London is a city in which I have spent plenty of time over the course of my life, but it’s been a couple of years since my last visit. This recent sojourn was prompted by the birthday of one of my oldest and dearest friends, providing a rare opportunity for a day out unencumbered by parenting responsibilities. There are few things I love more than walking around a city – navigating your way through its streets you really get to experience the details and fabric of its life. So, before I joined up for an afternoon of craft beers, I took the chance to have a meander. The area around Kings Cross, which I remember being fairly grotty in the past, has been undergoing major redevelopment. It is now awash with smart new office and apartment buildings, surrounding public squares with trickling fountains, interspersed with designer shops and high-end restaurants. However, the place that I wanted to seek out was the antithesis of these symbols of modern living.
When I first got into gardening I always liked the idea of growing edibles and, like many people, started with a few tomato plants in growbags in the back yard. Although we now have an allotment I still prefer to grow a small amount of produce at home in our tiny back garden which is sheltered and south facing, and so ideal for outdoor grown tomatoes (and chillis). There’s also nothing quite like being able to pop out of the kitchen and pick a few just ripe tomatoes to gobble up straight away. I’ve always liked to try different cultivars, and frequently find myself beguiled by those which are quirky colours or otherwise a deviation from the standard red salad tomato you find in the supermarket.
Earlier this year I read James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ which is full of interesting approaches to getting the best from your home grown crops and made me realise that perhaps my usual criteria of ‘which cultivar is weirdest’ wasn’t necessarily serving me that well! Amongst his advice on how to maximise the flavour of your home grown toms (apart from choosing the right cultivar) were:
- grow tomatoes in soil rather than a container of compost because they will have access to a wider range of nutrients
- feed them with Potassium-rich molasses rather than the usual proprietary tomato fertiliser which is higher in Nitrogen
- spray them with aspirin (something to do with mimicking plant hormones)
I did none of these things due to a mixture of cost, convenience and time factors, but what did pique my interest was the advice on pruning tomato plants to maximise both yield and flavour. Essentially, rather than the traditional approach of allowing a plant to form 4-5 trusses of fruit before pinching out the top, plants would be stopped at one truss of fruit. In theory this should mean plants can be positioned closer together, would not need staking and would allow the plant to focus all of its attention on producing one truss of large, flavoursome fruit. So this I thought I’d have a go at. Continue reading
We have now had our allotment for almost six years, and even before that I had been growing edibles in containers in our small back garden for quite some time. Whilst there is a plethora of information online about growing your own produce, you really can’t beat a good book for guiding you through the process. The books highlighted in this blog are those I have found particularly interesting and useful (so far!). Continue reading
Digging. An activity which for many years has been considered an essential feature of gardening, particularly in the vegetable patch. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? This blog is about the pros and cons of digging a plot, and where I am currently at in my own practice. Continue reading
During 2017 I took part in a research project being conducted by staff at University of Sheffield, under the banner of MY Harvest, into the impact of home grown produce on UK food production. The project involved enlisting domestic gardeners who grow their own fruit and vegetables, either on an allotment or at home, to submit data about their crop yields throughout the year. This blog post is about what the data for my own plot has revealed about this year’s harvest and has been written in conjunction with Datawoj (otherwise known as my husband!) who did some snazzy data visualisation for me. Continue reading