Soho's Secret Gardeners: Cavit of Soho Dairy

High above Soho’s busy streets lies a serene panorama of plants. Affectionately known as “Costa del Soho,” this garden is home to over 14 different varieties of fruit and vegetable plants and fragrant flowers growing on the terrace of an urban flat.

There are vivid fuschias, bright petunias and begonias hanging on the rails, dahlias, and multi-coloured climbing roses; a dazzling sight accompanied by the fragrance of the fruit trees that grow around them.

Sweet peas growing up poles with bright pink and purple flowers

Above: sweet peas growing in the garden

This is Cavit’s garden, a well-known member of Soho Dairy in Berwick Street Market, who has been growing plants here since 1998.

We met with Cavit on a rainy morning over a coffee at Flat White while he showed us photos of his garden and cultivated crop at different times of the year.


Name: Cavit

Location: Soho, just off Peter Street

Cavit’s experience of gardening started when he was young, growing up on a farm back home in Turkey with a family of experienced farmers. His brothers still look after a large 8-acre farm.

Cavit in the garden with the cherries growing behind him

Above: Cavit in his garden


Why do you like gardening?

Cavit: Gardening is so relaxing. I can spend hours in the garden; you don’t realise the time goes so quick. I like to sit, have a coffee or tea and a cigarette, enjoy a breakfast out there in the morning or a summer BBQ with family and friends.

In soho, Cavit has a Loquat tree (also known as New World Fruit). First grown from a stone 16 years ago, it took 6 years before it first bore fruit. Thanks to his green fingers, the tree has enjoyed a fruit harvest over the last couple of years.

He has a Cherry tree, currently blossoming, which brings the bumble bees and butterflies to the garden. The fruit will begin to come out from June and July onward.

A cherry harvest and cherries growing on the cherry tree

Above: A cherry harvest (left), cherries growing on the tree (right)

This may already sound like a lot of fruit trees, but we’re just getting started! There are raspberries, strawberries, mint, peppers, and even a cauliflower (once – it didn’t grow very big). Cavit says he tries everything!

 Strawberries growing In the garden and peppers

Above: a rambling strawberry plant (left), peppers growing in the garden (right)


What is your favourite plant in the garden?

Cavit: The apple tree - it smells so nice in the summer.

The apple tree produces large “Golden Delicious” apples, and is about 18 years old. A scented pear grows in the same pot, planted at the same time. This saves space in the garden but also helps yield more fruit, as apple and pear trees are great companion plants.

When new shoots come out, Cavit prunes them to keep the apple tree small. Pruning stimulates new growth and encourages a larger harvest.

Golden delicious apples grow in the garden, with what they looked like as blossom for comparison

Above: Golden Delicious apples growing in Cavit's garden (left), the apple blossom (right)

 A soil tip: salt stops the slugs!

What is the one gardening tool that you couldn’t live without?

Cavit: My hands. I don’t use a shovel, or tools. I’ve got them but find that I don’t use them, as all of my plants are in pots.

Growing so many successfully producing fruit trees and vegetable crop on an urban flat’s balcony might seem an unbelievable feat (we were continually shocked photo after photo of delicious fruit Cavit showed us).

Tomatoes grown in the garden by secret gardener Cavit from Soho Dairy

Above: a tomato harvest

There are also some tomatoes that Cavit didn’t plant; they self seeded in a pot last year. But as the weather started to get colder they didn’t ripen, and frost killed the plant. Cavit collected all the green tomatoes and ripened them indoors.

“These are the best tomatoes you can see in Soho,” he laughs, “but they’re not for sale!”

Tomatoes growing in a planter on the balcony, covered in net

Above: the tomatoes grow in planters protected by a net tunnel to keep hungry visitors away

Certainly a very green-fingered gardener, Cavit has developed a number of garden “hacks” which help yield produce.


How to grow an unlimited spring onion

You will need: a 5L plastic water bottle, compost (Cavit gets his from the B&Q on Old Kent Road - if you’re in Soho then bus 453 is a direct route from Piccadilly), spring onion bulbs. 

How to grow an unlimited spring onion using a water bottle and spring onion bulbs

Above: Cavit's device for growing spring onion

Cavit explains that he made about 50 holes in a large, 5L plastic water bottle with a soldering gadget (but a drill would work too). Fill the bottle with compost, and plant the small bulbs so they face outwards, as this will allow them to grow through the holes. He recommends doing this at the end of April.

To water, take the cap off a smaller water bottle, fill with water and place it inverted so the tops of the bottles touch. A smaller bottle is key here, as it will water the bulbs slowly and not flood them out of the compost. If needed, you can repeat the process.

Harvest the green stalks and they will regrow about 3-4 times. Enjoy in a green salad or omelette!

Raspberries and strawberries grow on the roof of this Soho garden

Above: Cavit's raspberries (left) and strawberries (right)


Are there any other plants that you want to grow?

Of all the fruits and beautiful trees Cavit has grown in his garden, we wondered if there were any that he hadn’t grown already.

Cavit: I got Kumquat tree that last year didn’t produce any fruit - maybe it needs a bigger pot. It’s maybe 5 years old - I’ve had it for 5 years but not sure how old it was before I got it!


Plums grow on the tree

Above: Last year Cavit's plum tree grew fruit for the first time, and is now a year old. 

Now that it’s Spring, what’s next in your garden?

Do you have any big jobs that you need to do or any new plants that you want to bring in?

Cavit: First of all, I need soil. Without soil I can’t do anything at the moment! I’m going to get some general purpose compost, as some of the plants need their soil freshening up.

I’ve collected old eggshells which can be smashed into a paste and buried inside the soil where the roots are. This gives goodness to the plants.

Cavit's rooftop garden in Soho, as seen in the Spring after pruning

Above: Cavit's rooftop garden in Soho, as seen in the Spring after pruning

Cavit tells us that he used to live in Covent Garden, where there was a communal garden. He carefully split a cutting from the Dwarf Fig tree there, which now grows in his garden in Soho. It will benefit from a soil refresh.


Figs growing on a tree in Cavit's garden

Above: Figs growing on the Dwarf Fig tree in Cavit's garden  



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With thanks to Cavit for sharing images of his beautiful garden. You can find him at @SohoDairy