Growing your own


I have quite limited space for plants in this flat, but for a year or so I had a few herbs in pots on the balcony. It’s been nice having fresh mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley and sage on my doorstep. It’s certainly helped with cooking, homegrown herbs do taste that bit better, plus they’re always there, you don’t need to run out to the shop and get them. Having good quality ingredients on hand

  • A simple mixed herb omelette
  • Rosemary infused olive oil
  • Lemon sage with oven baked fish
  • Fresh mint for Pimms and lemonade

There’s also a great sense of achievement cooking with and eating something you’ve gone yourself, especially in this harsh city environment.

At the start of spring I decided to expand my garden a little beyond herbs and try some fruit and vegetables. While i’ve love to try square foot gardening I sadly don’t have the space for it. Instead I picked up some seeds and made a trip to Columbia Road market (a wonderful flowers, herbs and plants market in East London) to pick up some new plants, pots and compost.

So, 6 months later, how did I get on? Not great, but not a complete disaster.

Spinach & Beetroot

This is spinach and beetroot as i’m clearing the pot today. They were a mixed success, while the spinach sprouted early and gave a good harvest it never really had enough space. They were delicious and really quite easy though, recommended. The beetroot could have done with more space too, most importantly more depth. Pulling them up today it was clear that the bulb had barely started to form on any of them. A real shame, but I did use some of the leaves in a salad and those were lovely, so not a complete failure.

Poor tomato plant

My tomato plant was doing OK for a while. It wasn’t big (due to being in an overly small pot for too long) but it had produced a few nice size fruits. Unfortunately, when I went on holiday I forgot to ask anyone to water anything. It turned out that was a very very hot week. Whoops. Everything was looking pretty bad when I got back, but the tomato plant had the worst of it. The big tomato was badly scorched and the whole plant was yellowed and crispy. It still looks this way, but the large fruit at the front is still ripening, so maybe i’ll get something out of it. Next time i’d get a grow bag and do it the easier way – and water them.

Spring Onions

The spring onions were a surprise success, grown from seed in a pot. They took a long time (~4 months?) to get to that size, but that’s almost store bought sizes. I’m quite proud. I’ve used a couple of young ones in a salad before, but i’m looking forward to using up the rest of them this week. Definitely recommended if you have a bit of space and time.


My final attempt was a couple of chili plants. I picked up the seeds at Wahaca, a mexican restaurant in Covent Garden. I wasn’t really expecting to do much, but they’re not bad. They’ve not actually grown any chilies, but i’m going to move them inside for the winter, once I move, and see how they do next year. I have great hopes.

Overall, i think it was an interesting attempt, equal parts success and failure. The success down to luck, and the failure caused by my lazyness and a pretty poor location. I’ll be moving to a new flat in the next month, this one has even less outside space, but does have lots of light and a couple of small balconies.

I’ll be moving some of my herbs (and the chilies) with me, but sadly the rest is going on the compost heap and i’ll try again next spring. Perhaps I should look at some indoors/balcony plants for autumn, any suggestions?

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