The Outdoorsing Club Leaders: Shannon Keary
There are lots of simple, free ways to build Outdoorsing into daily life and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of nature.
And if you’re lucky enough to have your own green space then getting out into the garden is one of the easiest.
The Outdoorsing Club was set up by ACAI to encourage and give confidence to as many women as possible to get outdoors. These free events have been created to inspire women to try something new, whether that be stand-up paddleboarding, road cycling or indeed, gardening.
Our Outdoorsing Club leader Shannon Keary is better known for her influential Instagram account @diaryofaladygardener. As well as hosting free ACAI-supported events from her farm in Devon, Shannon is an avid gardener who organises workshops for both kids and adults, where they can explore the beautiful woodland and flower farm she has grown.
We had a brew with Shannon to find out a bit more about her passion for gardening...
What inspired you to start the farm?
“We had such an amazing garden when we were children and spent all of our summer holidays building dens, eating strawberries straight off the plants and running wild and free. When we grew up and moved to a different house we no longer had an amazing outdoor space and I don't think I realised how much I missed it until I got the allotment in 2018. Now I can't imagine not having a space of my own to fill with plants and veggies.
“It all started off as a bit of a hobby back then, I never usually manage to stick to anything for more than 2-3 months so I surprised myself when after a year I was still into it, let alone four years on! I'm so grateful to have found something I still really love and just want to be doing 24/7.
“Once I knew that I wanted to do something with plants in the future I went through lots of different career options to find what would really suit me. But I found it particularly magical to grow flowers and then see the joy they brought when passed on. So, I decided I wanted to be a flower farmer and went on the hunt for land. A year or so later, here I am renting a field and trying to set up my dream business!”
Why do you think gardening is so important for women’s mental health?
“Being out in the fresh air does us all the world of good, and for me gardening helps to calm my brain, especially at times when I'm in a spiral of over-thinking. I find many of the activities like sowing seeds, pulling weeds and raking soil really therapeutic, and there is nothing that compares to the pride and satisfaction of picking your own fresh produce. Plus it gives me an excuse to get out, whether I'm on my own or with a friend, and whatever the weather, to tend to my crops.”
How can we inspire the next generation to get gardening?
“Start sowing seeds no matter how big or small your space is and embrace any failures; you can always try again, and again. You can grow microgreens on the windowsill or start a mini wildflower meadow in a pot on a patio. I'd recommend starting with easy to grow foods you like to eat such as carrots, lettuces and pumpkins; they're so much fun and really satisfying crops to get going with. You can get crafty in the garden too making insect hotels, nature crowns from foraged materials, painting pumpkins at Halloween, and designing pretty spaces together.”
What can participants expect at your Outdoorsing Club free gardening events?
“It depends on the season but during our autumn session we had a fab selection of activities, from more practical garden maintenance tasks like setting up a no-dig bed, to creative crafts such as making wildflower seed balls and creating clay prints from natural materials. It's all hosted on my start-up flower farm so the sessions give people a bit of an insight into what farm life is like, and it hopefully inspires them to give growing a go. We also make time to explore the grounds, meet the animals and chat about all things gardening.”
Is there a garden on your bucket list?
“I'd love to visit Keukenhof for the Amsterdam Tulip Festival during the spring. They plant out more than 7 million bulbs in 800 varieties and it just looks so stunning and inspirational - I imagine I'll come home with a rather large shopping list. I'll take any chance to put on a pretty dress and wander through fields of flowers but this sounds like the ultimate experience so is definitely the next trip I'd like to plan.”