Holly Tylers: How To Grow Veg In 15 Mins A Day
As part of pebble’s Sea Change series on permaculture, we sat down with members of our Ripples community who are pioneering projects in the movement.
Meet Holly Tylers, founder of Can I Dig It?
Holly Tylers is the founder of Can I Dig It? a small business aimed at helping newbie gardeners grow their own food with limited time and resources.
Her mission is to empower people to reap the benefits of homegrown food, whether that’s eating sustainably and seasonably, getting healthier or saving money.
Holly is a member of our Ripples by pebble community for changemakers and she chats to pebble about why it’s important to grow your own food, how to make your veggie patch sustainable and the common misconceptions new gardeners have.
How did you get into gardening and growing your own food?
Holly Tylers: I’ve been hanging around allotments and vegetable gardens my whole life. I have to credit my Dad with planting the seed (ho ho) of homegrown food.
There were always fresh vegetables being brought into the house. He’s had an allotment for as long as I can remember.
As kids, my brothers and I would go and help, which usually meant playing with the dog and eating all the raspberries!
Why do you think growing your own veggies is important?
HK: For me, it’s about knowing where your food comes from and having that connection with the soil and the seasons.
Relying on produce from your own garden puts you in tune with the seasons, allowing you to eat food that is naturally available at different times of the year.
At a time when there’s more than ever scrutiny on what goes into our food, it’s reassuring to know that your veggies have been tended with just water, sunshine, soil and your own hands.
It’s also about small, easy steps to reducing your impact on the environment. You can measure food miles in steps to the kitchen, rather than far-flung flights or long distance lorry journeys.
What do you think are the main challenges of growing your own veggies? How can newbies or aspiring gardeners overcome them?
HK: There’s a perception that growing your own food is time-consuming, complicated and that you need a lot of outdoor space. None of these are true.
My advice is to start small, maybe with a few pots or planters on a patio or in a yard. In as little as 15 minutes a day, you can sow some seeds and tend your plants.
You really don’t need a lot of space and if you think creatively, you can grow a surprisingly large amount of food. If you start off with a large space, it can be overwhelming and you’ll quickly lose motivation.
How can you make sure that your vegetable patch is sustainable?
HK: I encourage newbies to follow an organic approach as far as possible. That means rejecting the use of pesticides and not introducing chemicals into the soil.
I also advocate plant rotation: if you grow the same crops in the same soil every year, it encourages the build-up of pests and diseases and your yields and quality of produce will decline.
Your veggies only need nutrients from the soil, sunshine, water and a little bit of TLC to thrive. Let’s keep it simple!
The other way to make your patch sustainable is to save your own seed for use in future years, rather than buying fresh seed from a limited choice of varieties.
Do you have any tips for optimising your vegetable patch? Particularly if your space is limited?
HK: Planning is crucial, whether you’ve got a lot of space or a little. Start by making a list of what veggies you like to eat, then plan where you are going to grow them.
Bear in mind that some veggies will take almost all year to get to the point of harvest, whereas others grow quickly and the space they leave can be filled with something else.
Fast-growing crops can be re-sown every couple of weeks, which will give you a constant supply of produce, rather than a feast or famine scenario. This is particularly important in smaller spaces.
Climbing plants like peas or beans are extremely productive and growing vertically up trellis or canes will free-up space elsewhere.
What is Can I Dig It? all about?
HK: It’s a business to help newbie gardeners with limited free time to find joy in growing their own food.
It’s about showing people that it doesn’t have to take over your life (unless you want it to!) to put fresh veggies on the table and live a little bit more sustainably.
The Can I Dig It? mission is to put people back in touch with their food and discover the health benefits of not just eating homegrown food, but also spending some mindful time away from their work.
What inspired you to start a business in the gardening space?
HK: I think it was a drive to extract myself from the rat race, which was enforced during the first lockdown in 2020.
I wanted a better work/life balance than the 24/7 ‘always on’ lifestyle I was leading. I find veggie growing to be an effective activity in mindfulness – just being able to switch off and tune out of the daily grind, even for just a short time.
I realised I could use my knowledge and experience to help others do the same thing and see the benefits that I have.
What are the benefits of seed sharing?
HK: The catalogues of seed companies have a rather narrow choice of varieties. That means that if you buy seeds every year, only a few varieties are grown by a lot of gardeners.
This limited range is contributing to a lack of genetic diversity in our plants. Why is this bad? Because if a pest or disease evolves to attack a certain crop, it would be devastating to our food supplies.
Saving your own seed to be shared with others ensures more diverse genetic material in circulation, preserves heritage varieties that are suitable for the small-scale grower and gives you tried and trusted veggies that you can grow year after year.
How can we get involved with Can I Dig It?
HK: On my website, you can discover ways to work with me and find some free resources to get started.
My membership launches in April, which is aimed at creating a community of just 100 people, who want to come together and share the highs and lows of growing their own food, as well as sharing their seeds (which I will show you how to save!)
The number is capped because I want it to be a hub for people to get to know each other and make genuine friendships.
For those newbies with limited space, my year-long Small Space Grow-Along is now live, which takes you through a year of growing your own veggies. We’ll be working together to transform our small spaces into a veggie wonderland.
Learn more about Holly Tylers and get more sustainable gardening tips on Can I Dig It?
Read more. Do more...
Love growing? Don't miss some of pebble's other inspiring content in our Sea Change series, all about Feeding Ourselves.
- Learn more from our explainer What is Permaculture?
- Urban Gardening: Our Favourite 10 Guides to Start Gardening in Cities With
- What Is Soil Health? Why We Shouldn’t Treat It Like Dirt
- How to Grow These Veg Indoors
- Try these Best Growing Kits
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