Lettuce, Brassicas and Beets – Photo by Carly & Art
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is both a challenge and a pleasure – it can be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do, and it’s also a fantastic way to create a productive but beautiful garden.
Walled Kitchen Garden Inspiration
A kitchen garden, or potager (from the French) is a fantastic thing – it produces food for you to eat, keeps you occupied on long summer days (whilst you harvest, freeze and pickle) and looks beautiful at the same time. A pretty and productive plot will take some looking after and planning though.
Perhaps the best way to start your ‘grow your own’ journey is to visit other successful kitchen and herb gardens. Either in person – look at National Garden Scheme properties in your local area to find some – or look for inspiration from regular garden bloggers and experts who have plenty of advice to share.
Many of the English kitchen gardens on old properties are walled – which offers a variety of benefits, mostly giving shelter, extra heat, and an opportunity for climbing vines to thrive. Many of these gardens are still in working order, and have grapevines or figs on the walls as well as many beds full of various plants (often to cater for a cafe or restaurant on site, instead of the large family and working staff it used to feed). Some English country houses may even have an orchard filled with many different varieties of apples, pears or cherries.
Victorian and Wartime Garden Ideas
‘Dig for Victory’ – A recreation of a wartime victory garden – Photo Courtesy: Yaffa Phillips
Much inspiration can be gained from reading about gardens in the Victorian and wartime periods – both eras of bountiful fruit and vegetable growing! If you have access, do check out the old BBC series, The Victorian Kitchen Garden, which was filmed at Chilton Foliat and features the head gardener Harry Dodson; it is full of useful practical information and horticultural tips.
Wartime gardens from the early 20th century were also very productive – even though gardening was born of necessity, it was also made popular by the government slogan ‘Dig for Victory’, which made it seem heroic too. There are many manuals and guidebooks to discover from this period of history, and thankfully the way in which we grow plants on a family scale has not changed since then!
Kitchen Garden Planner
When starting discussions for this year’s allotment or kitchen garden, start by writing a list of what vegetables you want to grow and how many. Then set about drawing up a plan of how you will lay it out, taking into consideration where things were grown last year, and the laws of rotation. Or, use an online planting map, like the one from Grow Veg.
Consider height when writing out your vegetable garden design and layout, and think of access too and proximity to water. It is also important to take into consideration formal ornamental features you may desire, or pretty flowers you might want to add to make gardening even more enjoyable, and practical structures, such as a trellis or raised beds that may need to be built before planting begins.
Indoor Herb Garden
If you wish to grow your own organic herbs at home, or throughout the year, creating your own indoor herb garden is a very practical solution for most people – and is a possibility for those living in apartments too. It offers the ability to give your cooking so much more flavor and fun, so it’s worth trying out.
Even if you live in the country and have a substantial garden, you may still wish to grow herbs indoors to fill the house with beautiful aromas or even to avoid pest attacks. With all your herbs growing indoors, you could imagine you were living in a Provencal French country home too – very rustic and shabby chic.
To create your indoor herb garden, start by creating a space near sunlight in a window, and then list down your favorite herbs – then purchase some containers (or old vintage tins would look very European), add some compost and sprinkle on the seeds (or plug in the pre-grown plant).
Making the Most of your Produce
Creating preserves and pickles with a glut of produce is fairly easy to do with practice and the correct tools. It is no secret that most years you will have a bumper crop or two (especially if you are growing tomatoes), or that some produce will grow faster than you can eat (especially courgette/zucchini). So, what are you to do with all the extras?
Well, turn them into enjoyable edibles you can consume all year round, of course! Try dill cucumbers, sauerkraut, jams and jellies using wild hedgerow produce, roasted tomatoes, garlic peppers, chutney, ketchup, etc.
There is nothing better than food grown with your nurturing skill and aid; it tastes better and is far more rewarding than driving to the supermarket. It is Eco friendly too, and all that fresh air is bound to do your health wonders!