What’s it like to live and garden on the Isle of Man? Located in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, here’s a look at gardening life with Tanya of Lovely Greens.
This is part of a series on favourite garden influences which includes Carol Klein and Tasha Tudor.
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Life as a Gardener on the Isle of Man, United Kingdom
Tanya Anderson – Lovely Greens
- The Isle of Man — a small island between Ireland and England
- First Frost: November 11 | Last Frost: March 31
- USDA zone equivalent: Coastal 8 — mild winters and warm summers
- Growing delicious, beautiful, and useful plants using organic gardening methods.
1 Tell us where you’re from and how you ended up where you are now.
I’d never even heard of the Isle of Man just a few months before moving here. I was an American expat living in London and a tourism feature popped up on the TV—it looked incredible. At the time I was itching to get out of the city and a move to a beautiful green island sounded perfect. I’ve lived here over eight years now and know that it’s my forever home. It’s quiet and mostly rural and I love its isolation and sense of community.
2 How did you become a gardener?
I grew up with a homesteady family so farm animals and vegetable gardening were just a normal way of life. When I was a kid I especially loved digging potatoes with grandma and picking plump red raspberries. My interests and work steered me in a more urban direction when I was a teen and in my 20s though. Even so, gardening never completely left me—it hid away inside like a dormant seed. It was only about ten years ago that it bloomed and there’s no walking away from it now.
3 Tell us about your garden. What are the perks and challenges of gardening where you are?
My main garden is in a community garden, called an ‘Allotment’ in Britain. It’s completely south-facing so has plenty of sunshine in the summer. The soil is rich and fertile and is a loamy-clay that stays moist under its protective layer of mulch. I have my space divided into five raised beds with open beds situated below. I’ve also recently taken on an additional piece of land and it’s very much a work in progress.
I grow temperate edibles in my garden and greens of every sort do especially well. Soft fruit as well — I grow eight types of berry including raspberries, blueberries, and gooseberries.
Growing herbs like chamomile, peppermint, and calendula is also very important to me. I use them both in the kitchen and to make handmade skincare. I share a ton of soap making tips and recipes on my website and offer in-person lessons here on the Island.
There are as many challenges as there are perks of gardening at my site. It’s on the side of a hill so mild erosion happens over time. The soil started out quite rocky and it’s taken years to clear a lot of the stones. As for pests, we have plenty of slugs and snails, wild pheasants, and also an invasive foreign pest called the New Zealand Flatworm. It’s decimated my earthworm population and it’s a rare day when I find one. I thought not having worms would be an issue with my using no-dig gardening methods but it’s not been the case at all.
4 How has gardening changed you?
Gardening brings peace to my busy mind. I think we gardeners discovered what Mindfulness was long before it became trendy! There’s focus and intent behind growing individual plants and creating an entire garden. Some days I sit back and look at how beautiful it is and it’s then that I feel like an artist too. Plants are the paintbrush and the soil is our canvas.
5 Any fabulous gardening or DIY mistakes to share?
That will be the Pumpkini. One year I sowed pumpkin seeds given to me by a friend — they were from her award-winning pumpkin from the previous year’s country show. Unfortunately, her pumpkin turned out to be pollinated by a zucchini! That’s how I ended up with oblong orange pumpkinis instead of the traditional round pumpkin. When in doubt, grow some back-up plants.
6 What are you exploring in gardening these days?
No-dig gardening. I’m inspired by Charles Dowding’s and his method of using mulch to feed and care for the soil. So far it’s worked a treat, even with very few worms. I’m no longer digging over my garden beds and instead laying compost and composted manure on the surface. The soil underneath is always moist and dark and this year I’ve noticed a lot less slugs and snails. Best of all, it’s much less work.
7 What do you hope visitors to your site experience?
That gardening can be a creative and productive hobby. You can grow food for the table but also cut flowers, and herbs for natural soap making and skincare. I’m also a beekeeper (read about Tanya’s beekeeping here) and wish more gardeners, especially women, would consider taking it up too. After all, there’s a strong relationship between bees and the garden. Honeybees are important for pollinating fruit and flowers, and bees need the nectar and pollen that plants provide. Plus, you get a honey crop (or two) every year for yourself. Win win.
8 Can you share a good tip or advice for new gardeners?
All gardeners make mistakes, so the important thing is to just start growing. Your gardening knowledge will grow over time and experience is the best teacher. Saying that, there are some really common gardening challenges that can get a beginner down. Over on Lovely Greens I’ve shared what are in my opinion the top 15 mistakes gardeners make along with ways to avoid them.
9 Have you got some DIY projects for a rainy afternoon?
- If you’re a fan of hens and chicks and other succulents, you could make this cute succulent terrarium.
- Herbs like rosemary, mint, and lavender can all be used to make handmade soap. I also have a guide on how to use herbs and flowers in natural soapmaking.
- Colored glass or marbles make beautiful Sea Glass Garden Stones. They look stunning after it rains, like little stepping stones made of jewels.
Follow Tanya & Lovely Greens
Come join Tanya on the popular Lovely Greens YouTube channel here for weekly gardening, beekeeping, and creative DIY ideas. New videos are out each Sunday at 1pm EST / 6pm British. You’ll see a lot more of my garden there along with temperate gardening tips and projects.
Thank you, Tanya, for sharing your garden life with us.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛