A Passion for Gardening
Chris Beard has been running the garden at Trussler Hall for years now. As a resident of Poplar for 15 years, the people at Poplar HARCA got to know him and his passion for gardening. He and the then-disused garden outside the centre were a perfect fit for each other.
We spoke to Chris to get his unique perspective on gardening, life, and produce.
Chris’ story begins in the Australian outback on a sheep farm. It was so far away from everything else that he had to fly to school – something which got him his pilot license at just 16 years old. This is where his love for gardening started, growing food on massive acres of land. He loves produce – the growing, the eating, and the sharing of it – and has relished the chance to grow it again in England.
The garden he handles now at the back of Trussler hall is slightly smaller than what he was used to back then in Australia, but no less of a passion for him. Chris has survived two boats of cancer, giving him a different perspective on life and making him see every day is a bonus. He makes the most out of every day now as a retired man, spending his time walking, running, cycling, travelling around the world and tending to this garden. He finds it therapeutic, and as much of a retreat as the holidays he takes. It’s the peace, quiet and solitude that he really values.
He grows everything you could think of in that garden, but his favourite things to grow are fruit and veg. It tastes even better, he says, to eat things that you have grown yourself and to know that there is no rubbish being put on them. He offers the produce to everyone around and eats a lot of it himself, keeping it in the freezer or even using it to make his own wine.
Why should you garden?
Because, as Chris says, it is therapeutic. He spends just a few hours a day in the garden, but those hours are enough to help him switch off, de-stress and declutter his mind. It helps him to be more self-sustaining, more independent, and gives him a project to put his energy into.
There are quite a few health benefits to gardening, too. Gardening activities such as weeding, planting and watering all burn calories and strengthen muscles. Being active like this improves endurance, stamina and cardiovascular health and being outside gives you greater exposure to vitamin D and a better immune system thanks to the exposure to soil bacteria! Not to mention the fact that gardening has been linked to a reduction in stress and loneliness.
Interested in gardening yourself? Chris has some top tips for gardening:
· If gardening indoors, always put a bowl under the pot. This means that you can give it a good water if you need to go on holiday.
· Make sure you ventilate your indoor plants well in order to keep them healthy for longer
· You need patience
· Accept that there will be collateral damage, that along the way you are going to lose things like seeds and plants. Not everything will grow or survive.
· Know that it is a learning curve, and don’t get disheartened if you don’t know everything or make mistakes.
· Be resourceful! As he uses what he can – looks in skips for canes and big water bottles (can be sued as planters) and gets compost from free places such as Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, Chris thinks that the only real cost going into his produce must be his time.
· Learn off the people around you, through those with experience.
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