Some eight years ago I made the decision to give up on veg growing and gave up my allotment. It had been a love/hate relationship from the start for a whole raft of reasons and I have never regretted the decision. However, for some reason in the last couple of months I have had an inkling to try growing veg and fruit again but this time at home in my garden. This surprises me as I have never felt a desire to grow edibles at home. My garden isn’t huge, and being wide and sloping it doesn’t really have the option to have a veg garden at the end. But then why does the veg garden need to be at the end of the garden, hidden away?
I found myself digging out Geoff Hamilton’s Ornamental Kitchen Garden, one of the first gardening books I was given. I always remember being fascinated by the idea of mixing up veg and flowers in the garden but for some reason I have never really taken up the challenge. Now though, having gardened very little over the last two years, I see the garden with fresh eyes and I think why not, lets give it a go.
It started with a short list of a rhubarb plant, maybe an artichoke, and some potatoes. Nothing much, just things that could be incorporated into the borders and as my son said I do like good foliage and these plants all have nice foliage. The rhubarb went in about a month ago and this started more thoughts about what to grow. Maybe some raspberries, and of course a gooseberry bush as I love gooseberries. As I have a habit of crashing into projects and then regretting it, I decided to wait until I was back from Madeira to see if I still felt the same.
But Madeira just confirmed my thoughts. I was fascinated by their approach to growing edibles. The eastern side of the island is what is called the rural side of the island. Here, vegetables and fruit are grown in any space that seems to be available. The soil is rich and they plant crops close together, not in rows placed wide apart as we do on our allotments. I love the lushness and abundance and it got more thoughts going.
The result is that I have decided to really embrace growing edibles and instead of putting just one or two things amongst the flowers I am going to turn the big border in the middle of the garden over to edibles.
This border has always been a challenge for me. I’ve never really worked out what to do with it. I like borders to have a feel or a theme something that give them cohesion and this has never really worked in this border. The drainage in this border is very good due to the slope and there are quite a lot of bulbs planted at one end where they get baked in the sun and at the other end there are a number of hellebores that are thriving. But in between its all a bit of a mishmash,
So the plan is to slowly clear the border, leaving the planting at the two ends. There will be a row of raspberry canes along the top edge, set back a few feet from the grass path and the veg will be grown in small blocks following the principles in Geoff Hamilton’s book. As soon as something finishes, it is replaced with another crop. To help with this I was given a new cold frame for my birthday and this is already full of seedlings waiting to go out. I also managed to buy some raspberry canes, a gooseberry bush and some strawberry plants before the garden centre had to close due to the lock-down. I am stocked up with seeds and other essential supplies so hopefully this new project will give me some light relief to being working at home for the foreseeable.