With the popularity of growing your own food soaring the kitchen garden has once more become a must have for gardeners. Here are our ten top tips for designing a kitchen garden.
1. Start with design
Start by forgetting about ordinary boring rows of vegetables and start getting creative with the space you have. A kitchen garden design should be a pleasure to work in as well as functional. Think about semi circular beds or a group of raised beds linked with fruit trees, or even arches, to grow climbers across.
The best location is one that gets 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day. Remember fruit and veg need lots of water so make sure your garden is near a water source. And always try to have a water butt to collect rainwater off sheds or glasshouse. Think about how much you will go there so a location near to your kitchen is handy especially for crops like salad leaves and herbs. You’ll also see what is ready to pick and what needs tending easily from your kitchen window.
3. How much space do you have?
It’s generally thought that 30 to 40 square metres is ideal to grow a wide range of crops but many of us don’t have that much space available. Even half that space will produce an abundance of salad crops and vegetable and even a few flowers such as marigolds which can also be beneficial for pest control and attract pollinating bees and beneficial insects like ladybirds.
4. Square foot gardening for really small spaces
I love square foot gardening for creating tiny kitchen gardens that produce lots of crops. It requires more intense planting and there are guidelines about soil to use and how to rotate crops but it’s well worth checking out one of the many books available on the subject.
5. Decide what do you need to grow
Ideally you should start with the basics such as salad crops, root vegetables like carrots and beetroot, legumes such as runner beans plus fancier vegetables like sweetcorn and rainbow chard. We’d also recommend a few more exotics these days especially the shrubs and perennials that don’t need purchasing every year such as cocktail kiwis from Suttons. And of course don’t forget herb plants and fruit bushes.
6. Space to relax
It’s just as important to enjoy the fruits of your labour but that also includes enjoying the garden to put your feet up and enjoy all the hard work you’ve done. Make sure you’ve a bench to sit on or even a table that doubles up as workbench AND eating area.
Remember your plants will spread onto the pathways so create some space around beds with a minimum width of 60cm to allow access, more if you have the space.
8. Put it out the front
One of the biggest trends in grow your own has been to ultilise your front garden to grow vegetables. Think about it, this area is often neglected and these days people are more likely to pave or gravel the space than to plant it. If you need a back garden for all the other parts of everyday life such as play equipment, entertaining, washing then your front garden might just be crying out for a productive garden.
9. Raising beds
When we think of kitchen gardens we think of raised beds because it’s the easiest way to plant. The ground will heat up faster, you’ll save on fertilizer and compost, reduce slug damage and you’ll add days to your growing. A simple 90cm wide bed also allows easy use of season extending covers and lets you access the beds easily. But, remember for some that gardening in raised beds can put an equal strain on your back and its as well to look at the advice from someone like Thrive (carryongardening.org.uk) before deciding your combination of raised and ground level beds.
10 Preparation, preparation, preparation
Like all good gardening the success of your kitchen garden will depend on the soil. A perfect soil should be freely draining, with plenty of organic material mixed in and a topsoil depth of about 300mm. Most edibles perform best in well-fed, well drained rich soil.
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