The Vegetable Garden
What food to grow? Are you growing vegetables next year if so now is the time to plan something different…not your normal cabbage and carrots.
+ rollover to enlarge. click to zoom
January and the seed catalogues are now out – so while the garden is not demanding all your time – take the opportunity to sit down and enjoy choosing your vegetable seeds; with so many varieties available it pays to think carefully.
People often make the mistake of choosing to grow things they can buy cheaply at the supermarket – this year grow something different that’s either hard to find or too expensive to buy regularly. How much money do you spend on buying salad bags, probably a small fortune over the summer but if you sow seed every few weeks you can have a continual supply of really tasty leaves well into Autumn.
It doesn’t matter how much space you have either, use any container from an old dustbin to grow potatoes to olive oil cans for fresh herbs. Ideally you would have three growing beds, so you can rotate your crops, not growing them in the same place each year to get the best yield.
The choice is inspiring – especially if you love food like me, then gardening and cooking seem to go hand in hand, so I’m trying:
• Pea Serge – best for pea shoots
• Courgette ‘Trombomcine’ – a climbing version with long curved fruits, good grown over a pergola.
• Kale ‘Cavalo Nero’ - the Italian chef’s favourite greens, fantastic cooked simply with olive oil and garlic.
• Chili ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ – not too hot; use what you need during summer then dry the remaining fruits, crumble into a kilner jar and store.
• Nasturtium ‘Black Velvet’ - some edible flowers for my salads.
• Borlotti beans – eat either the young pods or the beans cooked in winter stews
Saturday morning saw me at Oxford Botanic Gardens for a talk by Paulo Arrigo called from Seed to Plate – titled as is his current book of the same name. Anything that ties together my two favourite things in the world – gardening and food is always worth a listen especially if tasting is involved which it was here. Apart from getting a good deal on seeds which were on display – the information gleaned from listening him talk was invaluable. I learned about the different varieties of seed, along with recipes developed over the years to suit each particular variety. So choose to grow the variety based on what you want to do with it – juicy sweet tomatoes for eating in salads and thin skinned fleshy tomatoes for cooking. For more details and a catalogue on Franchi seeds – visit www.seedsofitaly.com
Consider the layout of the beds – locate them in a position with as much sunlight as possible. If you decide to have raised beds then this certainly helps to contain the soil, improves the drainage and warms up earlier so crops get a better start. It’s also easier to protect the crops from slugs and to setup protection against birds.
Divide the beds up so that you do not have to walk on to the soil and compact it. Several smaller beds with paths 500mm in between gives better access – if the beds are a maximum of 2 metres wide then you can reach into the middle of each. They do not have to be rectangular they can be any design L-shaped or circular but when you are designing their shape and numbers consider crop rotation. For more information check out the RHS website for advice. http://www.rhs.org.uk/