The Urban Plot

Susan O’Brien Brady

Bio: Susan O’ Brien Dip. (Hort) Kew. Originally from a farming background I have lived permanently in the city for the past fifteen years, including three in London to complete the Diploma at RBGKew. “I can fully appreciate the gardener’s world no matter how big or small can yield in abundance.…..pure pleasure.”

It’s Thyme to compost those weedy gardening challenges, sprout fresh ideas and cultivate new conversation. I am here to answer any of your gardening questions in my new column and can’t wait to hear what’s up on your urban plot. Whether it is a flavourful home-grown harvest, or perhaps a leafy green flourishing, living space is your dream? Do you wonder if a terrarium styled pot is the indoor trend for you? Email me, ‘Gardener on Call’ with your reader queries at
Let’s dig in together here! 

It was many years ago at the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon, south west England that I was first introduced to the cultivation of gourmet mushrooms on freshly cut logs of birch, beech and oak. The basic process involves drilling dowels, inoculated with specific spawn, into the wood. Although new to me at that time, this method of growing, amongst many others, is well practised throughout Asia and the Far East where shitake and oyster varieties are familiar ingredients in daily cooking. Like many things the idea was put on the long finger. 

However in a recent role as horticultural trainer at the National Botanic Garden, Wales, I was asked to create a culinary growing display as part of a UK Fungus Day celebratory event. Much to the delight of the visiting public my cropping
collection of used books, bags of straw and pots of straw pellets proved a fun and entertaining
tasty looking spectacle. As light refreshment the use of brewed coffee grounds recycled from the on-site café and restaurant enthused the most – fuelling much thought and conversation around fresh food from food waste.

With this purpose in mind Growcycle in Exeter and The Espresso Mushroom Company in Brighton are viable,
successful enterprises working in partnership with their local coffee shops. More recently the Espresso team have merged with YMCA Newcastle. Together they form part of a social enterprise Urban Mushrooms with all profits benefiting young people. 

Back home in Dublin and eager to spawn some of these culinary delights, I have just kick started a counter top mushroom growing kit, in my galley style kitchen. Watching, waiting, wondering…..and wowing! You too can discover these easy to grow delicacies with similar kits readily available from Andrew Douglas’s Urban Farm in Dublin city centre, a truly commendable and exemplary food growing project.
See In future columns I hope to answer the reader’s gardening questions whether for kitchensills, allotments, urban growing or full gardens please email me any questions or discussions at