The Kitchen Garden – making room for more veg
PUBLISHED: 12:42 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:42 14 April 2015
Belinda Gray’s guide to growing your own
Once the grow-your-own bug has gripped you there is no turning back.
You’ll find your horticultural eye casting over every possible space in the garden to sow a pack of seeds, plant up plug plants, build wigwam supports and train fruit branches along your sunniest walls.
We all have different growing space so whether it be increasing raised beds, digging up a field or planting up pots and hanging baskets – think about your growing space and making the very most of it.
Walls, borders, frames and pots
Vegetable and fruit crops require an open aspect, ideally with exposure to five or six hours of sunlight a day. Shade is not a disaster and green leafy crops like chard, spinach and salad leaves as well as beets, beans, broccoli and radish cope well with a shady site.
If there is space in your borders try planting amid non-edible plants as the great potager gardener Joy Larkcom always did so attractively. The vibrancy of red chard leaves, willowy foliage of Florence fennel and spiky leaves of the globe artichoke all look stunning in the herbaceous border. Try using path edges and borders for creeping herbs like thyme, Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) dwarf lavender and clumps of fragrant garlic chives – they fill gaps and happily self-seed.
Get out a compass and find north, then establish your south and west-facing areas. Accompanied with shelter these are optimum sites for fruit growing. You may not have wonderfully warm walls, but sturdy fence panels or trellis frames can host a profusion of well-trained fruit grown as fans, espaliers or cordons.
Source award winning and vigorous varieties from specialist fruit nurseries buying bare root for winter planting or more mature container-grown trees or bushes, to re-plant at any time of year. Dig in wooden posts and wire fencing along sunny paths – it’s amazing how many fruits like apples, pears, plums and greengages can be grown on closely spaced cordons.
I enjoy growing as many crops against supports as I can. It adds structure to the garden and the climbing French, Borlotti and runner beans look so pretty when in flower. Use willow, hazel or simple bamboo dug in deeply to avoid crashing over during a windy week. Mini squash and pumpkins of the trailing variety can be snaked upwards, as can the fabulous climbing courgette Trombocino, outdoor cucumber, and, of course, fragrant sweet peas.
Pots and containers are available in so many shapes, styles and sizes adding design interest to your garden. Most kitchen garden crops can be successfully grown in containers, although always follow a few simple rules.
Pots must be free draining, so ensure there are holes in the base. If not, perforate them yourself. Crocks or pebbles in the bottom also stop roots sitting in water, so add them as you fill up with a high fibre, multi-compost.
Pots can dry out with alarming speed on a warm, summer’s day. Line them with a thick layer of perforated plastic to minimize evaporation. Once plants are thriving, mulch the surface too, conserving moisture in the soil with a thick 5-10cm layer – a useful way to reduce watering.