end part was a little too much wasn’t it? Yeah, probably!

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Frances Rice
Frances Rice
Jul 21, 2022

I had a teaching blog when I was teaching part time. It was fun- and actually got read by a small amount of people in a surprising array of countries. I posted when something sparked me which was perhaps once a month. After a couple of years I was teaching full time and I was just too busy, and also somehow inspiration wasn't striking. I haven't written a blog post in years, but was thinking about it recently. So....I really can relate to your blogging experience!

I stumbled upon your IG account during the pandemic and I instantly loved your enthusiasm and sincerity! I love how you have gotten your kids involved in gardening, and it is always so s…

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