Those of you who follow my social media posts will have noticed that last summer I was especially snap-happy with piccies from my new vegetable garden and that I am a constant devotee of the hash-tags #eatinseason and #eattherainbow.
I’m sure you’ll agree there is little greater reward than planting, nurturing and harvesting your very own home-grown produce. With my feet firmly on fertile soil, I feel grounded – it’s a chance for happy solitude, to de-stress with gentle exercise (or hearty, depending on the job!), to be creative, and to nourish oneself with real, wholesome foods. So it was with huge anticipation that my boyfriend and I moved to a new house in the country early last year (in deepest, west Wiltshire to be precise) and with it we’ve inherited the most beautiful walled kitchen garden – it sealed the deal for us!
The garden had been looked after by Andy who has faithfully been running it as an organic kitchen garden for many years and we were delighted when he agreed to stay on to help us. It is fair to say that Andy remains ‘head honcho’ in the garden but he has been wonderful in allowing me to tap into his extensive knowledge about the garden, its strengths and weaknesses, its history – and more relevant to us – how to plan its future. Of course, we are merely the caretakers of this wonderful garden and I feel a huge responsibility to ensure that it lives on.
It was our first summer there last year and due to lots of building and renovation work to the house and the rest of the garden, we were not able to merit the kitchen garden with the attention it deserved. Andy was a star and planted as much as he could given available time – but the harvests were overwhelming as so much came at once (even after sharing, freezing, juicing . . we were left with mountains of surplus supply). This year we are well prepared and, together with additional help from my boyfriend’s sister – the brilliant garden designer Alison Jenkins, we’ve arrived at a winning plan with much greater variety in the mix and more manageable quantities right through into next winter. We’ve even allowed space for some creative enhancement, too.
For me, there is little more important to our health and wellbeing than eating the very freshest, cleanest food we can buy – that means eating foods in season, preferably organic. The benefits are enormous: seasonal produce is tastier, fresher, richer in nutrients (and cheaper!). I understand that not everyone has the space to grow their own fruit and veg and if that’s the case, then there are now a growing number of excellent farmers’ markets or online stores that will deliver organic boxes. That said, even a small terrace, window-sill or doorstep has room for a pot of fresh herbs or a grow-bag for tomatoes. My friend has a postage stamp sized garden in central London but in it she has pots growing fennel, artichokes, lettuce, strawberries and herbs and she has bees and butterflies buzzing as if it were a meadow. Lovely! I really hope to inspire you over the coming months with lots of tips for growing fruit and veg in small gardens and pots.
‘EAT THE RAINBOW’
Partnered with eating in season is of course the huge benefit of eating the rainbow. Fruit and vegetables fall into five different colour categories: red, purple/blue, orange, green and white/brown with each group carrying its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals, over 25,000 of them. Phytochemicals are what gives food its vibrant colour and its nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more. Foods falling in the purple/blue group are the most beneficial to our health yet they are often the most lacking from our diets. I have made particular effort to ensure that my own garden can provide me with the full colour spectrum of produce but with a bias towards the purple and blue foods. For more info, check out my article here.
What are we planting this year?
So here is the list of what we plan to grow – with keen focus given to exploring wider, more unusual varieties (for enhanced flavour and optimum nutrients), maintaining more efficient and manageable quantities to avoid waste, and with a respectful nod to the future and how we’d like the garden / beds to evolve over the coming years. This is only my quick list – I shall post about specific foods and varieties as the season moves on:
- Purple spring onions
- Salad leaves – many different varieties
- Rainbow chard
- Lots of different varieties of salad leaves
- Carrots – Purple, Yellow and Orange
- Yellow and green courgettes. Last year we had the round yellow “balloon” variety but I found they often went soggy in the middle before I could eat them, so this year I’m sticking with the more traditional long courgettes in both yellow and green
- Tomatoes – black, blue, yellow, orange, baby and plum reds
- Indoor cucumbers (housed in the greenhouse)
- Shallots, yellow and red onions
- Purple, Golden & stripy “candy” beetroot
- Purple Mange tout
- Potatoes – blue, pink and baby salad varieties
- Sweet peas
- Beans – a few different varieties
Autumn / Winter
- Cavalo Nero (one of our stars from last year)
- Purple brussel sprouts
- Purple Mange Tout
- Broccoli (with another go at growing purple sprouting broccoli last year as the butterflies enjoyed most of it!)
- Squash and pumpkins – mixed varieties
- Indoor salad leaves such as rocket & mustard
Mixed in with the above, we’ll have the full offering of herbs which requires a whole post to themselves as they are so beneficial to our diets.
And NOT forgetting flowers – to encourage bees and butterflies and to allow me the joy of fresh flowers on the table 🙂