I live in urban Tyneside and I only have a concrete backyard but I am, at heart, a frustrated gardener. Hope triumphs over experience and most years I attempt to grow some vegetables. I am invariably seduced by those plant and seed catalogues that show strawberries spilling out of special pots and mega crops of potatoes being harvested from plastic dustbins. Every spring I plant my runner bean seeds and, if I’m feeling particularly optimistic, I also try chillis, maybe some tomatoes and even exotics such as peppers. I have planted courgettes in grow bags (they dry out in an instant) and butternut squash in a plastic container (they can’t grow quickly enough to beat the Tyneside non-summer). In an exceptional year my tomatoes have produced a dozen or so fruits that I have to persuade to ripen in a paper bag. Each one probably costs me as much as buying a pound in the supermarket, if I take account of the compost and fertiliser. My chillis don’t do so badly, as long as I expend maximum time and effort, lifting the pots indoors on cold nights (which is most nights on Tyneside) and shifting them into the best spots whenever the slightest ray of sunshine appears (which has been very seldom this year). My runner beans provide many good meals for the slugs and snails and this welcome nourishment seems to boost their population faster than I can pick them off. However many I stamp on during my after-dark raids (and heaven knows what our neighbours think about the cursing that floats over the wall each evening) there are always plenty more to take their place. Consequently, autumn usually finds me sad and disillusioned. So I do have sympathy with those farmers that I follow on Twitter, struggling with the vagaries of the British climate, particularly in this year of drought and flood. Their problems are obviously on a vastly different scale from mine. But when the catalogues arrive in a month or two I know that my hope will spring eternal. In the face of climate change and economic pressures, it must be so much more difficult for our farmers to feel the same optimism.