17 Jan 2021

Gerald Stratford: Big vege grower and Twitter star

From The Weekend with Karyn Hay , 10:07 am on 17 January 2021

A 72-year old vegetable gardener from Oxford, England is an unlikely Twitter star, but Gerald Stratford found online fame earlier this year when he started tweeting about his wonderful produce amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

Now he has more than 230,000 followers, and climbing.

He told Karyn Hay that what started as a small Twitter account suddenly took of when he put up a post about his container-grown potatoes.

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Photo: Twitter / @geraldstratfor3

“I started account in February 2019 because one or two friends who were gardeners said 'why don’t you get on Twitter Gerald?'

“So I did, and it just ticked over fine. I gained one or two followers, I followed a few people but very small - and then I posted a before and after photograph of a bucket of potatoes I’ve grown and it just kicked off from there.”

As well as growing using traditional methods, Gerald has embraced container growing.

“I grow lots of things in buckets and barrels and tubs because you can control them better, how much water you put in how much fertiliser, more than straight into the soil.”

He also has a penchant for growing big vege, three prize-winning carrots recently came in at one metre in collective length.

The success of his account he puts down to his positive attitude.

“Everything is nice about this. I’m a very positive person, I don’t do politics, or sport or religion because that stuff becomes so divisive, that’s not me.”

He believes this has particularly resonated with people struggling around the world last year.

“People just like what I do, because it’s not an act, it’s how I behave naturally - I smile. There’s an old saying; you smile and the whole world smiles with you, you cry and you cry alone”

Most of his vege is grown in his back garden, "a little bit bigger than a cricket square” at his bungalow. And he regularly posts how to videos and dispenses his years of gardening wisdom.

He has a large following in the US, especially among young Americans.

“I think this last year the world is a very sad place with Covid-19 and I think people see me as, you know, I have a happy face, I don’t do negatives, my glass is always half full and I think they’ve seen enough of horrible politics and doom and gloom and they see me as a light to make them happy. And long may it continue, because that is good medicine.”

Gerald is also known for snappy dress sense, particularly his suspenders.

“I’m a big man, I’m 6ft plus, and so I like to be comfortable and suspenders when I’m working make me comfortable.

“There’s nothing worse than when you’re digging the garden and your trousers are falling down.”

With two metal knees he says he "don’t do much kneeling".

“I don’t kneel, I’m like a giraffe I bend from the top down.”

He and his partner keep very busy he says, when not growing they’re pickling, preserving and making cider.

“We’re on the go all the time. In the summer months I’m up at four in the morning, I love that period of earliness.

"When the day becomes too hot we can chill out in the afternoon.”