“My parents were keen gardeners in Folkestone and they had allotments,“ Caroline told us, “My mother sold her flowers to hotels and flat-dwellers, and my father grew vegetables for the family.”
Back then, when Caroline started growing, the soil was barren but years of composting have made it wonderfully fertile. Now, some 40 years later, Caroline has, “a mulberry tree, a self-sown (1976) cherry tree, both wonderfully prolific, blackberries and red currants, tomatoes and French beans, I also grow leaf beat, lettuces and herbs and little yellow plums, possibly Mirabelles.”
She has transformed both gardens of her two neighbouring houses in Forest Road, E17, one that she lives in, the other one is rented out to tenants, she told us:
“I use both gardens, principally for growing fruit and vegetables (no lawns)”. She uses five people’s kitchen waste and all the garden waste to make her compost beds, as well as making her own leafmold, and she only uses organic methods, no chemicals.
Hints & Tips for Budding Gardeners
There will be lots of people at the Cultivate Festival who will be thinking about starting to grow their own fruit and vegetables or hoping to pick up some tips. With four decades of experience, Caroline advises growers to, “Research and make notes, create a compost heap, be patient, follow organic principles and don’t let failures get you down.”
And, if you’re wondering what to try growing in your urban garden, Caroline suggests that you, “Avoid edible food that takes up a lot of space for a long time and is easily available (e.g. potatoes and onions). Go for things that are best really fresh and that you may not want in large quantities (radishes, lettuces, herbs) and fruit that is expensive in shops (blackberries, red currants).”
Why Grow Your Own?
When we asked what her gardens mean to her, Caroline said, “I love being able to step out into the garden to cut chives, pick a bowl of mulberries or a colander full of tomatoes for my pasta supper. And when my busy life allows time for gardening I get pleasure from soil preparation, sowing, planting and caring for my growing things.”