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.
Do leave comments - you don't need to register.

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.

We cut off the growing tops of the plants and saved some seeds - and nearly collapsed giggling. The German word for seed is the same as for semen...

I'll post links to the new shows here every two weeks. Here are the older ones.

We're eating loads of lovely tomatoes - and found the basil which we planted back in spring, and forgot about. It's worked too!

It's all working just as it should. We ate a big chocolate stripe tomato which was gorgeous.
The tomato feed worked wonders! Everything is wonderfully green - and we ate the first little red tomatoes - hooray!

They're looking a little hungry - yellowish-purply leaf colour, so I brought some tomato feed to pep them up a little. Also, the sock trick for tying to stakes.

One lot looks amazing, the others seem a little hungry. We had an interesting question from a listener, and nearly lost it when giggling about compost.

The plants look great and have flowers. We decided to treat one barrel-load strictly, and let everything hang out in the other.

The new plants I put in last time look well established, and the borage which was looking sad has cheered up considerably. There are even flower buds.

The seedlings were going nowhere - I think because they'd got too hot. So I took in some new ones and we talked about what could have gone wrong.

The seedlings looked ok at first, but were being a little slow for my liking.

We got seedlings after two weeks which was exciting.

This is the show where 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.

Sun, 07/09/2014 - 21:17

I feed the birds here. There is a rambunctious pair of great-tits, and a couple of perky little blue-tits as well as a gang of sparrows who regularly visit. I tend to feed them mixed seeds, some of which they like more than others. I stick to the mix because it's the same stuff I feed to my little brown mice (they're in a cage, it's a long story). Here are some just chilling.

So the birds chuck out the bits of hard corn, which make me double over when I step on them with bare feet - and in fact the mice reject it too, no point in it being there really. Sometimes the birds drop the sunflower seeds they really like too - in fact they're pretty messy in general. So each year I get sunflowers in various pots and containers. I like it. This year I had a multi-headed humdinger.

The bees absolutely love it.

Fri, 01/08/2014 - 10:18

They're starting to ripen: The tomatoes are here! And despite all my promises last year to concentrate just on a few and do them properly, there is enough reassuring chaos so I don't mistake the garden as the creation of someone else.

The chocolate stripe toms are the real biggies, they've been putting on mass for several weeks now, with those weird shapes which speak to heritage seeds.

One giant was so heavy I had to rig up a sling. It's putting on some colour and I'm going to eat it in the next couple of days - I find if you take these ones a little early, you avoid getting any of the floury texture which I really don't like.

Sun, 27/07/2014 - 20:14

The plums turned out wonderfully - all the ones with maggots during the spring must have fallen off, leaving loads and loads of delicious plums. I was picking about ten a day. And they were really delicious.

Sadly they're all gone - into my tummy and the tummies of my friends. Plum trees are notoriously strong growers, and this one is meeting that reputation, bulking out nicely. I'll give it a prune (no pun intended) in the winter, and look forward to a million plums next year too.

The raspberries were also very productive - and were pretty much done a few weeks ago. Now more are popping up, which is very exciting. The strawberries are also giving it another shot which is very gratifying.

Sun, 20/07/2014 - 21:00

Things smell decidedly rural around here. I've been planting up some new gardens elsewhere over the last few months - and it's amazing how fast things there turned from little seedlings into giants. The common factor - fresh compost with (organic) fertiliser in it. I decided to get my shit together. This is what I found.

It's cow dung basically, dried and made into pellets. It does smell a little rural even when dry. But I figured it would become effective more quickly if I soaked it in water. So I did several buckets full - and it became like a kind of mash. Which I top-dressed most things with - the tomatoes and apple, even though they look great - as well as everything which looked a little peaky.

It smells a little barnyard-y around here, but I think that probably has to be a good thing - although possibly somewhat puzzling to the neighbours here in central Berlin....

Fri, 27/06/2014 - 17:11

I've been a bit remiss about tying up the tomatoes so far this season. Many of them are little cherry varieties, so will not become as heavy as last year's insane crop.
And there are two enormous borage plants in with the group, lending some sturdiness. But I've also been a bit lazy about it - and there are some decent-sized fruit forming, weighing down the plants.

So there was a huge, all-day rainstorm this week, and when I went out first thing the next morning nearly everything seemed to be lying down.

Wanting to do at least something properly, I turned a pair of old long socks into tomato (and plum) ties and grabbed an armful of sticks. I went at it slowly and methodically, trimming off interstitials as I went. Although unplanned - and not recommended - having the plants lying down gives great access for a bit of a tidy up! Everything was soon standing up again, no damage done.

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