How to Grow Edible Plants in Your Kitchen Garden

Everyone has their favourite fruit and vegetables, but itˇŻs a general rule it is a good idea to grow things which are either relatively rare or expensive to buy. Vegetables in season are often cheaper to buy in the supermarket than to grow at home, so choose a few crops which are quick to mature and some with a long cropping period, such as courgettes, spinach and the more exotic varieties of lettuce or mixed salad leaves (cut-and-come-again). It’s possible to extend your harvest by staggering the times of sowing, ensuring that the crops ripen in succession and you don’t end up with a glut of one vegetable.

kitchen garden plants How to Grow Edible Plants in Your Kitchen Garden

If the garden is very small, grow herbs, fruit and vegetables in flower borders. Small plants, such as fluffy-headed carrots and leafy lettuces should be placed at the front of the beds, with delicate fronds of fennel and asparagus and the large leaves of rhubarb behind, and at the back of the border the tallest vegetables such as globe artichokes. Plant peas and beans to scramble up a fence or make a feature of cane wigwams for these and oilier climbers.

Many herbs, fruit and vegetables are so decorative that it is worth growing them on their own in containers so that their shapes and colours can be fully appreciated. Plant a frilly-leaved lettuce in a pot, or place a colourful miniature pepper plant as a centrepiece to a table. Courgettes are easy to grow and have glorious, trumpet-shaped, yellow blooms.

Be sure to include fruit and vegetables that children can smirk on, such as peas -which always taste sweetest when picked straight from the pod – and little cherry tomatoes. If you want a fruit tree in your garden, consider planting a Victoria plum tree as it is one of the easiest ones to maintain. Alpine strawberries are also an excellent choice. Plant these as edging to your vegetable beds then send the children off alter lunch to pick their pudding. They will lie happy for ages, searching for the delicious, succulent little fruit.

While tiny alpine strawberries may escape the full attention of birds it is unlikely that any soft fruit will be so lucky. So if you are planning to grow redcurrants, raspberries or blackcurrants and do not want to share the fruits of your labours with every bird from miles around then it is worth growing them in a fruit cage. These are simple constructions made of netting and posts which can be bought ready-made then taken down and stored at the end of the growing season. Check carefully from time to time to make sure that there are no tears or gaps in the netting as small birds can easily become trapped inside.

There are many new varieties of fruit that allow gardeners with even very small patches to enjoy picking their own. Look for dwarf trees and the very slim ballerina breeds. You can maximise space by training trees into fan shapes to grow against the house or as espaliers, cordons or step-overs to work as dividers within the garden.

Like fruit and vegetables, herbs demand a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil. Yet they are happy to grow among the flowers and plants in borders, with fruit and vegetables, alone in a formal herb garden or in pots on the patio.

Herbs are important for more than their flavours. Many have extremely pretty flowers and foliage, are wonderfully aromatic and attract all kinds of insects, especially bees and butterflies.

The most basic selection of herbs for the family garden should include rosemary, lavender, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. However, do try to and find space for coriander, oregano and basil, which all look extremely pretty as well as having a delicious fragrance and taste. Mint is very invasive, so if you want to include it in a border or herb garden plant it in a container sunk into the soil, to prevent the roots from spreading.

A formal herb garden adds a special touch to any space and can be quite small. Like European medieval monks, early American settlers grew herbs for medicinal as well as culinary purposes and favoured a simple square or rectangular shape intersected by a path in the shape of a cross and with an island bed in the centre. This may originally have housed a beehive, although nowadays a sundial or obelisk is more practical. Such a design could easily be copied in a space of no more than a few square metres or yards.

In the past herbs have also been used as dyes, and children can have great fun experimenting with these. Most people are familiar with the wonderful blue that comes from indigo, but less well known is that sorrel yields an unusual greeny-yellow dye whilst a good yellow comes from marigolds.

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