Gerald Stratford AKA the “Vegetable King” turned a Twitter sensation after sharing images of his outsized produce throughout 2020’s first lockdown.
The 72-year-old, who lives within the tiny village of Milton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire, initially joined Twitter in February 2019, on the encouragement of his buddies and stepson Steven, as a approach of connecting with fellow gardeners.
However he turned one thing of an internet movie star after a cheery tweet about his first early rocket potatoes of the yr went viral.
“My cellphone simply stored buzzing, and I wasn’t certain what was happening, I phoned Steven and he stated ‘you’ve simply gone viral!’” Stratford says of his social media second.
“Inside two days I acquired one thing like 9,000 followers. And for that one block of two pictures, I acquired one thing like 72,000 likes.
“And it’s grown from there. I feel it is at about 230K, which is unbelievable.”
It’s not tough to see why Twitter has fallen in love with Stratford.
From his proud photos displaying off his prized veg, to his cheerful dungarees and his encouraging responses to the gardening questions he receives, Stratford is the sprinkle of positivity all of us want proper now.
He takes his function as Twitter’s new gardening darling fairly significantly.
When Stratford first began his account, he solely spent a couple of minutes on Twitter every day. Now, he spends 4 or 5 hours a day posting pics of his produce and offering inspirational recommendation to wannabe growers as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
“It’s taken over my life,” he jokes.
Although he loves the engagement along with his followers, Stratford admits to generally feeling the stress.
“It’s good, however it’s additionally worrying, you already know, as a result of I don’t need to let anyone down,” he says.
Stratford partly attributes his rising follower rely to a rise in individuals searching for solace in gardening because the coronavirus pandemic continues to rumble on.
“I feel by lockdown, increasingly individuals have taken it up as a little bit of a interest,” he explains.
“It’s one thing to do, one thing to maintain your thoughts ticking over. If you’re doing one thing exterior, whether or not it’s simply strolling up the backyard and again. It’s higher than festering in entrance of the tv – it’s bodily rewarding, in addition to mentally.
“And the texture good issue of seeing the whole lot develop. You water it and it grows a bit extra, after which it involves the harvest.
“To see one thing you’ve got truly produced your self is the very best feeling and the style is second to none. Higher than any grocery store.”
Stratford’s unwavering positivity is little doubt a draw to these on the lookout for mild in more and more darkish instances.
“I simply need to let individuals know we’re in a really darkish time in the mean time and, you already know, we are able to come by it, we actually can if we simply all stick collectively and do issues and be constructive,” he provides to emphasize the purpose.
Stratford has been gardening his complete life. When he was a boy, his father gave him a small piece of floor, no larger than a desk, and a few radish seeds. The “really feel good issue” of seeing one thing he’d truly produced after which was capable of eat, stayed with him.
Then when his father died, when Stratford was simply 19, he and his siblings took up the mantle of gardening.
Now, the previous fisherman has a big backyard subsequent to the house he shares along with his companion Elizabeth, who he credit for correcting his social media posts, and two allotments close by the place he grows his internet-famous greens.
Sooner or later he hopes to put in writing a e-book on how you can develop large veg “Gerald’s approach” and he’d additionally like to provide a extremely large onion, a ten pounder to be exact.
“I’ve acquired an ambition to develop a monster onion in the future,” he says. “Watch this house!”
Within the meantime you’ll discover him over on Twitter, answering everybody’s gardening questions and making the world that little bit cheerier.
Learn extra: Easy ways to get children into gardening
Stratford’s ideas for newbie gardeners
Little and infrequently
I get loads of questions from individuals asking ‘how do I begin?’ and I all the time inform them to not strive doing the whole lot directly. Begin with one thing small, like radish, lettuces or potatoes, and see it by to fruition.
Suppose exterior the plant field
There are loads of greens you’ll be able to develop in containers on small balconies or in small areas. Even in case you stay in a flat, in case you’ve acquired a windowsill, you’ll be able to nonetheless develop issues. One bucket with one potato planted in it will provide you with sufficient potatoes for every week’s meals.
In addition to conventional gardening, I plant issues in buckets, troughs, milk cartons, water bottles. If my companion Elizabeth asks me to take a bag of garbage to the recycling bin. I’m going by it to see if there’s something in there I can use as a planter. Grape cartons and mushroom cartons are nice for planting seeds in.
Know when to take day trip
in case you get annoyed, at say digging your piece of floor, put the fork within the shed and go and do one thing else. You’ll be able to all the time come again to it. Don’t make your self in poor health. Gardening’s not about making your self in poor health, it’s about making your self properly.
Be affected person
Rome wasn’t in-built a day. For those who’re new to gardening, simply perform a little bit at a time. Learn as a lot as potential, purchase a primary e-book, nothing too difficult, or learn the again of the seed packets. Each packet of seeds can have directions on how you can develop the produce, so simply observe that.
Hold a gardening diary
I’m a agency believer in conserving a diary. Every part within the backyard, the greenhouse, the allotment is documented in my diary and I can fall again on it for reference. It’s actually helpful to jot issues down, even one thing so simple as ‘I planted carrots at present’. In a yr’s time you’ll have forgotten what day you’d planted them, however you’ll have it there in your diary. A scrap of paper will do. It stops frustration syndrome kicking in.
In addition to having the ability to commerce gardening ideas, which is able to assist breed confidence, making buddies with different gardeners will imply you’ll be able to swap seeds or produce. I’ve acquired buddies across the nation who ship me seeds and I’ll ship them seeds or a jar of chutney in return.
Don’t fear if issues don’t go to plan
A packet of radish seeds may say to plant them 2cm deep however in your enthusiasm you might need executed it 3cm deep. You might need learn they are going to be up in 14 days however in case you planted them just a little bit too deep these 14 days could be 20 days. So be affected person and take a look at to not get annoyed.
And if all else fails simply “be a part of Twitter and speak to Gerald”.