The Secret Garden.

My poly-tunnel in the height of summer.


Back in 1998  before escaping to the country to run a homestead became fashionable I gave up a high pressure job in the city and moved to six and a half acres of Yorkshire countryside.

Below: My first look at my new land.

The first step was establishing a garden. I cleared a space, tilled the soil, and began planting a variety of vegetables.

Mother Nature can be both a generous friend and a formidable opponent, even when things don't go according to plan, I don't let it get me down. I just take it as a learning experience and try again next year.

Below: I never set out to grow large veg but sometimes it just happens.

In addition to growing food, I also keep chickens, ducks, quail and other livestock. They provide me with fresh eggs every day, and their manure helps to fertilise the land.

I learned the hard way that not everything thrived and I have had my fair share of failures ever since. They have been more than balanced by the successes over the years.

You won't find much perfect in these pages, I don't dust my houseplants often enough and you won't have to look very hard to find weeds in my beds.

Below: Please don't look at the dust on my house plants!

I've been living off my land for over 20 years now, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I grow as much of my own food and vegetables as I can, and I raise my own animals. It's a lot of work, but it's also incredibly rewarding.

Below: My aim is to grow all I need. This is 2 beds of shallots, excellent for pickling and store well.

Living deep in the countryside allows me to forage for a few things that I can't grow.

Living off the land isn't always easy, but it's definitely worth it. I know where my food comes from, and I can be sure that it's fresh and healthy. I'm also proud to be self-sufficient.

Below: My orchard provides hard and soft fruit every year. Eating a ripe pear "Buerre Hardy" is quite an experience.

Soil is everything. Healthy soil is essential for growing healthy plants. I amend my soil with compost and manure every year to keep it nutrient-rich.

I'm not a trained farmer, but over the years I've learned how to test my soil, how to rotate my crops, and how to deal with pests and diseases. I've also mastered canning, freezing, and drying food so that I can enjoy it all year long.

This article was updated on November 14, 2023

John Hayes

I developed a love of gardening at a young age and would often help my grandfather in the garden. I like to think I am a a talented gardener with a passion for plants. I have a particular interested in growing native plants and wildflowers without the use of chemicals and artificial fertilisers. I think most people can grow something for themselves even in the tiniest spaces and that doing so has many benefits for the mind and body.