Tuesday 3 July 2012


I have never had green fingers and have always regarded gardening as a form of tyranny. After all you spend all that time, energy and probably money making your garden gorgeous and weed free - then turn your back for a second and the whole thing is overrun again.

Tell me where the pleasure is in that?

My family love gardening. My sister and brother-in-law practically live in theirs. My aunt is constantly pruning and weeding. My dad dug up the lawn to practice The Good Life long before Tom and Barbara.

The only problem about digging up the lawn in the West Midlands in the late sixties was that the soil was polluted with the residue from a hundred years of the Industrial Revolution. The end result of this was that the only things that grew in any abundance were cale, which was vile and gritty, and carrot tops. Not carrots, the tops. A foot of green above the ground and two inches of carrot holding the thing up under the soil.

Dad also attempted to grow tomatoes. I'm not sure of the best way to grow them. Outside seemed a little on the bracing side, and unless you had a tropical summer they just ended up being small and green. They were then harvested and left to ripen on a piece of paper at the top of the stairs.

My grandmother grew then in a greenhouse. This seemed to be a better bet, and as a kid you could hide in there inhaling the fumes from the paraffin heater.

Last weekend Dark Lady and I went to visit uncle Norman and auntie Stephanie, my godparents and all round excellent folk. Norman is a sprightly ninety-one and spends a lot of time lovingly tending his garden. However, in all his years as gardener he had never witnessed what had occurred in his greenhouse a couple of weeks before.

To one side of the greenhouse he had some growbags with tomato plants in them. One day whilst doing a little bit of watering and some light pottering, he stumbled on the rough concrete floor, crashed through one of the plants and smashed a pane of glass in the process. Luckily he only escaped with a couple of small cuts and some bruises. However, he terrified the life out of one of the plants. It shot up and grew some six or eight inches taller than its mates. Eventually spurred on by this, the other plants caught up.

Is this a trick that Alan Titchmarsh has missed? If you want top tomatoes, rough 'em up a bit!

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