It all sounds so idyllic. Freshly grown organic produce, lovingly tended from seedling to fully formed and then straight onto the plate. Surely that’s the dream. Or is it?

Last summer, our Cornish holiday was basically ruined by my home-grown tomatoes.

I’d planted the seedlings at the start of June (the perfect time apparently) and then watched them flourish under my tender loving care. By mid-August I was rewarded with an abundant crop beginning to turn a very promising yellow-orange.

I secured the daily watering services of a neighbour’s son, giving him clear bullet point instructions and a key to the side gate. I walked him through the whole process several times before we left and asked him to WhatsApp me a daily report. I even encouraged him to send me the odd photo. I think he was glad to finally wave us off.

Ham & High: Shelley-Anne thought her tomatoes would be well cared for when she went on holidayShelley-Anne thought her tomatoes would be well cared for when she went on holiday (Image: Shelley-Anne Salisbury)

So, a fool-proof plan - or so I thought.

I hadn’t bargained for the hosepipe ban, announced just as we entered the village of Lostwithiel. I broke out into a sweat – quite hard to do in the temperamental Cornish microclimate where a cool breeze and the odd downpour seem to be an almost daily occurrence. Quite unlike north west London, where it remained stubbornly tinder dry.

In a panic I sent the poor boy on a futile quest for an old watering can I thought I’d left somewhere at the back of the garden. He couldn’t find it, so resorted to using a cracked flower pot found while scrabbling about under a hedge looking for the watering can.

The whole irrigation process would now take him at least 20 times longer, water trickling out through the cracks as he carried pots of water from the garden tap to the vegetable patch until the plants were sufficiently quenched (or not). His daily reports were painfully blunt: tomatoes still not red/stalks seem a bit floppy/leaves going slightly yellow. He stopped sending photos. I dreamt repeatedly of Joseph’s shrivelled ears of corn. Honestly, I just wanted to go home.

The journey back to London was long. Trepidation mounted. When I finally saw them, it was devastating. The depleted crop was sun-scorched and shrivelled. It was gutting.

The time for tomato planting has arrived once again. We are planning a week away in August and, frankly, I’m having flashbacks. I think I’ll leave it to the stalwarts this year.

  • Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News,