Goodlifegateway - What's it all about?

My name is Gwen Petitpierre and I have developed Goodlifegateway to provide 4 varieties of Liquid Organic Plant Food. These plant foods are the result of growing up on a fairly traditional smallholding, where my parents grew all our fruit and veg, kept beef and lamb, and used typical methods of the time, i.e. the 1970's. If there was a weed, it was weedkillered, if something needed a boost, a trip to the barn provided all the chemicals you could imagine.

When my children were born, I started to think very differently about the food we ate, how it was produced and how to grow strong healthy plants and provide a good yield, without chemical interference.

Early Victorian Walled Gardens are a classic example of a way of gardening that uses and re-uses all the garden waste to provide nutrients and a solid base for next years' growth. Those gardeners had vast knowledge that has mostly been lost through the introduction of convenience and cost reduction. My products are derived from the old ways, however, they include convenience and cost efficiency, they are clean, simple and helpful to the whole environment, not just the plants they feed.Garden of Gwen Petitpierre who has developed Goodlifegateway to provide 4 varieties of Liquid Organic Plant Food

Anyone who grew up in the 1970's saw, or at least heard of, Barbara and Tom Goode of the Good Life. They were a suburban couple who wanted to leave the rat race behind and establish a small holding in the rather substantial back garden of their 1930's semi. Their neighbours were somewhat appalled at most of their antics and rather impressed by others.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a farming environment, so I understood how good peas straight from the vine taste, what fresh eggs are like adn how to till the soil and prepare it for planting, from shrubs, to annual plants to vegetables and fruit trees. Not many people have that privilege.

As I said, when my children were born, I started to think about what went into our food. It occurred to me that my parents had used all manner of chemicals in the veg patch, primarily because that was the accepted norm then - 30 years later, we knew much more about the damage that all those chemicals do, not just to our bodies, but also to our environment, our wildlife and our soil.

I did the best I could to grow veggies in our medium sized garden, using methods I was familiar with, such as horse manure, adding sand to heavy clay soils, using peat free compost and rain water rather than tap water. When I found myself in a smaller house with a much smaller garden as a result of divorce, with two small children to bring up on my own, and not a lot of money, I had to pay much more attention to what I was doing.

I needed a new compost bin and was discussing the best size with a friend at work and he suggested that I get a wormery instead, as then I had the leachate with which to feed the plants, excellent compost as a growing medium and a secure place for kitchen waste as a wormery is a sealed unit which vermin find challenging to get into. I bought one in October, at a comparible price to a standard compost bin, and spent the winter filling it with peelings, teabags, loo roll innards and random weeds that dared to poke their heads out. By March/April the following year, I decided to have a look and see how much leachate I could drain off. 8 litres later, I was beginning to wonder where to put it all! I spoke with my friend and asked how much he would expect over the winter months, and the response was 'oh, about a litre'.

Now, I have always been a curious person, never one for structured learning, more an idea is triggered and I will go and research it to death, always wanted to run my own business and be free of the nine to five shackles, and never quite hit on what sort of thing I would like to do. So started my exploration into why my wormery was so productive, what was in the leachate, how is the soil structured, what does it need to support plant life, what is it missing when plants don't do so well, what damage do the chemicals do, how does organic leachate repair this, what other things can I use or do to help improve my garden and grow better food?? So many things to think about and so much motivation to find the answers! In addition to all that bit, I could see that there could well be a business opportunity here to share my findings and production with others!

Damsons in the garden Gwen Petitpierre grown using Goodlifegateway to provide 4 varieties of Liquid Organic Plant FoodI happened upon a really interesting DVD of a programme that had been run in the 1970's and my Mother and Grandmother had both managed to miss (both avid gardeners, particularly of fruit and veg!). The Victorian Kitchen Garden with Peter Thoday is fascinating, and in so many ways reflected elements of my upbringing, given that my Father had grown up in a Victorian Rectory that had a very small walled garden. It also included all sorts of ideas and traditions that I had never heard of, and so my research into how these walled gardens were managed began. The book Glasshouses by Fiona Grant was extremely helpful, as was the Kitchen Garden Digest that Fiona was part and information dropped into my inbox on a regular basis.

Basically, any growing of plants is all about the soil. How well drained it is, how heavy it is, how much organic matter is in there, how much shade or sunlight it has and how much life is in there. There are all sorts of chemicals you can add to soil that will help feed the plants in it, however, those chemicals often kill the micro-organisms that create the air pockets, feed the worms and other small creatures, create the nutrients that also feed plants and generally keep the soil fertile and with good structure.

Obviously, different plants need different nutrients and soil environments - if they all needed the same, the whole world would look like a jungle of the same species! Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus are the main building block nutrients that any plant needs, however, they need them in different quantities.

Purple Sage and Marigold Gwen Petitpierre grown using Goodlifegateway to provide 4 varieties of Liquid Organic Plant FoodNitrogen (N) is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide, enabling them to grow leaves and stems. The leaves then collect more sunlight, and thus the process continues. Some plants store nitrogen in their roots (legumes etc) which then rot down into the soil once the top of the plant, generally and annual, dies. This returns the nitrogen to the soil, ready for a new crop the next year.

Phosphorus (P) is a lesser known nutrient, however, it is a constituent of plant cells, essential for cell division and development of the growing tip of the plant. For this reason it is vital for seedlings and young plants. I found that horse manure is a good source of phosphorus, which would explain why so many people put it on their rose helps the roses to grow rather rampantly!

Potassium (K) is the nutrient that helps plants to use water effectively, resist drought and develop fruit and flowers. It strengthens the cell walls, meaning that the plant is resistant to drought, extremem heat or extreme cold, as well as pests and disease. Potassium is also known as potash, because traditional gardeners used to use wood ash as a source and it would be in a pot...simple, eh?

Of course, knowing this is great, but the big question is how do I find the right raw materials to make this into a feed that will suit all, without using chemicals? Back to the Victorians....they knew all about these things and yet somehow, so much of this information has been lost or forgotten about. Nettles are a great provider of nitrogen, especially young nettles. Harvesting them early, brewing them in rainwater and then filtering all the little bits gives a wonderfully nitrogen rich feed, that also has other trace elements, including phosphorus and potassium. That potassium question...well comfrey is phenomenal, as many experienced gardeners know. You can use the leaves as a mulch, or you can make the most disgusting smelling potion by soaking the leaves in rainwater for a few weeks. I thne filter the bits out and this wonderful black liquid just oozes nutrition.

Ophelia Gwen Petitpierre grown using Goodlifegateway to provide 4 varieties of Liquid Organic Plant FoodAnd now onto the leachate from the wormeries. Well this stuff varies, quite enormously. It all depends what you put into your wormery. Heavy clay soil, wet weather conditions and cold will change a plant physiology from the same variety that is grown in lighter soil and dryer, warmer conditions. In addition to that, if you add the nettle and comfrey waste with very little else in there, you still get the good compost and leachate, but with a very different balance of NPK than if you threw in all your potato peelings, cabbage leaves, sprout tops and teabags! I have a significant number of wormeries and a large tank to store the leachate in, so whatever is churned out of one is balanced by the contents of another, to give an overall balance of essential nutrients, with very slightly higher phosphorus.

All of these feeds provide essential nutrients to most plants, help imporve germination rates by soaking hard seeds overnight and can kick start a compost bin if it is a little slow. Obviously the wormery leachate is best for compost as it will have worm eggs in it, however the others are just as effective.

It has taken me a long time, a lot of trial and error, experimentation with other names and branding, and in 2023 I used Wag Design Ltd and my friend, Jane, and we brainstormed what the name Goodlifegateway really meant and how to present the feeds and the business in the way I had gathered the ideas. For me, Goodlifegateway was always about The Goode Life - how to find the gateway to reach that point of self-sufficiency and healthy living. The plant foods are the primary mechanism to achieve this and I feel their branding reflects some of the traditional knowledge and values that helped me so much in developing them. The bee is essential - without our bees and other pollinators, all of this is a waste of time, because there will be no healthy plants! These feeds are clean, effective and healthy for the environment, not just the plants we want to boost.

If you would like more information about the plant foods, the ideas behind them or me, please contact me via the mechanisms below:





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I have loved every part of this journey, despite it being rather more than the 9-5 I was trying to avoid! I have had the privilege of being able to publish booklets, be on the radio, present to other gardeners and meet some extremely interesting people. I look forward to meeting some of you, either in person, via email or on the phone! If you have any questions or suggestions, please do get in touch.