Grower Profile: Serena Ashmore

Serena Ashmore’s Grow it Local story is really powerful. It not only addresses the power of gardens to heal human hearts, but also highlights the potential of the digital world in connecting, supporting, and encouraging young gardeners, as Serena has discovered.

Serena’s garden grew from grief. Six months ago she was pregnant and had plans of turning her front garden into a veggie patch for herself, her partner Wade and their unborn child. At 33 weeks she gave birth to her stillborn son, Aiko, which means ‘Little Loved One’.

With the help of their friends and family, they started work on the vegetable garden, building new beds, fixing up old ones, and planting vegetables. The act of building and nurturing the garden has been a big part of Serena’s healing process. She says;

Getting out in the garden is very relaxing for me, and helps to reduce my anxiety. Getting my hands in the dirt and eating tomatoes still warm from the sun is so healing! It’s also a place I can go to think about Aiko, the garden is now almost the age he would have been.

Throughout the process of creating Aiko’s garden, Serena has drawn on a rather non-traditional gardening resource – social media! Whilst many revert to gardening tomes, or asking their grandmother for tips, social media is fast developing as an instant, global resource providing the opportunity to learn, connect and grow unlike ever before.

Serena agrees; “I have connected with a lot of gardeners via instagram, using #growitlocal and other gardening hashtags. It’s been a really cool way to meet other gardeners, ask questions, get advice and show off what I’m growing! Some people even swap seeds via social media, it’s really awesome and I highly recommend it.”

Do check out Serena’s instagram feed – it’s super inspiring and her garden produce is amazing!

I asked Serena a few questions about her patch: 

What draws you to plants/gardening? 

Being outside, getting my hands in the dirt and watching life emerge and grow.

What are you currently growing? 

Lime, melons, tomatoes, rainbow chard, beetroot, rocket, kohlrabi, radish, sunflower, kale, pumpkins, eggplant, spring onions, cucumber. strawberries, beans, passionfruit, leek, potatoes, carrots, basil, thyme, rosemary, chilli, capsicum, chives.   

What are you growing for the Grow it Local feast? 

I should have plenty of butternut pumpkins, eggplants and radish ready to eat by then!

Why did you decide to get involved in the Grow it Local feast? 

The opportunity to meet other gardeners, ask them lots of questions and eat some delicious home grown food.

Why do you grow your own vegetables? 

We eat better, we spend less at the supermarket, also I find it incredibly relaxing and it’s a really nice community to get involved with.

What lessons have you learnt from growing this garden?

  1. Pumpkins need loads of space.

2.Plant flowers that attract bees, I planted lots of lavender and marigolds in and around the beds, it’s really helped.

  1. Gardeners love giving gardening advice – don’t be scared to ask.
  2. Growing your own food and getting your hands dirty makes you feel really good.

What is your favourite vegetable from the garden? How do you like to cook it? 

I love my tomatoes, especially my Gardener’s Delight heirloom cherry tomatoes. This summer, we’ve eaten them almost every day – fresh in salads, roasted, in sauces and warm straight off the vine wrapped in a basil leaf while doing some weeding.

If you were a plant what would you be? 

A cosmic purple carrot, I’m a bit shy, I like cool weather and some people find me surprising.

This story is part of a series we are producing in collaboration with Grow It Local to promote their Melbourne Growers Feast on the 1st of March, 2015.  If you live in Melbourne, you really should drop by the Grow It Local website, register your patch and get gardening! The owners of the top 50 most creative and unique patches will each win a double pass the event. A no brainer, right? GET GROWING PEOPLE!

PS. We were paid a small amount of money by Grow It Local to help cover some of the costs associated with producing this story.

Images by Abigail Varney