Socrates, chives, tomatoes and biodiversity on my London roof garden

Tomatoes and chives on a sustainable green roof in London

Tomatoes and chives on a sustainable green roof in London

Socrates looks pleased to see that my chives are doing well but misty-eye puzzled that I have let weeds grow when the space could perfectly well be used to grow tomatoes. I tell him that while my wife grows the excellent tomatoes I am contributing to London’s 2010 Sustainable Green Roof Biodiversity Action Programme. See below post on beautiful food gardening.

15 thoughts on “Socrates, chives, tomatoes and biodiversity on my London roof garden

  1. Adam Hodge

    Those tomatoes look far too big for poor old Socrates to carry to the kitchen…what does your wife use to get them so enormous ?!!! As for the chives.. growing higher than his head ..awesome !

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    I am very interested in City Farming – and once spent six months working for Jac Smit He was one of the most intereting people I have ever worked with or for though I can only remember a few conversations about urban agriculture. He had trained as a landscape architect and then become an urban and regional planner. He then gave this up for the much more important job of promoting urban agriculture.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Yes. Sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture are separate but linked. Jac Smit used to say that ‘cities must become more productive’ and one aspect of this was the production of food within city limits. I am sure he would enjoy a visit to Todmorden It is a great example of urban agriculture and will help the town to ‘sustain’ [in the etymological sense of ‘keep going’] its food supply.

  4. Christine

    Todmorden inhabits a hybrid space between sustainable agriculture and urban agriculture. Something conceptually like the ‘moose-in-traffic’ concept. In this sense, I wonder whether the drivers of the phenomena are a form of rural adjustment to urbanisation or rural agricutlural nostaglia?

    1) This is Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticelli.[ ]

    2) Which is different to the market garden (which was purely a commercial enterprise). [ ] This garden is in Merri Creek in Coburg, Melbourne.

    3) Which is different again to a subsistence or self-sufficiency approach which promotes backyard suburban agriculture.[ ]

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    I think ‘urban agriculture’ is a well defined concept – with Cuba the best-known example. But with ‘sustainable agriculture’ it is easier to point to examples of what should not be done than of what should be done. Pumping out ‘fossil’ ground water, in the Gulf, Punjab and elsewhere, is unsustainable – it cannot continue in the medium or long terms. But the development of GM foods and shifting food production into polytunnels could maximise efficiency of production while lowering quality: would this count as sustainable? [PS: please could you check the link to Merri Creek]. In Russia, ‘official’ food is so toxic that everyone who can wants to grow their own food. So in Russia in 1997 ‘at least 38 percent of Russians supplied themselves with food grown on their dacha plots… the director of Semko-Junior, a major Russian seed trader, said that currently some 90 percent of Russian potatoes and 75 percent of its vegetables are produced on dacha plots’ . So there is a very strong qualitative argument for urban agriculture – and Russia is way ahead of China in this respect (only?).
    I think we grow about 4 months supply of potatoes/year – and the quality is amazing. The variety is Charlotte. Our local supermarket charges £1.65/kg for them (compared to £0.55/kg for ‘white potatoes’ and £5.00/kg for Dauphinoise) but the quality of their Charlottes is nowhere near as good as ours. They are pallid and puffy. Ours are a golden yellow, waxy and wonderful – no need to lace them with salt or butter. Ooooooh – sooooo – gooood!

  6. Christine

    Apologies here is the link to the website in which the merri creek market garden is featured.
    [ ]

    Thankyou for the example of the Dacha’s, I wonder whether to some extent, urban agriculture as noted in the Cuban experience does not mirror this phenomenon of a sense of chronic insecurity with government?

    Saying that, I believe there is a vital place for a twentyfirst century urban agriculture (both public and private)which falls within the realm of pleasure/leisure gardens, gourmet restuarant gardens, edible street trees etc and the aesthetic greening of urban spaces within cities. [ie It is not about commerical agricultural activity rather it is supplemental to commerical agricultural production. Although produce may well be sold at local markets or organic style markets.]

    As GM food and polytunnels, I would say no. The critical factor for Sustainability is the competition between urban and other uses of prime agricultural land with increasing populations.
    An important question is national food security and how much food is grown locally as opposed to how much food is imported. A nation should be aware of the status of its agricultural deficits and surpluses and whether it is reliant on agricultural and land-use policies in other nations in order to eat.

    As for the middle floor flat dweller, do you have a balcony? Even a windowbox created outside the kitchen window can produce herbs and other edibles? I am sure Tom could advise.


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