Gardening Podcast – Amy Chapman

Byther Farm Gardening Podcast – Amy Chapman. Season 2 Episode 6. Show notes.

Amy Chapman is better known as In the Cottage Garden. Amy and I met through social media and she visited Byther Farm in August 2024 and a firm friendship has developed. Amy’s gardening adventure is still new and she is learning as fast as she can, experimenting with techniques and is well and truly bitten by the gardening bug.

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Transcription of podcast with In the Cottage Garden’s Amy Chapman.

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Welcome back to the Byther Farm podcast and today I’m delighted to be joined by my friend, Amy Chapman from In the Cottage Garden. Amy, thank you so much for joining me today.

Hello, thank you for having me on the podcast.

Oh, no, welcome. I’m so pleased to have you here to have a chat. So Amy and I met each other during the summer last year. Amy visited me here and we recorded a video and I was due to go back, do a return visit to Amy’s garden and we still haven’t got that organized, have we?

Oh my God, I know, but it’ll be the perfect time soon. There’ll actually be some flowers and some nice plants to look at.

I think you came here and it was boiling hot when you came here and the next week the weather broke and it’s pretty much rained in Wales ever since.

Amy – Yeah, non-stop.

Liz – So you’ve got a river, a little stream just outside your house, have you been okay with that in this torrential rain?

Yes, luckily it hasn’t overflowed or anything. There’s been a bit of an issue at the top of the garden where it’s kind of overflowed over the road to get into the house and it’s like eroding our one way out but I’m sure it’ll be fine we’re trying to get it fixed but other than that no rain has come into the garden or into the house

Liz – So thank goodness for that and your plants aren’t too awash.

I mean just from like the endless rain there’s a lot of things in the garden that just look like soggy and a bit like rotten because it’s never-ending and I think I need to sort out to more drainage because yeah I think this is the worst year for quite a long time for rain it’s been super heavy so it’s made me think about my soil a lot more in the drainage I think.

Liz – I think a lot of people have the last couple of years have really had to think about the extremes of the weather that we’re getting. So you know, the year before last, 2022, was incredibly dry for a lot of the country, most of the country. And then 23 has been incredibly wet. And let’s hope that 2024 gives us a balance.

It’s so unpredictable. I would like some nice sunshine next year. Yeah, a nice like solid, at least six weeks of good sunny weather would be great.

I think it would be nice if we could have it with the temperatures not too high, that we had the rain overnight. That would be perfect. We had warm weather, dry lovely days and rain overnight to keep the plants going.

The dream – probably never happen.

Now people who are listening to this won’t be able to see what I can see but are your ducks just outside the window there? Can I see your ducks wandering around out there?

They’re actually not out of that window. Basically we’ve got three little sections of the garden and the ducks are in the section the other side of the house. But yeah, they’re basically, I’ve got six ducks, they’re in the flower section of the garden at the moment and they’ve completely wiped out the slug population in that bit of the garden. So I think I need to move

them into the vegetable garden next because that’s where the real issue is with the slugs.

Liz – How nice, how nice. So we, as you know, we have ducks at various different times and actually we had ducks solidly for eight years until last year when they got foxed. We had to dispatch our ducks, bless them, just to be kind to them. So I waited a few months, we got three more ducks and it took a month before the fox came and found them again. And so our ducks now live inside, they live in a massive barn, they’ve got water galore, they’ve got stuff growing in there for them to nibble at, but they’re not attending to the garden. So there is still a slug and snail festival going on out there and I have yet to work out a way for the ducks to be there. And this morning I went out and thought,

well, perhaps I can find some sort of, I can just let the ducks out, you know, for a couple of hours in the morning or something. I walked up to the garden, this enormous fox hopped over the fence and away. And it’s like, oh, they’re out during the day. So, you know, the ducks would stand no chance if they’re free ranging.

Amy – Yeah, the only way I think is for you to supervise them, but obviously that’s so time consuming.

Yeah, or to do some sort of like a chicken tractor, but a duck tractor that something that’s wide enough or narrow enough to go in between the beds and let the ducks clear the pathways. I’m certainly, I’m not going to spend two hours a day standing in the garden watching ducks. Maybe in the summer when I’m out there every day anyway, but until then we’ll have to carry on with the arrangement as it is. So disappointing, I’m going to have huge slug issues this year and I look forward to seeing your garden not having huge slug issues.

Amy – Yes, they always find a way. Do you have any slug prevention recommendations other than ducks? I’d love to know that to be honest.

You know, the RHS did some research a while back where they tested different things that allegedly work. I’m being joined by the cats if you hear cat noises, sorry. And the only they found that might do some good is copper tape, which you put around pots. But in a garden the size of yours or the size of mine, the copper tape is an incredibly expensive way forward. And several people have said that one of the things they found works is using spiky bits of, say, bramble, for example, laid down on the ground and they feel that that deters slugs. I’m not sure anything does.

I think maybe we need to think differently about them and accept that they are part of the garden and change our behavior so that we are planting out seedlings when they’re bigger. So that if a slug has a good old munch on them, they haven’t actually completely ruined them and eaten them away. They’ve only taken a part of it.  

Amy -Yeah

Liz – So, you know, but that’s about us changing our behavior and accepting that slug will do what they do

Amy – Yeah, and I think like perfectionism as well. Like just accepting that some of your plants are going to have holes in the leaves and that’s fine. Nothing’s going to look perfect. And it will still taste great.

Yes. And if you, I suppose the other thing you can do is encourage other wildlife that eat slugs and snails. So if you have got a wildlife pond, that will, you can then have frogs and toads, which will eat the slugs. You can encourage hedgehogs by having a hedgehog house in the corner of your garden, somewhere undisturbed. And also you can just encourage loads and loads of birds.

So that’s going to be like by growing different things, leaving seeds on plants, allowing plants to go to seed, meaning seed heads there over winter. Because a blackbird will do quite a lot of damage in terms of and not damaged your garden, but damage to the slug population. And if you ever watch things like thrushes. They’ll pick up a snail and they will actually knock it onto the floor. They’ll there was to smash the shell to get it open I mean, it’s it it’s incredible that they’ve learned to use like a stone as a tool, you know slamming a snail onto the ground or onto a stone to break it open.
So if you encourage the wildlife, the birds in, then you’re going to have nature working for you.

I think I’m changing my tactics with it this year as well. I think I’m definitely going to encourage birds in. I’ve even watched out the window. If I put food out for the birds, I can see the birds go and get the food from the feeder and then fly onto the beds and look through the soil there, so it definitely works. And then also, I’m thinking, because last year in the summer, if I went out at night time with my torch to look for slugs, if I left any old plants or leaves on the floor, stuff like that, you’d just see all of the slugs go to that one area. I think what I’m going to do is just leave stuff specifically for the slugs to eat so they don’t eat the plants that I don’t want them to eat.

Liz – Really good idea. I mean beer traps work if you can do beer traps but you need to do them not in the bed where the plant is away from it so encouraging them away. Have you tried I haven’t tried beer traps at all?

I have a bit. It’s definitely not my favourite way. Because it’s like getting rid of the slugs after. Also, I don’t necessarily, like, I prefer the ducks eating them or birds eating them because then at least, like, it’s doing some good to another animal. Whereas beer traps, you just drown them and then have to fish out the smelly old slugs from a jar, which isn’t the nicest.

So Amy, for people who don’t know you, and I can’t believe there’s many people who don’t now, do you want to describe a little bit where they people consigned you and what it is that you do?

Okay, so I make videos on social media. My Instagram is inthecottagegarden and it’s the same on TikTok as well. Or you can find me on Facebook under the same name. And I’m basically just trying to encourage new people to start growing their own food and kind of simplify it a bit because a lot of people find the whole subject very overwhelming. So I make very short, very quick little videos with tips on how to grow food and other garden related things as well.


Yeah, so you make absolutely bite-sized videos that are little snippets of information. And actually, if you put several snippets together, it covers quite a big topic. And your Instagram following has grown beautifully in the last year, hasn’t it?

Yes, it was very unexpected, actually. When I started uploading videos it was never really a plan to do it like a job or at that scale at all. But just when I started getting a few messages from old school friends and people like that saying I inspired them to grow carrots on their balcony and stuff like that, I was like, okay, I’m just going to carry on doing it because it’s so nice to be able to inspire people to grow their own food.

It is, it is. And it’s, there is a really nice community of veg-growing gardeners on social media.

Amy – It’s definitely one of the nicest groups of people I think.

Yes, we like this. I was talking with somebody else earlier on and we were saying about it’s one of the spaces that actually women in social media can do really well. When so many areas in social media are dominated by men. But actually, women gardeners have really done very well on social media. And we can share our experience and use our voice to promote something that is just so nice. And it’s good for our mental health and it’s good for our stomachs and it’s good for our pockets and there’s just, you know, there is no downside to gardening.

Yeah, definitely. It’s completely guilt-free and I always think like if I’m spending money on plants or seeds or compost or anything like that, I’m just like, well, there’s so many worse things I could be spending my money on.

Liz – Oh, absolutely. I know what I was going to tell you. When you came to visit me, you brought me some crocus, the crocus, the saffron crocus, and they’re up and they’re growing and they’re doing really well.

Amy – Oh amazing, yeah I have, I’ve planted a few as well but I didn’t get any flowers from them this autumn but maybe next year.

Liz – Yes, no I, they’ve not flowered or anything they’re just you know they’re just up and being green and it’s like ‘tra-la’.

Amy – I love their little like thin green leaves they’re like little like party decorations or something.

They are they’re just they’re even slimmer than blades of grass aren’t they? They’re finer they are indeed. So 2024 do you have any special plans for growing something new, something you’ve never grown before, consolidating on what you’ve grown in the past, what are your plans?

Okay, so I would say there’s like a general theme this year. Because last year my theme was like interesting varieties of things that you couldn’t buy in the supermarket basically, so I didn’t grow any normal tomatoes. I grew all weird shapes and weird colours and things like that. And I enjoyed trying them all out. But this year, because I’ve got such a small garden, I’m going more for productive varieties than weird colors. So I’m hoping to be able to harvest a little bit more.

But tomatoes are probably my favourite thing. So I’ve picked like four different varieties. I’ve got a small cherry one that’s supposed to be blight resistant, a yellow cherry and a black cherry because I couldn’t just grow red ones. And then one larger beefsteak variety, which is supposed to be good in this climate. Basically the overarching theme is trying to grow things that are more suited to this climate rather than just going for anything that looks fun.

Yes, and I think that’s a really wise move. So last year I grew six different varieties again for their, in fact not for their colours, but I went by the description of their flavours. I chose ones that said sweetest flavour or this has got the strongest umami flavour. So I just wanted to try out these ones that are supposed to have really good flavors.

Now we had such a wet year that most of the tomatoes tasted of very little. We didn’t have enough sunshine. So they didn’t get that really sweet flavor and then like you, blight came in and I was like, oh, can I, you know, how many can I harvest before? Well, you know, I got a few kilos. I got several kilos. So there was enough in the freezer to see me through the year, but probably not as many as I would have liked to have made passata or other, you know, pasta sauces with them. So this year I am going back to the tried and tested. I know I like the taste of these and it’s dull in some way because I’ve been growing them for the same varieties for many, many years. But a person kind of thinks, I know I like them.

Amy Chapman from In the Cottage Garden and Liz Zorab


And I suppose the newest one is a yellow one. I’m going to say it’s golden sunrise. Is that?

Amy – Yes, I think it’s gold.

Liz – Which is really nice. And I tried a yellow cherry tomato a few years ago. And it was like, OK, but I would rather have something slightly bigger. But I did try a cherry tomato called, I think it was Cerise. So if I find the seed for that again, I will grow that again, because it was just so prolific in the number of the cherry tomatoes you got on the vine. But I think there is something really important about working with your climate, working with your soil, working with… And once you’ve learned that, then I think it’s okay to start experimenting with something different. But in our case, as food growers, we’re actually feeding our families first. So we need to produce sufficient or as best we can.

Definitely. And I would say to people that have a small space to prioritize the varieties that work best in your climate. I think that’s super important because even with like tomatoes, if you prioritize things that are going to grow really prolifically for you, then all tomatoes are going to taste better when you grow them yourself. Yeah. And that will mean that you get more of your own homegrown tomatoes instead of having to buy some at the supermarket in a month or two.

I think the other thing that I’m doing this year is to go, what seeds have I got? So I’m pretty sure, she says, thinking, I think I put in one order of seeds for about £15 worth of seeds, which I realise is quite a lot, but it’s quite a big garden out there. But other than that, I’m not buying other seeds this year, so I’m going to just be using what I’ve already got and using any that I might swap at a seed swap.

Yeah, definitely. I think I’ve tried to be a bit more strict with my seed buying this year as well because it’s so tempting to just buy everything that sounds really nice, but I’m not going to have the space to grow it. And I’ll never just sow one tomato seed of each variety. I will just sow like five or more. I’ll just fill up a whole seed tray every time and not be able to grow them all.

And then look, you know, when you, when you sow into a seed tray, they’re so little. They take up so little room. And it’s a little bit like when you sow squash seeds and you go, oh, that’s all right. No, there’s only 14 in a packet. I might as well sow them all. And then that’s 14 huge plants that you’ve got to find space for.

Yeah, exactly. I think especially the parts that you start indoors as well. It’s best to be a bit more strict with those because then you can, if you start less plants, then you’ll be able to give those plants more time, more space. You’ll actually get round to potting them on.

So what have you got in terms of indoor setup? Do you have grow lights and heat lamps?

I have one little heat mat, very cheap little thing and two grow lights now. One of them is actually behind me with one little mini tray in it at the moment because I’m trying not to start everything really early as well. The only things I’m starting really are chilies and aubergines and I probably would have waited a couple of weeks to start those as well but I’m going on holiday so I thought I’ll just get them started now and hope that they survive while I’m away. Yeah, I don’t really have the fanciest setup. I would like more lights so I could start more plants indoors, but I don’t think you need a lot. And you can make do with obviously growing things above radiators for the warmth. And then I think the main issue is the light though.

It is. And just there is that reminder that I always do whenever I’m talking to anyone is that if you’re growing on a windowsill, and I only have, so I have, I’ve got a propagator, a heated propagator, but it’s a small one. And I don’t use any lamps at all. Because you know, electricity costs a load of money. And then all of a sudden that very cheap food is becoming quite expensive. So I use the window sill, but you just need to be really careful if you’re putting stuff on window sills to bring it in when you close the curtains at night, because otherwise you’re shutting those seedlings between the curtain and the window and it gets really cold there in the winter.

So just a reminder to people, to anyone listening who, and probably a reminder to me as well, to make sure I bring seedlings in. And I quite like that process when we get to the point where seeds are being sown and the stuff, like every windowsill is full and I get that nightly ritual of going around and just taking them all off the windowsill and putting them on the table and then in the morning putting them all back again so they’re getting maximum light.

I guess that helps to make sure they’re rotated a little bit as well because they can obviously lean towards the light. Also, I think last year I did quite a few on the windowsill and I made a little reflective thing to put behind them so that they were getting light reflected from behind it as well.

Liz – That’s a really good idea.

Amy – I think I just wrapped like tinfoil around a piece of cardboard and that just reflects the window back at the seedlings.

Liz – That’s a really good tip, I shall take that one and I shall share that far and wide with little things saying, stolen idea, stolen from Amy. Yeah, that’s a really good idea.

The other thing I’m doing this year is I’m going to be starting doing YouTube videos. So you can find me, I think it’s in the Cottage Garden UK because my username was already taken unfortunately. And I’ll be doing much more like in-depth, longer form videos. I think I’ll be doing more like vloggy style videos as well. So you can just see what I’m up to in the garden each week. So yeah, much more longer form content on YouTube if you want to find me there.

So what I’ll do is I will make sure that I will list everywhere that people can find you. So that will be in the show notes with all the links and you can tell me afterwards if there’s any more that you want to add.

Now if people want to actually meet you. Are you planning to go into any shows this year? I know last year I dragged you off to the Malvern Autumn Show.

I actually haven’t really planned on going to any yet this year. I really do want to go to Chelsea though, just to experience it once. But are there any you’d recommend?

Well, I mean, I like the local ones, so the least travelling I do the better, really, just in terms of environmental impact. So I go to Malvern spring and autumn because they’re different beasts. Spring is very much more show gardens and ornamental. And then autumn is much more around food growing and harvests. So they have a very different feel. This year I’m going to, because I’ve been invited, I’m going to go to Tatton, which I haven’t been to before.

But the ones that I’m really looking forward to, like properly looking forward to, are really local shows. So rather than a big organised show, local shows that are, that properly celebrate what can be grown in that locality from, you know, good old, I’m saying good old fashion, but no, they’re not even good old fashion, from people who understand the local environment and are just celebrating what they can grow. And you get the whole cake and jam and, you know, the three best run of beans and all of that sort of stuff. I really love shows like that.

Yeah, I love a good classic country show.

Yes, that’s the right word, country show. And one of the other things that I’m doing this year is I’m holding a seed swap.

Amy – Oh, you’re putting your own?

Liz – I am. So hopefully you’ll be able to come because Amy doesn’t live too far away, not too very far away from me. So hopefully you’ll be able to come to that. Seed swaps are such a good source of free seeds, you can just fill in any gaps you’ve got, you can donate any that you’ve got like masses of seeds left over from a previous year or ones that you’ve collected and you get to meet other gardeners in your area. So it’s worth looking up to see if there are seed swaps available closer to you Amy?

Yes. I only found out that seed, like local seed swaps, were a thing last year, really. And I started going to a local one. I think it’s in between us. And yeah, it’s amazing. You can just donate all of your old seeds, whatever you’ve got too much of, and swap them for whatever other people have too much of.

Yeah. And I know I’ll be at the Carmarthen seed swap again this year. So yeah, that’s a seedy Saturday. And that’s certainly worth people having a look at, because you can usually go and meet. Sometimes you’ve just got to be brave at these things. You’ve got to go things you just go out and say hello to people and introduce yourself because chances are if someone is at a seed swap it’s because they’re seriously into gardening.

Amy – Yeah I do get asked a lot how can people make friends with other gardeners and that would definitely be a good way is to go to a seed swap and be brave and talk to people.

Liz – Yes I mean the worst that’s going to do that’s going to happen is people are going to kind of not want to talk to you. But that would be very unlikely, as I see it, because, you know, it’s going to be full of people who are enthusiastic about gardening.

Amy – Yes, the best people.

Liz – The other thing is, if people are asking how to meet other gardeners, most areas have a gardening club. Very often just set up by or set up many, many years ago and just the membership changes as time goes on. But you know, even quite small villages have gardening clubs and they usually meet for a couple of hours once a month and they’ll have a guest speaker. And Amy, you could be doing that. You could be doing and being a speaker at a gardening club. That would be great.

Amy – Maybe I’ll try one and see how it goes.

Liz – Yeah, so the gardening clubs are great. You can go, you meet other gardeners, you usually listen to a speaker, there’s time for tea and coffee and cake. There’s all the good things, good reasons for going.

Amy – Oh yeah, even if you don’t like gardening, just go for the cake.

Liz – So Amy, thank you so much for chatting today. We need to fix up another time to chat. We need to fix up a visit so I can come and see your garden and meet your ducks. But in the meantime, thank you so much for joining me and we shall speak again very soon.

Perfect. Thank you for having me. Perfect. Thank you for having me.

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