Byther Farm Podcast – Tanya Anderson, Lovely Greens

Byther Farm Gardening Podcast – Tanya Anderson of Lovely Greens. Season 2 Episode 1. Show notes.

Last autumn I visited Tanya at her home in Isle of Man for a weekend of gardening, superb food and foraging. The following conversation was recorded near the end of my visit, and I have to say I am very much looking forward to visiting Tanya again in spring 2024.

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Liz Zorab and Tanya Anderson

Byther Farm Gardening Podcast Transcript – Tanya Anderson of Lovely Greens

Hello and welcome back to the Byther Farm podcast and I’m absolutely delighted today to be speaking to Tanya Anderson from Lovely Greens.

This episode was made possible through the generosity of our supporters on Patreon. If you’d like to see videos and hear podcasts before everyone else, become a supporter of Liz Zorab on Patreon to support our work here at Byther Farm. It’s been a really nice weekend.

It’s been great and the weather’s been good. Super, and to be able to visit you in that Isle of Man feels like it’s such a privilege to see everything that’s here and to appreciate some of the challenges there are with the elements here. So it’s been really interesting to see. So thank you for having me. Thanks for visiting me. So I wanted to ask you a bit about setting up your new garden. So how long have you been here and tell me the story of setting up this new garden.

Previously we had a small bungalow with a normal size back garden in town and then I had an allotment and it had always been my dream to have a bit more space just to have the garden at home a full-size allotment garden at home and we weren’t actually initially looking for a house at that point and I told you before the plan was five years at that place. Well we have bought a house in 2018 and we had then moved here bought this place by April 2021. So it wasn’t even two years.

But this came up on the market and it being the Isle of Man, it was word of mouth. Josh knew a guy at the estate agent and before it was even on the market, he knew what we were looking for, got in touch and said, do you want to put in an offer? And even though the slope here is pretty steep, it was perfect

in other ways. And we could afford it, which was an important thing, as everyone knows, looking to buy their dream house and garden. And we moved here. The house hadn’t been lived in for a good couple of years. The garden hadn’t been worked. Grass had been cut. There were signs that the person who’d lived here before had gardened. There’s a greenhouse here, but there was a lot of that initial period was cleaning up the garden and having a think as to what I wanted to do here, how I wanted to grow and what’s going to be best for the actual beds.

Liz – So you didn’t dive straight in and start putting things in immediately, you spent a bit of time looking, thinking?

Tanya – Exactly, and yeah a lot of cleaning up. I did grow on the patio. There was an older patio, a rotten one, that first year and in the greenhouse. But we, I say we, I really focused on getting us involved in just the cleanup.

And then it was about, it was August of that year. So we moved in April, that’s August. What is that a few months later? Put in the very first no-dig bed. It’s the top one up here, the one that has the courgettes growing in it at the moment. And I put that in and then a few more after that. That was it for 2021. And I put those in so that I would have something to work from. I started those beds in the top part of the garden, so closest to the house, but also right in the middle too. And I always recommend that to people. Don’t put your beds around the edges of your garden space. Put them right in the middle where the best light is

and the best access and all of that. If it’s important to you to grow a vegetable patch, put them right there front and center. And then it’s been a case of adding more beds, adding wood chip paths, and trying to keep on top of the things that we’ve built also while expanding the garden. And it’s still, two and a half years later, it’s still

in that process. But up here, we also have the poly crub that we put in, we’ve put in some birdies beds, so the metal raised beds, this little pond we put in earlier on this year, have plans for a larger one. And it’s really just about realising the dream of growing as much produce and berries and flowers and herbs as I’d like, but also with the realities of how much can we do at a time.

Yes, it’s, as you were talking about that, it’s almost like it’s just, it’s slowly building up to this big crescendo, and then hopefully you’ll be able to then maintain that at that lovely level. You have got so much growing here already.

It’s exciting. It’s exciting to look at. Gosh, you know, it doesn’t… Sometimes it feels like I haven’t done enough and I’m really hard on myself for that. But then I look back at photos and this was just a grassy slope. And now, most of it is garden space now.

So we’re sitting on a bench outside your Polycrub. There’s a little pond in front of us, which is absolutely beautiful. And in the garden, there’s loads of white stones. So this is quartz stone, which reflects the light around. And it’s almost like guiding marker stones around. But there’s so much of it. It’s beautiful when the sun shines on the stone. This is almost like a twinkly, sparkling element to a garden.

But then we’re also, we’ve got beds of food next to us and then on the other side there’s flowers. It’s a delight, it’s a really nice space to sit at. So I can see into the house which is filled with like house plants. I can see into the greenhouse which has got things that you’re putting there to overwinter. And just everywhere you look there is more greenery, there are more flowers, there’s more plants. And it feels exciting.

I feel the same way. And there’s still so many things I want to do. And that’s one of the best things about gardening, is that it’s never finished. Even when you get to the point where you hit that crescendo you mentioned before, redo an area or there’s always always some way to squeeze in a new plant.

So how do you decide which of those new plants are going to get a space in

your garden and which aren’t? New plants it really it really comes down to these days do I have a space for it right now? And it used to be in the past that I was a lot more grabby at the garden center, but it caused me a lot of stress having lots of plants and pots that I loved that looked great, and I didn’t yet have a space for them. So now these days, I tend to only buy plants if I have an idea in mind, even if they’re beautiful. So –

Liz – That’s quite disciplined!

It is. But the thing is, is that if you do that, you can spend a lot of money, money that you might lose in the end because the plant might not survive. And so I do have an area here that I have some perennial tulips and I haven’t or an area that I’ve not yet prepared yet, but I have that idea and I will be putting those in. They’re sitting just inside the house right now. But other than that I don’t have too many plants in waiting. I’ve got some herbs that are going to go into a new herb bed but I think it is it is actually a difficult task to be disciplined when it comes to plants. There’s always a way to squeeze in a new one but I think it really pays to have a plan.

Nice. When I was walking through the veg garden yesterday I noticed that there are one or two perennial veg plants in there and we had a conversation about the kale.

I have an epic sized Taunton Deane kale in the garden. It’s quite windy here so the plant just kept getting knocked over, knocked over, knocked over. I put in a really strong support at the beginning part of this year, which it still uses, but all of the branches have kind of hung down and they’ve rooted so it’s not going anywhere. And it is a beautiful architectural leafy green I think, but I don’t like the flavor. I don’t like eating it and so it mainly stays in the garden as an ornamental

even though it is a vegetable. I think it’s one of those things that we often don’t realize about Taunton Deane is that it can be an enormous plant. You can grow it as a hedge, it’s one of those things. And I think it’s worth growing as an ornamental if, it’s worth growing if you like the taste of it. If not, it’s worth growing as an ornamental, but not at the expense of something else that you do like.

Yeah. Fortunately, I have a lot of space here and a lot of beds. The Taunton Deane is at the bottom of one of the beds, but I’m not suffering for gardening space. But if I were, say, back at my old house, where I had four raised beds, and that was my growing space, the Taunton Deane kale would have come out by now, because it takes up a lot of room. But as I said, it’s a nice architectural plant, so I’ll leave it there for now. Might even take some cuttings to give away, because they are quite expensive if you buy them.

We do a seed swap or I organise one with a few friends every year at the beginning part of the year, a public event which has hundreds of people that, come and I think that would be a good place to give away some Taunton Deane.

That would be great wouldn’t it, because it’s so easy to grow and you know if you like the taste of it it’s brilliant. I’m with you, I grew various different kales, I don’t really like the taste of cabbage at all. We were talking about this yesterday.

I do like cabbages, so it’s not that I don’t like any of those brassicas, but I really like growing them. So do you have, you asked me yesterday what was my favorite thing to grow and what were my favorite vegetables to eat, so I’m gonna throw that back at you now.

My favorite things to grow. I love growing plants, and it’s also a time of the year thing, I think, for me. I love growing leafy, green plants that look great, like lettuces. And I absolutely love growing them, but I’m not as ruthless with the seedlings as I should be, so I always have way too much lettuce, way more than we can eat. about all the lettuces. But I love also, if you look over here to the left, having leafy greens with a colorful element to them. I absolutely love the peppermint chard there. Yeah, it is just beautiful and we do eat that, but it’s practical and it’s beautiful at the same time.

Having an element of beauty in the vegetable garden is really important to me because it’s a lot more than a practical space. It’s a place where I go to lose myself and to also be artistic.

Yes. Yeah. So you’ve got two clumps of peppermint and then one of the ruby chard.

Or that might be the rhubarb chard there.

But aren’t they striking? Isn’t that lovely?

Oh, absolutely love that. As far as eating, you know, we were talking about this again yesterday. I love eating all veg. I can’t think of any kind of vegetable that I don’t like eating, but it’s the variety that’s important. So, choosing a variety that’s going to be practical for your purposes. For example, beetroots. I love golden beetroots. Yeah, for the mild flavor and the color, and I love growing cylindra beetroot. It’s tall, maybe a little bit phallic, it looks a little

bit rude at times, but it is so easy just to peel and chop up. Rather than one big round lobe, you’ve got a long tube. And it’s the same with the violet night aubergines that I grew this year. It’s practicality. They look interesting but having that but also flavor some flavors of tomatoes I Don’t care for or they don’t wow me so moneymaker tomatoes, I’ll never grow those again because they’re just so bland and If you wanted moneymaker just go buy some solid tomatoes in the supermarket, but black crim or other tomatoes, oh my goodness.

We had the black crim in salad, and I mean in wraps and things over the weekend, and yeah, it tastes lovely, it’s really nice. And I said to you, oh, I’m not finding tomatoes terribly interesting this year, they all seem really bland, and that had a really good taste.

Or you want to grow Gardener’s Delight. Yeah, good old classic one of the best it gets overlooked because there are so many new varieties that people can choose from but Gardener’s Delight, I Don’t think I have any this year definitely had it last year Honeycomb is another one of my favorites. This is a new one to me So I’m going to be looking out for that because you said that’s got an even better taste than Sun Gold. Yes in my opinion, yes. So it’s a yellow cherry tomato, very similar to sun gold, but I think sweeter.

Wow, nice. So I’ve learned some new varieties to try for next year. I think that’s one of the joys of gardening, isn’t it? Is that there’s always next year.

Always next year and there’s always something new to discover.

So a couple of days ago we got up and went out up onto the hills and into wooded plantation areas and we went foraging for fungi. Well specifically for porcini. And I’ve never been foraging for fungi before because I don’t eat really eat mushrooms. fascinating to have a look at the environments that they’re growing in. Do you mind telling me a bit more about that wooded space?

Sure, on the island here we have quite a few plantations that are plantations of trees that are harvested for local use for firewood for building things like that so it’s sustainably managed but they’re open to the public to go in as recreation areas as well. They are a great place to find mushrooms because you have a lot of decaying wood sitting at the sides of the roads going through there, lots of pine needles. One of the tastiest mushrooms that you can forage for wild are porcini. They’re also known as penny buns or seps, and they’re so easy to identify. And most of the bolete family, so that group of mushrooms, they’ve got a spongy underside, so these tubes rather than gills,

so they’re easy to identify. And unless it has a bright red cap, or it turns immediately blue when you cut it open, you’re pretty safe. And even then, you can still have some leeway with the blue changing color.

So that was really interesting to see that.

Yeah, that was interesting. So Tasha, another friend was with us. She cut a mushroom open. So not all the time are they toxic, but you have to know what you’re looking for. But if they don’t turn blue and they don’t have a red cap, they’re pretty much safe to eat. And porcini have a really rich mushroomy flavor.

They’re expensive if you buy them dried or sometimes you can get them fresh in farmers markets, especially in France, but this time of the year I was actually I would say from summertime all the way to this time of the year you’ll have several flushes that come through and they’re just so much fun to go out and look for and to forage for.

Oh it was great, it’s a woodland for all intents and purposes and we were in separate bits of it and all I could hear was found one, found one! And I was like, is this one?

Yeah, we’re kind of hunched over, crawling underneath these branches, not really able to see one another but just eyes on the ground looking around and there were tons of the sickeners which have bright red cap and white gills underneath. But there were quite a few porcinis as well.

And it was interesting to see that people had obviously been in before us and picked off the caps and left the stems. Well the flies, they are attracted to porcini as well and they lay their eggs in the stems. Their babies, aka maggots, start riddling the stem with holes and then eventually they make their way into the cap over time. So if you find a porcini you’re not going to have a great experience if you’re going to eat one that’s riddled with worms, with maggots. So people will forage them and I brought mine home to clean but apparently someone was there had a massive load of them and just cleaned them out sitting on a log and just like a pile of stems. I’ve not seen that before I do have to say.

So that was really interesting. You brought them home and then I saw you slice them up into quite fine slices and put them into a dehydrator. So they’re now dried and then you showed me your bag of mushrooms and you’re saying you either add them to dishes dried?

You have to rehydrate them. So either you pour boiling water over them or you throw them straight in.
So could you sort of powder them and then just sprinkle that over the top of something so you’ve got just like a very fine taste of it or does the powder need to be rehydrated? No, you could do that as well. I mean I take every day, I have a quarter teaspoon of Lion’s Mane mushroom powder as a supplement that I have straight. It’s dry as anything, but it has incredible flavor That’s another great mushroom. I don’t forage for that. I do have mushroom kit inside

Amazing. It has been really interesting because you grow things that are different So that I grow and you you eat slightly differently to the way I do and you forage for different things to me. So it’s actually been really nice to see the differences and to experience them and to taste some of the different foods that you’re growing. So I’m going home really inspired.

Well we also went to Versa didn’t we?

We did yes. What an incredible restaurant that is. So it’s one of your friends who is a chef. And a forager. and everything on the menu is either locally produced or locally foraged.

Yes, everything on your plate will have come from the Isle of Man. And she will not serve drinks that are not locally grown. So you can bring your own alcohol if you’re coming there for dinner, but she won’t serve any alcohol because we don’t have any makers of local wine using local ingredients, but you get a really unusual and gorgeous experience, a taste sensation, things that you’ve never tasted before or maybe have never used in that way. For example, the meadowsweet.

Yes, so meadowsweet on desserts. I had seaweed in an omelette, finely chopped in an omelette. you had it in a butter and and then there were bits of something but I looked at first of all I thought they were something like parmesan shavings mm-hmm I picked up the honor this is to cheese what is it and it was slices of kohlrabi.

Oh gosh yeah that changed your mind.

change of mind so previously I really I’ve grown it before I’m super super unimpressed with it. It’s like yeah, no. So I sowed some seeds this year and the slugs just ate them all. They ate all the plants as they came up, but next year I am actually going to grow them. So yes, I’ve had my mind changed enough, but I’m going to grow them again. Well, look, they were raw as well. They were raw and they were lovely. Absolutely gorgeous. So this afternoon I’m heading back to Wales, but before then we’re going to another of the local towns and then we’re also going to go presumably down to the beach.

Yeah. And have a little scavenge on the beach for sea glass.

For sea glass.

It’s one of my hobbies that I don’t really touch on very much on YouTube there are a couple of videos older videos but aside from gardening I do love foraging I like finding things and sea glass hunting on the beaches is a form of foraging so that’s scouring the sand and the stones looking for these bits of glass that have been worn away all the sharp edges have been worn away by the water brushing it against the rocks and the sand.

So where we’re sitting now, in front of me, there is a small collection of sea glass right on the edge of the pond. And you’ve made stepping stones with sea glass set into them.

I have, and there’s a little trick that I discovered to be able to keep the sea glass looking bright and colorful when they’re in the stepping stones. And I have all of that, that entire project over on my website and on YouTube. I did do a video on that years ago.

Oh, brilliant.

But they look great. I’ve got a good collection indoors and I want to make more of these to go maybe around the corner here around the Polycrub, just a nice little feature.

That’s really nice. So where can people read your stuff, watch your videos, how can they find you?

Well they can go to Lovely Greens, I’ve got a YouTube channel, website, social media, and if they wanted to find out more about the sea glass stepping stone, just go on there, or Google sea glass stepping stone, or Lovely Greens and you’ll be able to find me and I’ve got lots of information on organic vegetable gardening herb growing but also using plants in useful ways such as soap making that’s another of my passions.

It is another of your passions and and using plants in various different ways and practical ways. It was one of the themes of your book, which was A Woman’s Garden.

A Woman’s Garden – Grow Beautiful Plants And Make Useful Things. So it has a taste of growing lavender and using it to make handmade soap, or growing different types of mints, and we’ve been sampling them while you’ve been here. Ginger mints, chocolate mints, strawberry mints, which is one of my favorites, and then using it to make really unusual mojitos. Things like this, just enjoying our gardens and the plants that we grow in different ways that makes our lives much more enjoyable and delightful.

And your book was great, it came out same time pretty much as Grounded did. We did video collabs, we did lots of supporting each other in terms of our book launches and publicity and things. And that just felt, that felt so nice to have somebody who’s a friend, who’s also an author, somebody whose work I respect, and just to be able to work with you then. Just, it felt great. It was, there was that kind of, it was a privilege, but it was also just such good fun.

It was fun, and it was both of our first books. And so it was all new to us, and we just had a bit of fun with it, didn’t we?

Yeah. I sometimes think that people forget to enjoy the fun. Yeah. There’s fun to be found in everything. There’s playful things to be found in the garden. And if we don’t take stuff too seriously, then we start seeing the fun.

Yeah, I agree.

The podcast you’ve been listening to is a Byther Farm production. The podcast you’ve been listening to is a Byther Farm production. All rights reserved.

Further Reading

You can read more about some of the subjects discussed in this podcast including perennial vegetables like Taunton Deane kale.

Liz Zorab
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