Veg Plotting is authored by Michelle Chapman who offers interesting stories about her garden and allotment as well as covering her travels to France, Little Venice, and around her hometown of Chippenham, sharing beautiful photos of various gardens across the country and beyond. In this spotlight, Michelle chats to us about what makes Veg Plotting different, why she started blogging and how she likes to work with PRs.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog? I’m a keen amateur gardener, who lives on the outskirts of Chippenham (a small rural town in Wiltshire), twixt nature and a full-on urban lifestyle. That gives me plenty of material for my blog plus an insight into how the two rub along together. Or don’t.
I find it hard to settle down to doing one thing as I find so many things of interest. I’ve been a student (twice), a civil servant, scientist, project manager, a charity worker in the environmental field, and an IT business analyst for a bank. All of that gives me the perfect background for life as a blogger, and a clue that I don’t always keep to the subject of garden blogging!
I also like to experiment and try out new things, which happens both with the blog and my gardening. I’m writing up what I’ve learnt along the way really.
Why did you start the blog? It was a wet November day 10 years ago. I was home alone and I’d just resigned from my job as a business analyst in order to cope with distance caring responsibilities. I was looking for something completely different to do with my new found ‘freedom’, and then came across a couple of blogs. I wondered ‘how do I do that’, did a quick google and 10 minutes later Veg Plotting was born.
It took me a couple of years to realise I’m using the same skills I had in my day job – making sense of things, communicating with people, and playing with computers. The differences are I do it from the comfort of my own home instead of commuting and I write about the subjects which interest me the most.
What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)? It’s been a complete life saver. Some years ago I had to take time off work owing to stress; my brain just completely raced away from me and wouldn’t stop. My doctor’s advice was to focus on something I loved to do and just do it, so I spent most of my time in my garden and on my allotment for nearly three months. That time really helped to calm me down and stop my brain’s overload.
Now I couldn’t imagine my life without a garden and it’s still a place of refuge when times are bad, like they are at the moment because my mum’s quite ill. I believe as human beings we’re ‘programmed’ to connect with nature in some way to the benefit of our health, even if it means something as simple as just having a houseplant.
What types of plants do you grow? I grow the food we love to eat, or anything which thrives on a limestone clay soil – think of my garden as completely waterlogged or concrete, depending on what the weather’s doing. Apples, clematis and dahlias are in; runner beans, rhododendrons and the cabbage family are out.
Did you anticipate for your blog to become this popular and successful? Not at all! It’s been a complete surprise. It has taken me to places I never dreamed of, I’ve met some wonderful people, and I’ve made new friends. I consider myself to be very lucky.
What is your major challenge as a gardener? Not beating myself up because I’m behind with my To Do list. Again.
What advice do you have for others wanting to start their own gardening blog? Read lots of gardening blogs. They’re a source of inspiration, conversation with like-minded folk, and a way of learning how to be a better blogger…and gardener.
Write about what you love and write as if you’re speaking to someone. That way your blog will be you, anything else just comes over as false. Write for yourself – you’ll never please everyone and trying to do so just leads to stress and another of the many abandoned blogs out there. If you enjoy what you write about, chances are you’ll keep going and find there are quite a few people out there who like what you have to say.
Check your facts and write from experience as bloggers are often criticised for not doing so. Well researched pieces are welcome.
Just do it and don’t worry about the technology. There are plenty of blogging platforms out there that help make that side of things relatively easy, which in turn allows you to focus on what you have to say. If you can write an email and attach a photo to it, then you can blog. As your experience grows you can then add any extra bells and whistles you like the look of.
How do you like to work with PRs? I prefer to have fewer, deeper relationships with companies I would usually buy from or like the look of. Sponsorship of my own content is the currently preferred avenue for me, or the opportunity for an amazing experience I would find hard to source for myself. Anything educational is welcome too, as are items for review. I limit the latter though, as I don’t want to dilute my other content too much.
I’ve also worked behind the scenes to help companies with their website content or shopping experience. I performed lots of ‘customer journey’ testing in my last office based job, which has come in handy.
How can PRs improve their blogger outreach? Actually reading and researching potential blogs before contacting the blogger would really help. I’ve been called an ace mummy blogger (we couldn’t have children, so that’s a tad upsetting), asked to write about fashion (my subject range is broad, but doesn’t usually go there), and I’ve been renamed as April. PRs beware, the more bizarre examples may end up featuring in my humourous The PR Files strand!
What do you see in the future for your blog? I’ve never been much of a planner as far as my life’s concerned. I prefer to keep myself open to any opportunities that come my way because they make life much more interesting and varied. The same approach applies to my blog – offer me something interesting and I might say yes! The most concrete thing I can think of currently blog-wise is more travel. I’ve enjoyed trips to Austria, France and Germany already this year and I’m looking forward to seeing my garden blogging buddies across the pond at their annual Garden Bloggers Fling in Washington DC next month.
I took a blog break at the end of last year and realised one of the things I really love about blogging is having projects which help bring the garden blogging community together in some way. As a result, we had our first #mygardenrightnow weekend at the beginning of March, where over 100 people posted pictures of what they were doing in their garden at the time, on their blogs or via social media.