Thursday, 24 February 2011

Definitive Design for 2011 Kitchen Garden

My mind is made up. After weeks of fastidious pondering, the design for this year’s kitchen garden is final. Hopefully, it will be successful as I have (be it possibly presumptuous) included perennial vegetables (Rhubarb, Horseradish, Asparagus, Welsh Onion, Elephant Garlic and Artichokes) for longevity. Apart from long term structure and delectable produce; these plants provide lovely foliage and allure.

2010 Kitchen Garden
Last years design was very simple, linear, using solely the plant varieties, bean wigwams and hazel pea sticks for height to make up the structure. Lovely as it was, this year the plan is more ambitious. For 2011, the plan is a Parterre type design, although without the Buxus hedging. The vegetables will both fill out the beds as well as the borders, which will mean bulk planting and in some cases, planting them closer together to achieve the desired look. A set of strategically placed Rhubarb plants will be used to create the central focus points, from which beds and narrow paths will run. Paths will just be covered with bark/wood chippings for easy maintenance. Height will again come from charming bean supports and hazel sticks. Only yesterday a fellow blogger kindly suggested the Villandry Kitchen Garden in France for inspiration, which helped to confirm my (admittedly reticent) confidence in the design. For added effect, colour and additional insect attraction, a row of Sedum Spectabile Brilliant and hedge of Lavender Angustifolia Elizabeth  have already been planted. The Lavender follows the planting of the rest of the walled garden, which is crucial.

To visualise the design, I road tested the online Garden Planner Design software. Despite it being a useful and user-friendly tool, I decided against taking on the annual subscription. We are meticulous in our planting, which admittedly, means that the measuring tape makes a frequent appearance, but I still prefer to manually draw the plans. Perhaps one day, it may be worth looking into this software again, although for the moment I prefer the old route.

In terms of planting, last years experience is the guide for this year exploits. Look no further than what worked last year, favourites, not so popular etc. For example, contrary to heightened expectation, my generous perpetual spinach planting was alas superfluous and could have made space for other goodies. Our most popular veggies;
  1. Chard Bright Lights 
  2. Beetroot Cylindra 
  3. Charlotte potatoes 
  4. Lettuce – Various red and green picking varieties
  5. Runner Beans White Lady 
  6. Beans – Borlotto Sanguino Climber, French Bean Trionfo Violetto, Yellow Runner bean: Cornetti Meraviglia di Venezia, Snow Pea Gigante and Broad Beans
  7. Kale; Cavolo Nero, Red Bor and Dwarf Kale
Chard deserves to be a more popular vegetable, being not just terribly tasty, but delightfully beautiful. Not at all fussy, easily sown direct into our heavy clay soil. Remarkably slugs, nor caterpillars seemed the slightest bit interested to devour it, which meant that it remains looking good throughout its long season. This year therefore, no spinach, but instead two types of Chard will grace the veg patch; Chard White Silver and last years successful Chard Bright Lights.

Potatoes! How often does one hear the rather flat, “It’s not worth it, they are so cheap to buy in the supermarket” argument, but my goodness are they fun and so delicious. There is nothing like the anticipation in digging up the generous heaps of golden nuggets for the pot. That reminds me, must look into a potato fork, as I sadly did (accidentally) brutally spear some of the better specimens, which is just heart breaking. They turned out as was promised on the tin; delicious. They did tend to break up easily when boiling, so go steady, but just delicious to eat. The plant itself is attractive, with lovely lilac flowers and did not seem take umbrage with our heavy soil, nor their being partly planted in semi-shade. This years potato exploits will be tripled to include; Pink Fur, Nicola and Cara. I hope the actual plants have the same nature and appeal as that of the Charlottes, but that remains to be seen. Our new specimens are gently chitting as we speak, which incidentally takes much longer than I had ever thought. Sadly, patience I have but in short supply…

Kale deserves a mention. Just stunning in the kitchen garden, delicious, nutritious and generous beyond the call of duty, seeing one, long into the winter season. We planted Cavolo Nero, Red Bor and Dwarf Kale in adjacent rows, which was beautiful. The dark Cavolo Nero leaves really set off the Red Bor and the lighter green of the Dwarf Kale. Mind the eagle eyed pigeons on the young plants, they were only too eager to make their mark. Later in the season, I did have the odd caterpillar problem, but as there was enough for all, so it was not too much of an issue.

So this year, will see the return of the 2010 most popular veg expanded with additional varieties. For example, I am keen to try some of the more exciting beetroot varieties; Boltardy, Chioggia and Brupees Golden. Asparagus will see a comeback in the chosen varieties; Gijnlim, Backlim and eagerly anticipated Purple Passion. Although, they are not expected to make an impact for some years to come. Hopefully they will like their new home, as the rest of our soon to be sown and planted treasures….

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