Technology is revolutionising the way gardeners track down advice on growing flowers, fruit, vegetables and lawns. A technology-savvy generation is turning to YouTube and vlogging to share their passion for plants. When Johnsons Lawn Seed announced the winner of its first Grass Roots Vlogger of the Year Award, designed to shine the spotlight on budding talent, 37-year-old Torsi Wooldride from Berkshire beat the competition hands-down with her warm, honest presenting style. Here, we meet Torsi and discover what sparked her passion for sharing her green-fingered antics with the world online – an inspirational tale for any gardener looking to embrace the world of vlogging.
What sparked your enthusiasm for gardening?
“I started by helping my grandmother on her allotment. When I was a child I grew a daffodil bulb in a cooking set cup under my bed. My mum found it growing through the hessian of the bed! There are many people who inspired me with their enthusiasm and contagious passion for gardening, from Charlie Dimmock to Carol Klein and Monty Don, along with my unsung heroes, the author Joy Larkcom and the late broadcaster Harry Dodson.”
How did you turn your love of gardening into a career?
“I started working at garden centres and nurseries while studying for my Royal Horticultural Society Level 2 qualification. Upon completion in 2008, my career really took off. It was varied, from garden maintenance and design to growing organic veg for a restaurant. My main job is Head Fruit and Vegetable Gardener at a private family estate in Oxfordshire where I manage an acre of organic fruit, vegetables and seasonal cut flowers.”
Where do you look for gardening inspiration?
“I watch all the gardening programmes on TV, read the RHS magazine The Garden and BBC Gardeners’ World magazine for inspiration. I’m an avid listener to Gardeners’ Question Time on BBC Radio 4. It’s a source of wonderful ideas, and panellist Christine Walkden has a fabulous way with words and always makes me laugh. I have a small library of gardening books – I couldn’t be without The Vegetable and Herb Expert and The Fruit Expert by Dr DG Hessayon, Grow Your Own Vegetables by Joy Larkcom and RHS Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener. I try to source hard-to-find treasures of gardening information from books.”
What made you start your YouTube channel?
“I started vlogging a few years ago so I could share my experience and tricks of the trade, to help and inspire others to give growing a go. YouTube is a great community, where vloggers share their gardening trials and tribulations. It’s a showcase of your achievements over the years, and your progression as a grower. Feedback is always positive and I love answering people’s questions to help them overcome problems. It gives me the drive to continue vlogging.”
As a professional gardener, do you find time to tend your own allotment?
“I rent two 5x25m allotment plots. I enjoy their contrast to my work environment, where the gardens are maintained to an immaculate standard. In comparison, my allotment is kept in an environmentally friendly state where plants, veg, flowers and weeds co-habit. My biggest allotment challenge is keeping weeds under control, as well as watering, as the water source is not close to my plot. During last year’s heatwave, all my water butts remained empty for a long time. My allotment allows me to grow my competition flowers and veg for the Henley Show; fruit and veg for my family and friends, and provides a place for me to experiment with ideas.”
What do you like growing most – and do you set yourself challenges?
“Onions! There is something about onions that I love: growing them from a small seed to the end product. They’re a staple of my diet and store well over winter for a continuous supply. I planted an asparagus bed three years ago and am now enjoying the first proper harvest. It’s a crop worth waiting for. I especially like Blueberry ‘Duke,’ a large, juicy, prolific fruiter – a beautiful bush with year-round interest: colourful stems in winter, similar to cornus, spring bell-shaped flowers that bees love, blue fruit in summer and, as it slips into autumn, vibrant red leaves. I can’t imagine my veg areas without herbs (see pull out box), which complement any dish and have medicinal properties. I like to challenge myself to see what I can grow in the British climate and I can’t wait for my pineapple to fruit. I’m still waiting, three years on!”
How important is it to garden without chemicals?
“Growing organically is extremely important to me. We need to look after our environment and creating a balanced eco system is essential. Companion planting [where beneficial plants are grown nearby that deter pests] is a wonderful addition to organic gardening. It lends a helping hand.”
What’s your most notable gardening success – and disaster?
“My greatest achievement is where I currently work. I re-designed a neglected, run-down vegetable garden on a private family estate and now it’s a thriving fruit and vegetable garden. As for disasters, growing organically creates challenges with soil-borne pests and diseases. One year I planted my summer cabbage and the next day they were all lying on the top of the soil after cutworms attacked – a massive challenge for any gardener.”
How did you react to winning Vlogger of the Year?
“I was overwhelmed. It has made my year and helped my YouTube channel. Hopefully it will open doors for other opportunities. I would like to be a gardening influencer, but orientated around fruit and veg rather than general gardening. There is an audience for growing seasonal edibles and exploring cooking techniques from around the world to maximise the use of crops we grow.
What do you enjoy when you’re not gardening or vlogging?
“I get great pleasure in raising money for charity by holding plant and cake sales and giving out free gardening advice. I also enjoy walking, photography and surfing in north Cornwall.”
Pull out box: 5 herbs that I couldn’t live without, by Torsi Wooldridge
- Cumin – Its small seeds are packed with vitamins A, C, E, K and minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. I use it in every curry dish i make.
- Bergamot – fresh or dried leaves make a lovely earl grey brew and the flowers have a wonderful spicy kick. They add colour to a bowl of salad.
- Lemon verbena – it reminds everyone of sweet lemon sherbet; it’s a euphoric and uplifting smell and makes a refreshing tea.
- Mint – a versatile herb used in teas, as well as sweet and savoy dishes. My favourite is finely chopped mint sprinkled over watermelon and feta cheese. It’s a pure delight!
- Fennel – the whole plant is edible with a beautiful aniseed flavour. The frond-shaped leaves complement fish dishes. I eat the seeds like a sweet from the veg garden.
You can check out Torsi’s Kitchen Gardener channel on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0t6h-EeelcZoJm91x0zGrg/featured
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