A review of the Edible Garden Show (Alexandra Palace Friday 28th March 2014)

Before I start – a little disclaimer, Ed and I are novice vegetable growers and wannabe chicken/pig owners. Anything I have written here is from a wide eyed ‘no idea what that gardening term means’ point of view. Also, Zara asked me to write this review. I haven’t just hijacked their blog willynilly.

So, the Edible Garden Show is a three day event held at Alexandra Palace. We arrived just as the doors were opening as we only had a 1 day ticket and we knew there was a lot to cram in.  There was an array of talks (vegetable growing, chicken and poultry, cooking with home grown vegetables, and a demo/kids area).  All of the seminar points were set within the main hall so it was really easy to get from one to another without having to walk for ages.  There were also well over 100 stalls catering for every gardening/vegetable growing whim and some besides.

To chicken, or not to chicken? That is the question.

The poultry section was headed up by Victoria Roberts, who apparently is quite a celeb in the chicken world. We arrived midway through the first talk (Chickens for Beginners, including handling), but we did spend a bit of time coming backwards and forwards throughout the day to listen to advice on various chicken related matters. Roberts is clearly an expert but as the day wore on the talks moved away from the advertised itinerary and into more of a general Q&A/chicken holding demo. This was a bit frustrating for those of us considering chicken adoption as we didn’t really know what questions to ask. On the plus side they had lots of very pretty prize winning chickens and 2 really noisy turkeys there for everyone to ogle at. We did get some useful advice on how to keep chickens in the same place (big recycled rubber pellets on the ground, over a mesh membrane) and the type of chicken that would most suit our city garden (female Bantoms) and the best type of house for a small brood (a plastic one). I also got a signed copy of ‘Chickens, how to keep chickens at home.’ That’s one off the bucket list.  There was a whole host of poultry related stands and stalls, from houses, to feed, to vets. All in all the chicken section was very well catered for.

You look a bit Turgid to me.

The main seminar area was devoted to the art of vegetable growing and there was a jam packed itinerary of seminars focusing on a variety of things – from basic vegetable growing, to pest control and water consumption.  There was also an expert panel Q&A over the lunch period.  We were particularly interested in a talk entitled ‘Making the most of your vegetable plot’ by Christine Walkden (apparently another gardening celeb). Walkden was a very engaging speaker and able to keep the attention of both the novice grower and the more seasoned gardener.  She spent a full hour navigating us through seed selection, soil testing, watering, ripening, picking, right through to green manuring ready for the next year.  Whilst lots of it was common sense I found myself scribbling notes for the full hour.  There was an interesting moment in the Q&A when someone admitted to putting rogue slugs in their compost bin.  I think at that point half the room fainted.

Cookery classes with famous people that I didn’t recognise.

I’d like to say that we attended one of the cookery sessions but there was just so much to cram in to one day that Ed and I decided that we would forfeit the cookery seminars. It smelled and looked delicious, and it was pretty jam packed so I am guessing it was pretty good.

You got some HOT compost right there.

One of the things that interested us was a 30 minute demo on ‘Hot Composting.’ And yes, I did just write that sentence, and yes, my 18 year old self would be horrified. ANYWAY, the demo was being held by a company that have designed a compost bin that breaks down waste at a much faster rate (30-60 days) due to the heat/air ratio built within its composter design. We promptly lost interest when we saw the price tag (£185 for a normal size compost bin!) But the bin did do some neat stuff because of the heat it built up – for example you could put leftovers and diseased plants in there without penalty. If you are wealthy and in need of some compost, quick time, then this is the bin for you.

Grumpy tool, anyone?

Whilst there were lots of other talks we could have sat through we also wanted to make sure we had enough time to navigate our way around the 100+ stalls that sold everything from seeds and gloves to wind turbines and solar panels. There were stalls dedicated to soil, for example the Topsoil Company as well as North London Council who were showcasing their local composting facility. There were lots of seed companies and general gardening suppliers.  There was also an entire section dedicated to artisan foods (one lovely moment where Ed ate, and promptly spat out a piece of feta cheese in front of the horrified shop owner).  There were magazine stands and shoe stands as well as the National Trust, and the Chicken Welfare trust, and Wilkinson Sword (who knew they made garden tools!) The Grumpy Gardener was there selling Grumpy Garden stuff (he seemed quite chirpy). Importantly, there were a lot of yummy looking cake stands.  We resisted the temptation to buy anything ridiculous, although I did treat myself to a new pair of ratchet secateurs because the man dropped it to half price and I can’t say no to anyone or anything. A little panic and a quick Google revealed that they are actually a very decent pair, so I spent the rest of the day gloating and getting them out to look at. It has its own case. It’s red.

The Edible Garden Show obviously attracts all the big name gardening brands (VegTrug had quite a presence) but there was also some great independent initiatives, for example a school project where children had made a working greenhouse out of bottles which was very cool. We found that everyone we approached was friendly and more than willing to help us out. I think we would have benefited from a 2 day pass, just so we could get all the talks in and think a bit more carefully about our seed purchases, but we managed to cram most of it into one really fun and interesting day.

If you are interested in going next year, apparently you can register your email address on the website and they will send you information on how to get 50% off the price of the 2015 tickets (www.theediblegardenshow.co.uk)

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About Melody Askari

About to travel the world - if I can just get to the airport. View all posts by Melody Askari

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