The Girl’s Guide – consider it launched!

So Friday was the launch party for The Girl’s Guide to Growing Your Own – a fabulous and rather boozy affair in a gorgeous florist/plant shop on London’s Bermondsey Street called Igloo – the boozy part of the equation being helped by the fact that the shop also sells wine. Thanks to everyone who came – whether they were involved in some way in the book or just wanted a free glass of wine and a tortilla chip. And thanks to all who bought the book – apologies if my signature and written comments became unintelligible by the end of the evening.

Here’s me – in the flowery dress (I thought it was appropriate) standing next to my agent Heather Holden-Brown – saying a few words…


with some of the lovely guests…

me, isobel, siobhain

and, of course, who could forget the marvellous display of books, snapped proudly by my dad in his Man from Del Monte suit…


Thank you and goodnight

September tips


It’s my favourite month of the year, when everything seems to be ripening at once and every sunny day feels like a sneaky bonus. Summer crops are on their last and glorious hurrah, with runner beans scrambling up the walls, chillis turning scarlet and fat, purple bunches of grapes hanging down from the pergola. This is the traditional time for donning your imaginary headscarf and preserving your vast gluts of fruit and vegetables. If, like me, you can walk the length of your garden in five seconds, you’re unlikely to be reaching for the Kelner jars, but at least you’ll have lunch. And supper. Today, a sandwich with cucumber and Costiluto Fiorentino beefsteak tomato. Tonight, roast Black Krim tomato pasta sauce, can’t complain.


Great news, my lazy instant winter garden arrived from Rocket, a moment of great excitement that soon turned to apprehension when I realised quite how many plants there were.


I’ve popped them into what tiny gaps there are inbetween the marauding Sunburst squash, nasturtiums and globe artichoke plants and am letting them take their chances against the slugs. So far, there have been a worrying number of casualties, though I notice the slugs have left the mustard and endive – as, indeed, would I – preferring to lay waste to the Lollo Rossa lettuces and tatsoi. Damn them.

September is time to…

Plant (or sow if early in the month in v. sheltered ground): cabbages, broccoli, winter lettuces, tatsoi, corn salad, endive, mustards, kale, Winter purslane, land cress, chard. And keep an eye out for slugs and snails, the little sods.

Harvest: pretty much everything you can imagine, from fiery chillis to tomatoes, runner beans to grapes, blueberries to apples, courgettes to autumn raspberries. It’s not called harvest festival time for nothing.



If your tomatoes haven’t turned red yet, make sure you’ve nipped out the growing tip of the plant, taking it right down to a leaf above a truss of tomatoes that are a decent size. Any tiny tomatoes or trusses that are still just flowers should be removed. Also take off any lower yellowing leaves that could be shading the fruit. If the tomatoes are still not red by the end of the month, you might need to find a decent recipe for green tomato chutney. Or you could try putting green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe banana. It releases ethylene which speeds up the ripening process.

My borlotti bean harvest – all 50g of it, grown up a teeny obelisk – would struggle to make bean soup for an Italian family of four, BUT how beautiful are these beans?


Once I’d stopped staring at them I reckoned I’d better eat them but had about as much idea of how to cook them as I would of landing an aeroplane on the River Hudson. Skye Gyngell at Petersham Nurseries Cafe has a wonderful, fresh cooking style. I tried this recipe of hers I found on the web and it was gorgeous – all the more so since I got to use my own sage, garlic and tomatoes too.

Don’t ignore my aubergine tortoise

Damn, I have missed the deadline to the Emsworth Online Village Show This is a terrible thing because I never enter competitions and this time I actually had something worth entering. Namely this aubergine that is a dead ringer for a tortoise with very tiny shell and elephantitis.  I hope the venerable committee of judges will look on this small offering as a latecomer to the Most Misshapen Vegetable Category where it might perhaps jostle for position with a carrot that looks like Omar from The Wire. Or similar. Or not.