Thursday 22 April 2010

City garden

My city centre garden is tiny. It’s south-facing, very sheltered and a tranquil spot that the garden birds love to visit. Although it’s only 4 x 4 metres, there’s room for some fruit and veg. There’s a little veggie patch, where I’ve got some overwintering salad leaves, some garlic, parsley and a few seedlings. Very experimentally, I'm trying some chickpeas in this patch. Towards the back of the garden there’s a fig tree, and on the left a gage plum. I’ve also got a cheapie little greenhouse, but I’m struggling with it – plants fry in there, so I need to find out how to manage it better.

My next-door neighbours have built a huge conservatory, which turns out to be a good thing for me. It’s a warm west-facing brick wall and I’ve planted another gage plum and two pears in pots against the wall. Like John, I buy all my fruit trees from Read’s nursery.

My pride and joy is my apricot tree, which last year produced lots of fruit. Unfortunately, there is not a single flower this year. It normally flowers very early, at the end of February, without any need for protection. The cold winter must have wiped out all the flower buds. Other fruit trees are doing exceptionally well this year, but I should have protected my apricot…

I have a tiny west-facing paved area at the front of the house (sorry, no pic), where I have planted three apple trees, a local Robin pear, a morello cherry and a quince. Time will tell, but I think I’m being optimistic with the quince – it needs a lot of space. The apples and the cherry are fine; the pear should do well too, as it’s a small tree.

I’ve tried to grow bee-friendly plants wherever I can, so there are winter and summer flowers to take them through the seasons. Across our shared pathway, there is an enormous horse-chestnut tree, so it’s too shady to grow food.

Instead, in this tiny woodland patch, I’ve planted some snakeshead fritillaries and I’m thrilled to see that they are thriving.

As a Transitioner, I’m increasingly interested in growing food but I’m running out of space at home. My latest patch of garden is an allotment strip at the Grow our Own community scheme, and of course the TN allotment. I’m growing lots of things on windowsills – tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, aubergines and so on. They will be ready to go out soon. I shan’t risk putting them out until I’ve checked the mulberry tree in the art school courtyard. According to John Evelyn it’s safe to put tender plants out when the mulberry leaves appear; he’s right - there was an ancient mulberry tree at my childhood home and it only put out its huge leaves when all the frosts had gone. Not long to wait now.

Pix: Back garden; plum and pear trees; apricot tree last summer; snakeshead fritillaries; allotment


  1. You have certainly squeezed a quart out of your pint pot there Jane! I feel as if I just read a blog from a fruit farm :) I will have to ask you about pruning the Morello - mine is getting very spindly. Tricky business, pruning.

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