How to grow your own... wine

My Dad likes wine. He also likes making stuff. So one day he and a friend decided to see if they could make wine.

Luckily he lives in sunny California - where vines grow a bit better than here in South London.

As you can see, they got a bit carried away. My Dad and his friend Bill terraced the entire of the side of a hill next to Bill's house and covered it with vines. Then installed a bespoke irrigation system. It was a massive undertaking.

Until their vines start producing fruit they're buying in grapes and making wine in my Dad's basement. They have lab coats and everything. I sampled a bit, and it actually tastes pretty good. Definitely a step up from the beer he used to brew from a kit in a plastic barrel in our garage when I was growing up. That just tasted of the seventies - nasty.

I'm looking forward to sampling wine made from the fruits of his own vines. Something tells me they'll have plenty of it.


Our side border, or as we call it - the border of death

Digging the Border of Death from Tom on Vimeo.

Ever since we've been here this side border has been known as 'The Border of Death'. It's got our house on one side, and a fence on the other, so it basically never sees the sun. It's waterlogged in winter and bone dry in summer. It's where plants go to die.

So taking the advice of a very nice lady at the Chelsea Flower Show last year we decided to do the only thing we could. Improve the soil. So we built a new high wall of wooden railway sleepers, then ordered a tonne of topsoil and a tonne of compost to fill the new bed.

I spent an entire weekend shifting it onto the border without a wheelbarrow. Not the brightest of ideas - I could hardly move the following day. And to top it off, there wasn't quite enough soil. So there's more lifting and shifting to do. Combined with a sharp trim of the shrubs to get a bit more light, hopefully we'll have a fully functional new border. Now we just have to find some plants to fill it. But that's the fun bit...

The border as it was. Barren, and very unhappy.
Compacted, bone dry heavy clay soil.

First step - the railway sleeper wall.
The soil - arriving by crane.

Two bags. A lot of work. But worth it! See the video at the top for the end result.