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Home Harvesting: Getting to the root of why I turned to gardening during the pandemic

Food and drink writer, Karla Sinclair.
Food and drink writer, Karla Sinclair.

Karla Sinclair shares how the pandemic took her back to her roots and allowed a new hobby to bloom – gardening.

“A little dirt never hurt anyone” – a phrase I grew to find accurate over the past 15 months.

The coronavirus pandemic created a new generation of gardening enthusiasts, myself included, as we found ourselves with little things to distract us from taking advantage of the great outdoors.

The polytunnel.

I am now 20 – soon to be 21 – and spent 16 years growing up in the open countryside with my family in Aberdeenshire.

I was surrounded by forestry, fields and very little to do other than make my own fun, whether that involved cycling, paddling in nearby streams or attempting to create dens and tree houses with nothing more than a few logs and some string.

I recall so many fond memories of my childhood, but at the age of 16, I made my move to the “big city” – aka, Aberdeen.

New chapter

I had reached a new stage in my life where I loved having a number of shops within walking distance of me and being close to transport links, opening up endless possibilities of where I could venture to.

It was a huge change from my childhood home where, for those unable to drive (which included myself at this point), you would have to walk around 90 minutes to reach your closest store.

Union Street, Aberdeen.

This turned into the “new norm” for me, and I adapted to city life relatively quickly. But when news of the pandemic hit and Scotland was forced into lockdown, I decided the best move for me would be to head back to the outskirts and live with my family again.

Back to the countryside

I could tell you that I was apprehensive about moving home, but that would be a lie.

I was welcoming back daily home-cooked dinners – something I considered a luxury when I lived alone – having lots more space and being able to see my family and closest friends more regularly (adhering to coronavirus restrictions of course).

The plants are watered daily.

And due to the high temperatures we were treated to in Scotland last summer, I found myself wanting to spend more time outdoors. I’m sure a lot of people would agree.

Taking into account that my dad had a polytunnel installed in our garden a few years prior, I thought it was the right time to develop my green fingers.

Sometimes you fail to realise what is right in front of you, and I was a victim of this for some time when it came to the tunnel.

The polytunnel

The tunnel is 12 feet wide and 25 feet long, so it provides plenty of space to grow a line-up of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

My family and I have experimented by growing a couple of different items from last year, but also stuck to some firm favourites.

Tomato plants.

These include potatoes, lettuce, cucumber apples (a type of cucumber grown in New Zealand that resembles a green apple), spring onions, parsnips, red onions chilli, mint, basil, rosemary and thyme, all of which were planted in March.

Strawberry and blueberry plants are also in the mix, however, they don’t require replanting on an annual basis. And as for our tomatoes, they were planted in January.

After being monitored and watered daily, we have spotted flowers on near enough every plant to date. You get a sense of pride seeing everything start to take shape, no matter how long it may take.

All of us are looking forward to tucking into everything when the time comes. Another main advantage of growing your own has to be the taste, you can’t beat it.

Mental health and wellbeing

I’m sure I speak for many when I say the coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on our mental health.

Businesses were forced to close – including sports facilities, our places of work, food and drink venues and more – and we had no other option than to adapt to the new normal, which involved being confined to our homes.

In the beginning, I truly believed I would be returning to work within a matter of weeks. But it quickly set in that we were all in this for the long haul.

Strawberry plants.

I have been incredibly lucky to have my family by my side during the pandemic, but particularly in the various lockdowns when no one has been permitted to catch up with friends and loved ones outwith their household.

The first lockdown was when the polytunnel came into play, and I learned all about the ins and outs of growing your own produce at home. It certainly is a learning process but if I can do it, anyone can.

For some time, I thought it was a mere panic hobby, but I found myself enjoying pulling on my gloves more as time went on.

The polytunnel is 12 feet wide and 25 feet long.

It has allowed me to escape, boosted my mood and calmed my worries in what has been an incredibly difficult time for people across the globe.

I may be lucky enough to have a space like a polytunnel, however, all you need is a windowsill for some plants.

Gardening was never something I envisioned myself enjoying, particularly at this age, yet here we are – and I am thankful for it.

I look forward to sharing my next steps in my gardening journey with you soon.

For more on growing your own…