There’s a greenhouse and then there’s… this

petersham greenhouse

I’d love to say this is my greenhouse, but it’s of course that west London den of horticultural chicdom Petersham Nurseries. I was there on Saturday morning to lead a Grow Your Own Veg Gardening Clinic – which, thankfully, despite its name didn’t involve latex gloves or surprising rashes. if you squint you can see me babbling and slightly ruining the earth floor-mismatched garden chair degagee scene.

The crowd were lovely – keen gardeners one and all – and I hope I was vaguely useful to them. Lots of questions about how to get rid of slugs, snails and cats, those nemeses of the urban gardener. Also how to ripen green tomatoes and how to grow potatoes in containers. I can’t think of a nicer place to be on a rainy Saturday autumn morning.

Afterwards I was given a lovely personal tour of the gardens by Petersham Nurseries owner Francesco Boglione. Particularly interested to see their fab veg garden, complete with chickens and yet more gorgeous greenhouses, just completed but made entirely from reclaimed materials so positively groaning with charm. One day my part brick, part glazed, vents opening in the roof greenhouse will come. Until then, it’s back to Greenwich and my 6 foot by 4 foot aluminium beast.


Petersham, posh wellies and me


I had a great time at Petersham Nurseries last night talking to a charming crowd of Richmond ladies (I think I spotted a couple of men but they were very much a rare species) about The Girl’s Guide to Growing Your Own . Afterwards there was wine, smoked meats and crunchy radishes, carrots and other veg from their gardens dipped into toothsome aioli. Everyone seemed to have a lovely time, no one threw rotten tomatoes at me and I signed a fair few books so result all round.

I am so in love with Petersham Nurseries it’s a bit tragic – it’s a miracle I managed to leave without buying my body weight in beaded cushions, candles and those posh wellies with laces up the front that I always lust after but could never afford. Still, I’m not out of the woods yet – I’m back there on the 24th to lead a Grow Your Own Veg Clinic – I have a feeling I won’t be leaving empty handed that time…

October tips – garlic, broad beans and dancing on the table

squashAh, season of mists and red squashy things you’re not quite sure what to do with in the kitchen. Actually I’ve worked out what to do with the Red Kuris now – cut them in chunks and throw them in soups or roast them – but the the yellow pie-shaped Sunburst summer squashes have defeated me. I’ve tried everything – roasting them when they’re tiny, pan-frying them in slices when they’re big, throwing them in pasta, making soup – and, no, still don’t like them. Whatever you’re doing with yours though, it’s time about now to harvest your squashes and pull up the plants which will probably be covered with powdery mildew by now so you’ll be heartily relieved to put them on the compost heap.

Tomatoes, too have had their day – pick them all, even the green ones, and bring them inside to ripen (if they don’t make chutney) and pull up the plants. Runner beans still have a bit of life in them yet and you can still harvest beetroot and carrots.

It’s also time to…

Plant garlic

It’s a doddle to grow – just pop the cloves into the ground or a pot, flat end down, so the pointy bit is just under the soil surface. Space them about 20cm (8in) apart. TryThe Garlic Farm for inspiration. ‘Solent Wight’ will keep for months – perfect for plaiting and hanging if you want to pretend you live in Provence.

It’s also time to

Sow Broad beans

These are hardy brutes that laugh in the face of the cold. Pick an autumn-sowing variety such as ‘Super Aquadulce’ and try sowing them around the base of a wigwam about 20cm apart. They get pretty tall and this way you can tie them in as they grow.

table dancing

Table dancing on a sunny October day. Loving the Bishop of Landaff and the rudbeckia things I bought to tart up the bed for a photoshoot in late summer – great for late colour. Particularly proud of the globe artichoke in the background. T particularly proud of his red shoes.

Blueberries never cease to amaze me. Here we are in early October and my little potted bush shows no sign of stopping – we’ve been eating them since July. If you haven’t got a blueberry bush, you just have to get one – this is Sunshine Blue and I’m in love with it.

There’s still time to plant chard, such as this yellow Bright Lights one. I sowed this way back in March but I have a feeling it’s going to be with us through winter which is fantastic, particularly because most of my instant winter garden seedlings from Rocket have fallen foul to slugs.

Finally I seem to have been able to grow a globe artichoke. Not to eat obviously, this is purely to gaze at admiringly and congratulate myself over. Hopefully they’ll give the bed some structure over winter too and next year will rise up in a grande dame like way.
tromboncinoThe Tromboncino squash still thinks it’s summer, clearly. I’ll let this one get to a decent size and then pull up the plant.
lemonI have a lemon! Bit small for a G and T as yet but I’ll pop the tree (Lemon Meyer and now about 10 years old and has so far produced one sliceable specimen) into its natty fleece jacket in a month or so. For now it can enjoy the autumn sunshine.
lettuceNo idea what this russety thing is – my knowledge of any plant I can’t eat is woeful – but it nestles next to a pot of lettuces and when I look out the kitchen window doing the washing up it always makes me happy. Never really ‘got’ that late colour thing before, but this year I bought a few things and am now a true convert.
Bishop of Llandaff, you’ve got to love it. I know this is supposed to be the only dahlia snobs plant but I don’t care – it’s straightforward, comes back every year with no protection but a bit of mulch on top of it – and, look, it’s got big red flowers with yellow bits in the middle. What’s not to like?