Welcome

Welcome to my garden. Have a drink but don't sit just yet - I'm going to show you things.

We're on the roof just north of Berlin's city centre, ten minutes' walk from where the Wall once stood.
This is the first place I go to in the morning - I take a wander around in the morning while brushing my teeth, and often end up engrossed in a job while still in my pyjamas.

The plants I have brought here grow in pots - from the apple tree to the delicate curry plant. Others have emerged independently in the muddy spaces I leave between containers, and in the cracks between the paving stones.
I use the garden as a place for drawn-out dinners, lovely lunches and pots of tea and chatting. Since I started bringing plants here in 2011, it has also become a haven for birds and insects, and a hunting ground for bats.

It's my favourite place.

I enjoy decorative flowers, but try not to let them distract me from the more interesting concept of growing stuff to eat.
Sowing seeds and seeing what emerges is really exciting - yet I also find a hugely gratifying steadiness in trees and perennials.
Here you can read about what I try, how it works or fails - and what there might be to learn from the results.
Have fun exploring, use the subject tags to find stories which are related.
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Recent Articles

Mon, 06/01/2014 - 23:47

I'm doing a fortnightly gardening spot on my favourite Berlin radio station Flux FM - we're growing the most rock-and-roll tomatoes in the capital.

Here is the latest edition - in German. I'll post the new ones here every two weeks.
You can listen here. We got seedlings!

This was the first one. We planted the seeds and talked about how to get them to germinate.

Here is an earlier interview on Flux FM about growing food in general - and my start-up business Eat Your Roof.
You can listen here - it's in German.

And I was also featured on Deutsche Welle, Germany's equivalent of the BBC World Service.
You can listen to that here - in English.

You can read more about Eat Your Roof here.

Mon, 14/04/2014 - 19:20

I was away for a week. On my night-time return, I peered out into the dark at the terrace and nearly freaked - it looked like a plastic bag had blown up and got tangled in the favourite apple tree. Fearing damage to the buds which had been making all sorts of promises before I'd left, I grabbed a torch and dashed out.

It was blossom. Blissful blossom. And it smells amazing.

The honeysuckle has gone mad, shooting out in practically all directions and winding around everything within reach - which in many cases is itself. It demands a scary-standing-on-a-ladder-on-the-sixth-floor session for some unwinding and introducing to the pagoda.

Mon, 31/03/2014 - 21:47

Spring is rocketing along regardless of the remaining risk of snow and frosts. We're only just tipping into April, but no-one seems to be listening. There are beautiful long, sunny days and new things are popping up all over the place all the time. Everything seems to be blossoming, bees are out and about, I've been eating lunch outside and leaving the door open all day. The gooseberry flowers have been attracting lovely dark orange bees.

It is gorgeous mind, and with temperatures well into double digits, and everything seems so optimistic. Wonderful.

The plum tree, which only arrived on the terrace last year, is absolutely covered in blossom. It seems happy in its new, bigger pot (a plastic rubbish bin which I found by the rubbish in my block).

Wed, 26/03/2014 - 08:39

For an impatient gardener like myself, it's tricky to get seedling timings right. It should be obvious - stick the stuff which takes ages in early, and then gradually add others, always with an eye on the date more than the weather, so they'll be ready to go out when conditions are right. Don't go piling in there with beans in early March. Which obviously I did. Again. This year I didn't even waste my efforts planting them out - they're now being assimilated by the collective (in the compost heap).

The peppers and tomatoes are coming along at a more gratifyingly manageable pace, as are some peppers which I've started from seeds taken from those lovely sweet, long red peppers from Turkey which are so delicious loaded with hummus. I'd be delighted if they worked.

I've got a veritable army of peas which I may have to separate out relatively soon - they're three times as big as the ones I planted outside at about the same time. I'll stick them out soon, see how they do in comparison. We had hail yesterday, so the outside ones, which are still standing, are probably carrying knives and doing their own tattoos, they're so tough.

Mon, 10/03/2014 - 11:34

Spring! Things are popping up and out and round, it's fabulous. Am trying not to worry too much about a potential return of cold weather which could bash things - if it happens, it happens (gulp). I forgot that I'd planted a load of snowdrops and crocuses in some of the containers - a brilliant benefit to having a terrible memory, they provided a fantastic surprise, like getting a late birthday present.

The trees are covered in slowly expanding buds - I saw the first apple tree leaf-break today!

The berry bushes are a little faster and have been popping theirs with little leaves for about a week already.

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 15:59

I love my apple tree, (I may have said this before). It was the first thing I stuck in a pot when I moved here three years ago, and it has delivered between 20 and 30 gorgeous apples each year. This year it needed a prune - but there was no way I was going to throw out the bits I chopped off. A grand-high tree-whisperer was needed to put the pruned pieces to good use. I found one, and he was kind enough to give me a masterclass in grafting.

Andreas Höhne was my man, and he welcomed me into his grafting room at the Späth tree nursery in the south-east of Berlin. The nursery (they call it a tree-school in German) dates back to 1720, sticking around through hundreds of years of German history. This included the death of Hellmut Späth, who led the company after World War I, in the nearby concentration camp Sachsenhausen. His name and legacy survived the post-1945 socialist collectivisation and the company became the centre of tree cultivation in East Germany.

I took half a dozen or so pieces of apple tree which I'd carefully selected and cut off that morning. Andreas picked out the best pieces, which were nearly the diameter of a pencil, as straight as possible, and without too many large blossom buds which, he said would demand too much energy for no return. All resources needed to be directed to growth, of the pieces joining together, and for them to establish themselves as a new tree.

He turned his expert eyes, hands and very sharp knife to the pieces I had brought along, a process which resulted in a little stack of six pieces, each around 10cm long, with the tops lopped off. He said he was checking them for over-all health, making sure there were no injuries, nothing dry or rotten on them, but I am sure his two decades of experience meant he was seeing all sorts of things invisible to the amateur eye.

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