Meet Matthew from Cambridge, United Kingdom

“When I was about 10 years old, I grew my first plant and got so excited! I later found out that it was a weed, but it didn’t matter to me because I was nurturing life and helping it to thrive. I’ve always felt close to nature and I knew that someday I would do something involving gardening.

As a practical person that enjoys using his hands, I find so much fulfilment in growing food in my own backyard. I’m always trying to find ways of intersecting architecture with practicality. I grow because I hope to one day help feed the world by sharing in bountiful harvests. If everyone had the education, resources, and motivation to grow their own food, then we could help reduce world hunger. One day, I hope to make my career transition into the gardening sector as either an Urban Gardener, Consultant, or other any exciting opportunities that might come my way.

Although originally from Michigan, USA, I live 30 minutes outside of Cambridge, United Kingdom and my garden is 142 square meter. I normally stick to a few favourites each year, then add in new vegetables to try and grow. I have 4 fruit trees (apple, pear, plum, and cherry), an alpine bed with alpine strawberries, a pergola with two hardy kiwi vines, two beds entirely dedicated to a selection of kitchen herbs, a greenhouse with all of my annual favourites and 3 large raised beds which normally include broad beans, mangetout, climbing french beans, lettuces, swiss chard, beetroot, garlic, onions, radishes, courgettes, and anything else I can get my hands on! I have designed the entire garden on my own.

I compost our kitchen waste and use that to enrich the raised beds which has done wonders for follow-on crops. Normally, I’ll add a bit of manure as well from the local garden centre for added nutrition. For pests, I avoid using pesticides and will do everything I can to use natural methods. For example, I normally use a mixture of crushed garlic, rosemary, and a very small drop of dish soap to deal with my pesky aphids.

I’m always on the lookout online and at the garden centre for new vegetables and beneficial companion plant flowers for my beds. I’ve only recently got into seed saving/sharing this year and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be doing it more going forward!

Normally, when I respond to what my favourite hobby is with “vegetable gardening", most people’s eyes will glaze over which is perfectly understandable since it’s not for everyone. I think with the pandemic, it’s influencing people and having them rethink their lifestyles and hobbies which might include how they source their food. This is especially true with the focus being on environmental and health benefits.

Hands down, the three biggest rewards of growing my own food (amongst many) are sharing my harvests with family and friends to build rapport and community; improving my mental health (since I was diagnosed with clinical depression early this year) and seeing my homegrown produce being turned into delicious dishes that both myself and others can enjoy.”