On April 7 I’ll be breaking out the champagne – or at least a sunflower seedling salad. It’s the publication day of my book The Edible Balcony (Kyle Cathie) for people who want to grow delicious fruit and vegetables in tiny spaces even if they live several storeys up. You really don’t need garden soil to eat your own home-grown crops when you can grow lettuce on the wall, tomatoes on your windowsill and strawberries in a basket hanging from your railings. Even in the heart of the city you can have your own little sky allotment – hang herbs from your balcony railings and let cucumbers and squashes clamber through them; and you don’t need to spend money either – bicycle tyres make great planters for strawberries and old hatstands the perfect home for climbing runner beans.
From New York to Mumbai to a teeny balcony in Tufnell Park, the book’s full of awe-inspiring edible roofs and balconies and easy growing projects so you can turn your space, however teeny, into an edible Eden in the sky.
Today has been dubbed Blue Monday – a date of such irretreviable gloominess and abject awfulness that you might as well pull the duvet back over your head or sink into a puddle on the floor in front of Murder She Wrote. It’s dark, it’s raining, you’re too fat, you feel ill, all your family feels ill and you haven’t done your tax. The days might be getting longer but they also seem to be getting darker. What’s the solution? Get on a plane, of course. But if you can’t do that? Sow something. Anything. Sow your gardening gloves if you have to.
I sowed broad beans, oo, eons ago – probably late November – a collection of loose seeds I found at the bottom of my bag, helpfully tipped out by toddlers and probably years old. Rather than throw them away I checked to see if they were still ok by putting them between damp kitchen roll until the good ones sprouted. A surprising amount did.
I popped the sprouted ones into pots in the greenhouse and now look at the little troopers. I’ll plant them out in a couple of weeks but for now I just want to stare at them. Every time I feel miserable I tramp outside and gaze through the sliding door like a tramp looking through a television shop window until I’ve had my fix. In a few weeks I’ll plant them out. Until then, they beat going for a run or looking at a light box. They don’t hurt and they don’t make my eyes ache.
To maintain my “Oo, look it’s sprouted” fix, I sowed some sweetpeas yesterday, also in pots in the greenhouse which give me an excuse to include this. If you still feel glum after looking at a photo of sweetpeas then there’s nothing for it, you will have to get a taxi to the airport. Tenerife’s very nice this time of year.