'A Reluctant Gardener' - a personal project

by Iain Philpott

copyright : Iain Philpott

Mr Fothergillis, Petit Pois, Calibra

Where it all began - 'Social Distancing', 'Lockdown' & 'Dig For Victory'

With no weekend ‘out of house’ leisure pursuits possible, aside from our everyday one hour dog walk, I needed to do something to keep me occupied - I decided upon the garden. I should state clearly I have never liked gardening. I was happy to mow a lawn, though some of my family would no doubt say otherwise.  Safe to say I would never choose to dig a flower bed in preference of a day out on the water either canoeing or sailing!

Our garden, previously so taken for granted, has become very special since the Coronavirus hit our shores. It is our family space for relaxation, badminton, board games or just generally hanging out in. The lockdown has really brought home to me how fortunate my family and I are to have a garden.

By the middle of March I realised that the impact of the virus was going to be severe. I knew as soon as we were being encouraged to 'social' distance' and 'work from home where possible' it was only a matter of time before a full 'lockdown' was implemented.  Wandering around the garden trying to assimilate my thoughts knowing lockdown was coming I realised I needed a project in the garden.The idea of a vegetable patch was born! 

I have decided to film this adventure from digging the patch, sowing the seeds, planting out, harvesting and possibly even some recipes when we hopefully harvest produce.

Talking with friends and family I'm encouraged that they will join me on this journey and just maybe it will inspire other 'reluctant gardeners' that they too can grow vegetables! 

'Dig For Victory'

As a cameraman having filmed documentaries that have centred around our war efforts during the 2nd World War I started to do some research on the governments wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.

Launched in October 1939 'Dig for Victory' was the hugely successful propaganda campaign that encouraged civilians to grow their own in order to reduce Britain’s reliance on imports. In the 1930’s 75% of pre-war British food was imported by ship and the German U-boat blockade threatened the home front with starvation.

By 1942 half the civilian population was part of the nations “Garden Front” and 10 thousand sq miles of land had been “brought under the plough”. From school playing fields, public gardens, factory courtyards - even the moat at the Tower of London was given over to vegetable patches producing 1.3m tonnes of produce meaning the UK halved its reliance on food imports.

Covid 19 is devastating human life around the world including here in Great Britain. Thousands of lives have been lost but there are positives. There have been massive drops in world pollution levels.

I feel now is absolutely the time to get our shovels out and dig for a better planet.

Dr Carrot & Potato Pete with other posters from the 'Dig for Victory' campaign

One of the undoubted stars of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign was ‘Potato Pete’. Along with ‘Doctor Carrot’, he lent a jovial image to the entire enterprise – and so much so that he gained something of a cult following, with this song celebrating his efforts becoming popular during the war. 

Here’s the man who ploughs the fields.

Here’s the girl who lifts up the yield.

Here’s the man who deals with the clamp, so that

millions of jaws can chew and champ.

That’s the story and here’s the star,

Potato Pete

Eat up,

Ta ta!

 Here is a link to the Potato Pete wartime film

28.03.2020 - The 'Patch' (before)

Where to start - dig the patch I hear!

When we moved in there had been a vegetable patch but we had let it become overgrown. In fact it became part of the lawn! It was in a good position - it gets sun for a good part of the day and the soil looked quite good - well it did to my non gardening eye.

So how big? Well the government campaign started in 1939 suggested a “10 rod plot” - in modern money that is 250sq metres - that would feed a family of five with veg for one year. That is actually a big plot! Ours is going to be a tad smaller at 12.25sq metres (3.55m x 3.65m). It's enough for us to make our fingers a little greener. We are also lucky that we have a little ramshackle of a greenhouse that has glass missing and looks like it could fall over if the wind blew to hard. But it will suffice for bringing our seeds on!

Our greenhouse and Spencer the spider. I'm hoping he traps and eats everything that can eat our crops!

28.03.2020 - Sowing the seeds

Sowing the courgette seeds

I enlisted the help of my gorgeous wife Lara to assist me in sowing the seeds so I could shoot the video.

These pics are 'stills from motion'. Unless otherwise commissioned, on motion, I shoot a minimum of 4K RAW so that it's possible to extract still images. Through much experimentation I have become renowned in processing the highest quality stills from motion footage. Confident in what we can achieve I frequently shoot only motion to cover all client content creation needs. This technique maximises the client budget which post Covid 19 is going to become more important than ever.  From the +4K motion we can post produce everything from social media through PR to billboard. You can click here to view some of my client stills from motion.

We used a good quality soil from Westland called New Horizon All Veg Compost which is 100% sustainable and peat free. We used both seed trays and fibre seed pots to sow the seeds in. The fibre seed pots are biodegradable and you pot straight into the veg patch when required therefore not disturbing the root ball. We used the end of a file to create the hole to pop the seed in then gently eased the soil back over covering the seed.

10.04.2020 - We have seedlings!

Unwins Oriental Salad Leaf

Unwins, Salad leaf, Oriental Mix

Mr Fothergill's Beetroot - Boltardy

Mr Fothergillis, Beetroot, Boltardy

Unwins Dill

Mr Fothergill's Dwarf French Bean - Nautica

Mr Fothergillis, Dwarf French Bean, Nautica

Mr Fothergill's Cucumber - Beth Alpha

Cucumber germination

Johnsons Broccoli - Calabresse Ramoso and Mr Fothergill's Petit Pois - Calibra

Mr Fothergill's Tomato - Sungold F1

19.04.2020 - The 'Patch' (after)

So I dug a little (lol), and our son Alex (sent home from uni) turned over most of it. Lara and I went through removing the weeds and breaking up the clumps to leave what feels like a reasonable soil.

I was advised by neighbours to cover the patch with a net to ensure the pigeons did not eat the seeds or destroy the small seedlings when planted out!  I bought a 6m x 6m anti bird net online from Gardening Naturally and stitched in some hanging points with my very old Singer Sewing machine.

The woods opposite to us, where we walk our dog, had had tree surgeons in clearing some of the coppice and we collected some discarded timber to use as staves to support the net. I fashioned the bottom of each to a point and we hammered them in. I then used shock-cord and some boating clips to attach the net.

All in all I'm quite pleased with how it looks and so far it seems to be working!

Turning over (still from motion)

Close up of the anti-bird net attachments

Vegetable Patch, anti bird netting

Our veg patch sitting below the apple tree, oh and Starsky (as in Starsky & Hutch!) sitting very handsomely. (24.04.2020)

Vegetable Patch, anti bird netting

19.04.2020 - The seed potatoes

Planting our seed potatoes (stills from motion)

We have planted two types of seed potato.

Duke of York - Oval; yellow flesh. Established back in 1891. This variety will succeed in nearly all areas and soil types, and is reputed to have the finest flavour among the First Earlies.

Aran Pilot - Long; white flesh. An old favourite, now being replaced by modern varieties. A heavy cropper which does best in light soil in southern counties.

We have two rows, ten plants of each.

Things are starting to grow!

Dwarf Bean timelapse

Dwarf Bean

Mr Fothergillis, Dwarf French Bean, Nautica

Dwarf Bean

Mr Fothergillis, Dwarf French Bean, Nautica

Oriental Salad Leaf

Unwins, Salad leaf, Oriental Mix


Broccoli, calabrese ramoso



Petit Pois

Mr Fothergillis, Petit Pois, Calibra

Petit Pois in the sunshine beautifully backlit

Mr Fothergillis, Petit Pois, Calibra

Beetroot growing towards the light

Mr Fothergillis, Beetroot, Boltardy

24.04.2020 - I'm noticing other 'things' in the garden

When I come down in the morning for breakfast I go out to the patch to check the seed potatoes (they are starting to come through), the onions (looking good) and the carrots (I'm growing concerned - more later). I make sure the net is all intact and then I go to the greenhouse to open up (if warm enough) and check no slugs or snails have devoured anything. Depending on the weather I decide if I need to film anything for this blog that day, have breakfast and then 'commute' the few metres to my 'home office' or 'home studio' and start the working day.

At lunchtime I do my 'round' again.

At six I try to clock off and again do my round - this time also watering where needed.

At these three points in the day I have started to become much more observant of what else is happening in the garden. I've noticed Blackbirds have nested in the Ivy on the garage wall. I notice the other birds, particularly first thing in the mornings, digging around the garden for worms and other critters. I notice how much or how little bird song there is, watched the leaves opening on the trees and the flowers on the apple blossom - well blossoming. As a result of the apple blossom both the Honey Bees and Bumble Bees are swarming all over the flower heads. It has been absolutely fascinating to watch just how hard they work.

So extraordinary that they are I've been trying to capture them both with a stills camera and a motion one at 120fps. I'm in awe at how voraciously they devour the nectar and at the same time carry so much pollen on their rear legs. You will see in the imaging that their bodies are just covered in specks of pollen! Conducting a little research they can carry a third of their body weight up to 2.5kms from the hive. Close up they are just so so beautiful.

I really hope, post Covid19, we treat our planet a little more kindly and ban the pesticides that are killing our bees and other wildlife. We have to change this world for the better.


A Honey Bee working very hard - and she is covered in pollen. Note how much pollen she carries on her rear legs. They live on average for 45 days. They work relentlessly and will not stop doing their job while there is daylight and they can navigate back to their hive. If you get the opportunity to sign a petition against pesticide and GM companies like Monsanto - PLEASE sign.

20 Fun facts about bees that you probably never knew!

1.) Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

2.) One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.

3.) The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

4.) A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

5.) A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

6.) The bee’s brain is oval in shape and about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has a remarkable capacity to learn and remember things. For example, it is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

7.) Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing.

8.) A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honey bees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

9.) The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.

10.) Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work. All they do is mate.

11.) Honey has always been highly regarded as a medicine. It is thought to help with everything from sore throats and digestive disorders to skin problems and hay fever.

12.) Honey has antiseptic properties and was historically used as a dressing for wounds and a first aid treatment for burns and cuts.

13.) The natural fruit sugars in honey – fructose and glucose – are quickly digested by the body. This is why sportsmen and athletes use honey to give them a natural energy boost.

14.) Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.

15.) The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

16.) Honey lasts an incredibly long time. An explorer who found a 2000 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!

17.) The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute.

18.) When a bee finds a good source of nectar it flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a dance which positions the flower in relation to the sun and hive. This is known as the ‘waggle dance.’

19.) Honey’s ability to attract and retain moisture means that it has long been used as a beauty treatment. It was part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty ritual.

20.) Honey is incredibly healthy and includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals. It’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

Read more: original article Matter of Trust.org

Bees and apple blossom

#SaveOurBees - A short 20sec video of these beautiful creatures working hard.

25.04.2020 - We have had some good weather!

Good growth in the recent good weather. Starting to think about planting out in the next few days.


Dwarf Bean


Watering - water is life itself

Water is key to the survival and growth of every cell. With plants the problem is how much do you water. Too little or too much spells disaster. I wanted to shoot my watering of plants in slo-mo to just explore how water impacts our tiny seedlings....

Watering is key



Left to right, top to bottom. Duke of York potato, onion, Nasturtiums, Petit Pois, Oriental salad leaves and Cucumber


From the splash page menu go to Part 2 or click on the link 'Part 2' below

email : iainphilpott@mac.com

instagram : @iainphilpott

tel : +44 (0)7836 578254

Secretts home grown asparagus (this is a still image extracted from 4K motion video)

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In