Do tomato plants laugh when you tickle them?

Am I the only one that’s ever asked that question? If you’ve never tried growing tomato plants, you’re probably reaching for the phone right now – “help, someone’s going around actually tickling tomato plants!” But wait, please let me explain. It’s not a joke, it really is a thing!

I think that THE most rewarding plant to grow is the tomato. Once you have it safely ensconced in a pot of multi-purpose soil or a grow bag, it needs a little bit of support and pampering for it to fulfil its true calling in life. A really good drink of water in dry weather; a meal of high potassium feed once a week from the time it goes into flower; a few cosmetics, and by the end of August you’ll be plucking juicy red fruits from the vine -preferably on a sunny day when all the sugars have risen into the fruit. But there are two really important jobs to do before you get to enjoy the fruit of your labour.

 Vine tomatoes will produce side shoots known as ‘suckers’. Those suckers have got to go! The plant is putting energy into growing as big as it can but we want it to put all its energy into growing our delicious tomato. To identify the sucker; follow the main stem until you get to a leaf. If there is a growth emerging in between where the leaf meets the stem that is your sucker! Get rid of it by simply breaking it off the plant.

All tomato plants are self pollinating – meaning the pollen in a flower needs only to drop down into the female parts of the same flower for fertilisation to take place. They still need our lovely pollinating critters to visit to jiggle the flower around, causing the pollen to fall. But you’ll have noticed that the flowers aren’t exactly show stopping. They can easily be missed by insects. If you plant pots of marigolds and other flowers that insects like around them, you increase the chance of the flower being pollinated. BUT – if you gently rub your finger over the end of the flower you’re basically doing the job of the insect. This is genuinely known as ‘tickling’. Your plant is more likely to produce fruit by giving it a good tickle. So go ahead, give your tomatoes a good tickle and hear them squeal with delight!

Nature studies for grown up children….

Great news! We’ve received funding from Dementia Aware Denbighshire Community Led Grant, to work with the fabulous Dementia Friendly Denbigh. From October, we will be delivering ‘Nature Studies for Wellbeing’ to the good folks of Denbigh and environs.

Just a few of the sessions we will enjoy

The project aims to bring ALL ages together and will be especially inclusive for those living with dementia and their support person(s). Monthly sessions will be interesting, engaging, relaxing, sociable and fun, as we take a look at the world outside our window, through animal studies, games and quizzes.

Dementia Friendly Denbigh will be on hand to offer information about dementia and signpost to relevant services where needed. All who attend will be offered a Dementia Friends session- delivered by Dementia Friendly Denbigh on behalf of Alzheimer’s Society – an impactful insight into the experiences of those living with dementia and how we can better accommodate their needs.

Join us – for more information contact Isa –

isa@groceriesfromthe.garden / kingsgardenenterprise@gmail.com

Not one but three pieces of news!


*Thanks to the support of the Llandudno Hospital League of Friends, the Colwyn Bay Community Hospital League of Friends AND Gwynt Y M’or; King’s Garden has received more funding to deliver our nature studies to patients. The Grow4it project will be extended onto two more wards in Llandudno, and we’ll deliver therapeutic table top gardening sessions to the patients on the wards in Colwyn Bay. We’ll also update and replant the borders at Colwyn hospital – improving biodiversity and all that!

*We’re soon to start the Tall Poppies pilot project with Holywell Community hospital – you guessed it – more gardening with patients.

*AND as is if that wasn’t enough – we also have the pleasure to be working with Community Hub | Y Ty Gwyrdd | Denbigh Wales ,on two after school Nature Clubs.

Time to get planning!

Ponderings from the Polytunnel

 It’s Only Natural

I couldn’t make out what it was at first. All I could see was a fan shaped tail, neatly finished with a black trim, bobbing up and down on top of the trellis. It turned out to be the back end of Mr Pigeon, tenaciously wooing his intended with a gentlemanly bow. Mrs Pigeon, succumbing to his advances, swooned and curtsied in response. The increase in daylight hours has sent them into romantic overdrive. Mr and Mrs Pigeon aren’t the only ones. I can already hear the quivering shrills of nestlings in my hedgerow. All across the Northern Hemisphere; plants, insects, birds and animals, are currently on a mission to secure their family line.

tilt shift photo of two white bird eggs on a nest
Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

A badger born this year is the consequence of last year’s romances. Mrs Badger has the unique ability to prevent the implantation of her fertilised egg into her womb, for up to 9 months. So, even though the deed is usually done in Spring, she doesn’t actually become pregnant until late Autumn! She is then only pregnant for up to 3 months. It’s thought that this ‘delayed implantation’ (not a conscious decision), ensures that her cubs are born at the optimum time of year for their survival. To be even more efficient at securing her family line, she might mate a second or third time in the same season, with a different Mr Badger. Cutting it all short –Mrs Badger can have multiple offspring, from multiple fathers, synchronised into one pregnancy, all born at the same time! How’s that for family planning?  Her motherly instincts will motivate her to defend and protect her little ones with her life; nurture them, and mentor them in the fundamentals of badger etiquette. She’ll give her absolute all, and if she’s the ‘top sow’ in the sett; she might even kill cubs outside of her litter, if she feels there is a threat to food or to her family’s security. In late summer her teenagers will have to strike out on their own, leave home, find new territory, establish their own family and subsequently teach their young ones how to make their own way in life.  Sadly, what was once nurtured, protected, defended and mentored becomes competition for food, partners, security and territory. And, so it goes on, generation after generation.

a gray badger on green grass
Photo by Leo Sam on Pexels.com

This particular beat to the rhythm of life is bittersweet, and a poignant parallel with our own experiences. We can see it reflected in world events even now. Someone believes their security is threatened and – well – you know the rest. However, the animal kingdom is also capable of the most extraordinary behaviours. Sometimes their acts can even seem heroic. If a cat has had kittens and is still expressing milk, she will rear baby hedgehogs as her own. It’s not uncommon for swimmers to be encircled by dolphins to form a protective barrier against a shark attack. And, there are countless stories of dogs protecting owners from attackers, rescuing them from a blazing inferno or saving them from a watery demise. I mean, just how many times did that canine hero of the 1970’s, Lassie, tell us that “Timmy’s fallen down a well” (again)?  

Photo – blog.happybeaks.co.uk

Mercifully, we too are capable of extraordinary behaviours. With the added benefit of reason thrown into mix, the ‘natural’ God given instincts to protect, defend, help, nurture, and mentor; drives us to put our own needs aside, and to make sacrifices – particularly when the safety, security and wellbeing of those we consider to be family, is threatened. Alongside what seems to be our ever burgeoning ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, we see unfolding; acts of generosity, selflessness, kindness, courage and compassion.  It’s not always our default position but if members of the animal kingdom can act in such extraordinary ways, then we must absolutely choose to behave above and beyond the same.  

Meanwhile, in my garden – judging by what happened following the Dance of the Pigeons, it won’t be long before I’ll be cooing over the sight of their miniature offspring. But by the end of summer, when baby squab has become teenage squab, I’ll resent having to share my edibles with it. And, believing my food security to be threatened, the cry of “keep your bird lips off my food” will reverberate throughout the neighbourhood once again. We all know it’s going to happen – it’s only natural after all.

close up photo of perched pigeon
Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels.com


3/2/22 – Following a wonderfully interactive look at the rabbit and hare, we were delighted to be able to present Beuno ward in Llandudno hospital, with their Grow4it resource pack. Thanks to the support of CVSC. A different way to end the hour – it usually ends with folks exchanging recipe’s for rabbit stew or jugged hare!

We’re Growing4it!

31/1/22 – More patients are benefitting from our unique interactive nature studies! Thanks to Community & Voluntary Support Conwy (CVSC) and Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council (DVSC), our Grow4it project is continuing to Grow4it! With their support we are now delivering our services into 4 hospitals across North Wales. See what some of the patients have to say ….

It changes the whole atmosphere, you know, the experience of being in hospital

I didn’t feel my pain at all during the hour. Better than drugs!  It was sociable and interesting. More of the same please”.

 “I haven’t felt my pain while I’ve been here (in the session). Really enjoyed it. Very interesting. Learned things”. 

I absolutely love them I do. I love coming to them every week. I look forward to them”.

 “I really enjoyed that thank you. I got to use my brain! I hope I’m here next week for the next one”

It’s made me want to start looking into it (the subject matter) myself

Really good. It helps you to focus. Learn things you can use outside of here…you take it home with you. Very interesting the times I’ve been

Penelope Pine Cone and her pine babies have been doing the ward rounds again!

See what a physiotherapist has to say ….”These studies provide patients with a much -needed distraction at a time when face to face visits with loved ones are severely restricted. They provide so much enjoyment at a time when patients are faced with worry and concern about hospitalisation, and outcome of their hospitalisation – it is a form of safe haven where they are stimulated and encouraged to have different conversations to what they would normally have. Patients so much enjoy being in a group learning and sharing their own experiences of nature

Ponderings from the Polytunnel

Someone else’s story.

Sitting at the top of the forsythia, my morning alarm clock can be heard advertising his presence. With the ‘full throated ease’ of his cousin the nightingale, Bob opens his mouth and the most incredible, bittersweet sound comes out – like water gently trickling down rocks. There’s a tinge of sadness in the song but he’s not sad, it’s just how I hear him. He’s wearing his adult coat now; his bright red bib is unique; like his own thumb print, and it’s how he is recognised by others of his kind. He looks nothing like his young self – let’s face it, few of us do! He doesn’t get to wear his bib until after his first moult because it would make him too visible to predators. Now that he is more street wise, he can be as bold and brassy as he likes and boy – is he being bold and brassy! It’s not a bad way to be woken up and I hope he takes reassurance in the fact that, not once have I been tempted to throw him out of the window!  

Young robin doesn’t develop his recognisable red breast until after the first moult, making him look very different to the adult
shallow focus photo of european robin bird
Photo by Martin Dickson on Pexels.com

In the UK, the robin is one of the few birds to be heard singing throughout winter, and his simple but beautiful attire adds a dash of colour to the drab greyness of it all. He is ranked as our favourite garden bird and has become a major feature in our traditions around Christmas. How did such an ‘everyday’ fellow reach such a lofty status; especially when in nearly all other parts of the world he is known for being shy and elusive?

Centuries ago, when we turned our hand to the plough, we – as a nation of agriculture, made life easy for Bob and all subsequent little boblets, digging up all those juicy worms! So, they learned to hang out with us. In Victorian times, the postman wore a red tunic and when delivering the new-fangled items called ‘Christmas cards’, the red breasted postman became synonymous with the solo, red breasted chorister of winter. He has become a significant part of our culture, story and life experience here in the west.

The beginning of the year is a time when many of us look both back and ahead. We make plans, set goals and dream big! When I was but a sapling; so many moons ago, I had dreams that would save the world!!!! As you have no doubt noticed- I didn’t make it – I have not saved the world. There are some ways in which life hasn’t turned out how I had expected. Your experience might be the same; life may have left you scratching your head. But the energy, ambition, naivety, passion and creativity of our youth wasn’t misplaced, because; we have become a part of someone else’s story! Like our lovely robin hopping about in the garden, just being Bob; our very presence in this life has become a part of someone’s else’s experience. Robin has become world renowned. When we think of Christmas, he usually comes to mind. When others reflect on their lives – YOU will come to mind. Images of Bob front exchanges and expressions of love.  YOUR face will personify memories and considerations of love. I have learned to be content with being a part of someone else’s story. My only ambition now is to do it well because it is actually, a massively privileged and responsible thing to be. So, don’t be concerned if you can’t come up with a 2 – step master plan for global domination this year!  Remember, you are not only the thread in your own tapestry but the thread in many other tapestries too. My story is richer and more colourful because of you – thank you – and thank you for reading 😊

cute erithacus rubecula passerine bird sitting on wooden surface in nature
Photo by Gordon Bishop on Pexels.com
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