Thursday, 31 December 2009

Review of 2009 part iii: Publicity and Community


Although not quite Alan Titchmarsh, I've certainly had my fair share of the spotlight this year, with articles about the London Vegetable Garden cropping up in newspapers and websites. The aim has always been to promote urban gardening and encourage those with a lack of space, showing them that they need not be deterred! Click below to read any of the London Vegetable Garden articles.

Evening Standard Interview
Londonist Interview
London Lite
Landscape Juice
British Bird Lovers
Dobbies Gardening
The Times


2009 may well be remembered for the advent of social media, with Twitter becoming ingrained in everyday life. With blogs, websites and social networks too, I've been lucky enough to meet a fantastic community of urban gardeners and like-minded people, all who have supported and helped me on this organic odyssey! I'd hate to miss anyone out – you've all been so helpful – but special thanks goes to the following:

Bob Purnell

Author of 'Crops in Pots' and a fascinating resource of useful advice. I was lucky enough to meet Bob back in the summer and had an insightful conversation with him covering so much! Special thanks to Bob for sharing his passion and helping me to feed mine!

Celia Brooks Brown

A talented chef, great food writer and a passionate urban gardener, Celia was kind enough to reference the London Vegetable Garden in her Times column and has also been a great source of advice and tips, sharing news and views from her allotment!

Andy Mogg a.k.a. Chilli Up North

Someone I now converse with a great deal on Twitter, Andy became known to me after following the London Vegetable Garden blog. He runs his own superb blog, Chilli Up North, where he chronicles his chilli growing and delicious home-made recipes. His advice has been invaluable over the past nine months, so I'd like to thank him publicly!


Charles Olive a.k.a. Grumblemouse

A jack of all trades, Charles also made contact with me through Twitter and the London Vegetable Garden blog. Since then, we've shared an infectious enthusiasm of urban gardening, perused Columbia Road flower market together and even had a lily-growing competition. A firm friend and a fantastic resource with which to share success stories (and failures), Charles' 'Grumble Garden' is a project and passion close to my own.



Again, one of the wonderful green-fingered people I've met through the blog, Kella's blog is a phenomenal source of advice tips and help, and documents the incredible things she grows in abundance in her garden! She's been kind enough to help me over the months with advice and questions – her experience has been invaluable, so thank you!

The London Gardeners' Network

If you would like to meet these people and share your own stories, the London Gardeners' Network is the place for you! Set up after the success of the London Vegetable Garden blog, it is home to over a hundred urban gardeners sharing tips, stories and photos, and is set for big and exciting things in 2010... Click here to visit!

Alternatively, if you're addicted to Twitter, why not follow the London Vegetable Garden there? Simply follow @londonveggarden for latest news, gardening tips and blog posts.

Review of 2009 part ii: Flora

Although the London Vegetable Garden is all about vegetables and growing your own produce in urban spaces, my balcony has not solely been occupied by vegetables! The spring, summer and autumn have seen some beautiful flowers make their home within the London Vegetable Garden, adding more joy and enthusiasm for gardening. Here is a few snaps of flowers throughout 2009:

Review of 2009 part i: The Project

Quite simply, what an incredible year it's been.

It was in fact, only nine months ago that I started the London Vegetable Garden project, although back in April, the 'project' was simply a few seeds and a few scribbles on a brand new blog. As 2009 draws to a close, I've taken time to reflect upon everything that has happened along the way, all of which has accompanied a budding passion for gardening.

The 'Project'

The original aim of the London Vegetable Garden was to see just what I could (and couldn't!) grow on my small London balcony. Looking back, I'm actually staggered by the range of things I have managed to keep alive and cultivate! Admittedly, the only way I would have been self-sufficient on my produce is if I'd have been a caterpillar, but nevertheless, the diversity has been surprising and enjoyable too.

I successfully managed to grow:

Rocket / Lettuce

Perhaps one of the easiest things for urban gardeners to attempt, these grow well in sunlight and spring up in only a few weeks. Definitely the easiest thing to have a go with, it's also fantastic to go outside and pick fresh leaves for your salad, rather than messing about with a mushy bag of old salad from the supermarket.


Through trial and error, I've determined that radishes like deep pots and a bit of space, so my yield of radishes didn't generate copious amounts of edible produce! Nevertheless, I did manage to grow two different varieties, both of which were delicious additions to salads!


Again, as with the radishes, the humble carrot was a vegetable that took a great deal of trial and error. In April's earthy enthusiasm, I sowed rather too liberally, resulting in the plants becoming too crowded. A revised pot containing a very sparse sowing of seeds yielded a far better result, although in 2010 I aim to provide these plants with deeper spaces to grow.

Runner Beans

One of the genuine surprises of the London Vegetable Garden, due to the vast space required by the plants, I managed to harvest a good crop of runner beans! These plants require plenty of space for solid root growth, so my bottomless pots on top of grow bags seemed to do the trick. They really were delicious to eat and one of the things I was most proud of.


These really were the jewel in the crown! I always thought that I was getting too enthusiastic about the gardening project and that these would prove too difficult to grow without a greenhouse. In a beautiful twist of irony, it turns out that not only were the tomato plants the most successful vegetables (although technically a fruit!) on my balcony, but also the most enjoyable to grow. I felt a real affinity with these beautiful plants, watching them grow from delicate saplings to hardy stalked plants. These yielded tonnes of fruit and lasted throughout the summer. I really have a passion for growing tomatoes and want to attempt different varieties in 2010!

And those not so successful...

I've always endeavoured to be authentic on the London Vegetable Garden. True, it's fantastic when you are able to photograph produce grown from the confines of a tiny urban space, but I've always remained adamant that authenticity is at the forefront of the project.

Well, in light of this, it's only natural that I've had some failures along the way! Vegetables such as beetroot and butternut squash have both been valiant attempts, but failed to join the ranks of success. One of the major factors to consider when planting in pots is the lack of depth. I think that planting in the ground affords vegetables plenty of room to grow down, so larger plants and root vegetables need special consideration for urban gardening.

Thank you to everyone who has read the blog, commented and been kind enough to provide tips, help and advice. I've enjoyed every second of the journey so far and hope that you'll join me once more in 2010!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A Christmas Carrot...

First off, sincere apologies for the lack of posts. What with the natural advancement of the winter season and increased work demands, giving due time and attention to the London Vegetable Garden blog has been a task harder than growing things in pots these bleak months!

There is not a lot happening on the London Vegetable Garden at the moment. I have had some spring onions sat in a pot for a few months now, but progress seems to be terribly slow, which I attribute to the lack of light and warmth. Similarly, I planted some more carrot seeds in September. I learnt from my carrot attempts of the spring / summer that I needed to plant these much more thinly, so proceeded to carefully sow a few in a large pot.

Well, I read recently that carrot leaves need plenty of sunlight and the past few weeks have been very sparse indeed. The carrot plants seem to have come to a stop, with some of them turning slightly yellow, which I would assume equates to a lack of sunlight. With this in mind (and attempting to yield one more flourish for the blog before we go into 2010) I pulled these up this morning.

As you can see, these dwarf carrots still remain very small (I have used my large hand for scale!), however the results are significantly improved. The carrots look a lot healthier than the previous batch and I am attributing this purely to the fact that they have had more room to grow and have not been overcrowded.

I have sampled them and the flavour is extremely intense! I believe that gardening is all about trial and error and building upon the knowledge you have gained. I propose that come spring, I plant carrot seeds thinly once more, but use a pot that is a lot deeper than the current ones. Hopefully this will encourage deeper root growth and swell the carrots more.


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