Everyone loves a day out at a country show or a village fete and a staple of both is the flower and vegetable show. For home owners dreaming of escaping to the country these fetes on village greens up and down the land may represent the rural idyll, but don’t be fooled.
Written by Lisa Proffitt | 30th May 2019
Growing your own: Top tips on how to create a kitchen garden
Competition to be crowned Best in Show is fierce and not for the faint hearted. If you like a challenge and have your eye on the prize, here are some top tips for first-time vegetable growers on how to create a kitchen garden.
- Get to know your garden. With any new garden, especially when you’re growing food, you have to work out what you’re dealing with. Every garden will have a certain type of soil, will be exposed to different amounts of sunlight and have its own pests and these factors all determine what you can successfully grow. If you live out in the sticks and enjoy deer roaming around your garden at night, bear in mind that they will nibble on everything you plant. So will free range chickens.
- Read a book. “Grow Your Own Vegetables” by Joy Larkcom is for many a vegetable grower’s bible. Joy is to vegetable growing what Mary Berry is to baking. If you only buy one book, buy hers. Online information and advice could have you rooted to your tablet for days, so ration the amount of information sources you look at, then roll up your sleeves and use them all as a guide.
- Grow what you love. It sounds obvious, but if you’re new to the grow your own game, plant what you like to eat. You could nurture a whole crop of beetroot, but if it’s not a family favourite, are you going to use it? Then again, you could make the most of a beetroot crop and become the most popular person in your family at the same time by making this delicious chocolate sponge cake which has beetroot as the magic ingredient.
- Salad Days. If you have limited space or want to encourage children to get involved, cut-and-come-again salads are a great way to start. This means that once you have sown, grown, and harvested your first crop of leaves, they will grow again with minimal effort, which is particularly rewarding for junior growers who can run out of patience and enthusiasm quickly. Lettuce, spinach and chard are ideal but any leafy vegetable can be grown in this way.
- Start small. It’s tempting to get carried away and before you know it you’ve fast forwarded in your head to self-sufficiency and an end to the dreaded supermarket shop. Scale back your plans first time around and start small. Become an expert on a smaller number of crops before you up-size.
- Experiment. If you’re planning to grow potatoes get a few varieties and try them out. They vary massively in flavour so experiment to find the right one for you. You’re putting in a lot of spade work to grow them so make sure you’re going to want to mash, boil or bake them.
- Growing Herbs. In the wild herbs are hardy plants and in a garden they will thrive with minimal care. It's a myth that all herbs like Mediterranean sunshine, basil for instance likes partial shade at midday. So when planning a herb garden divide your plants into two sections, those like thyme, sage, rosemary, French tarragon and oregano that like full sun; and those that like partial shade, such as rocket, sorrel, mustard, parsley and chervil. If you’re inspired to grow herbs, The Chelsea Physic Garden in London is well worth a day trip. It has incredible displays of growing herbs and you’ll come away an expert on their medicinal uses too.
- Visit inspirational kitchen gardens. National Trust properties across the country have wonderful walled gardens, orchards and vegetable gardens to take your breath away. There are plenty to choose from across the Michael Graham region. Head to www.nationaltrust.org.uk to find the one closest to you. Woburn Abbey also has a stunning kitchen garden which will be inspiring visitors during the Woburn Abbey Garden Show on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd June. Click here to enter our competition to win VIP tickets to the Show. We hope to see you there!
Do you have a kitchen garden? We’d love to see your pictures. You can find us across all of social media, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter and for all Michael Graham properties to buy or to rent click on the Property Search button on the website where you’ll find the three gorgeous homes below.
Duncote, Towcester, Northamptonshire, NN12 8AL
5 Trevithick Lane
Shenley Lodge, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK5 7EE