The Kitchen Garden – getting started

Gardeners harvesting the vegetables

Felbrigg's Head Gardener shares her 5 Top Tips for getting started on your very own kitchen garden, and making the best possible use of your vegetable patch, whatever it's size.

Top tip number 1

Check the recommended spacing for the crops you want to grow. When the plants are small, it can often look like there’s room for lots more, but seed suppliers know how large the plants will eventually grow.

New growers will often want to have a go at growing everything! The enthusiasm is understandable and refreshing, but crowding a large number of plants far too close is a mistake that those new to the kitchen garden often make.

Top tip number 2

Grow what you actually like to eat. For example, rainbow chard may be pretty and easy to grow, but often takes up space that could be used for something else with a nicer flavour and is good to eat.

Successional planting is usually a bit too much to think about for people new to the kitchen garden, it’s enough just getting your vegetable plot planted up once without thinking about sowing and growing on to replant after early crops.

Top tip number 3

If you want to get the most out of a small space its worth considering the ‘value’ of the crops you’re putting in.

For example, main crop potatoes: take up a lot of space, are hungry feeders so will deplete your soil, require a lot of water for a good crop, and are extremely susceptible to blight. Most people want to grow some potatoes but they are quite cheap to buy, and in the space taken up by a single row of potatoes you could sow a row of early carrots and plant a row of leeks, then when the carrots have been cropped, you could plant some ‘cut and come again’ lettuce.

In other words, the space in your kitchen garden given over to potatoes can be worth much more, giving you a greater return in terms of variety and value of crops.

Top tip number 4

When it comes to buying seed there are so many varieties of each type of vegetable to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones to pick.

Take a look at the seed content of the packet. For example, older varieties like carrot ‘Autumn King’ can have up to 1000 seeds in one packet at a cheaper price than newer varieties which may have as little as 300 seeds. Some caulis or cabbages may only have 12 or 30 seeds in a packet others may have 300, so it’s definitely worth a quick look to check.

Top tip number 5

Once you’ve sown and planted out your vegetables, always make sure you allow the time and have the materials ready to protect them.

Tender young brassicas, salads, peas and beans will usually not be okay “just for one night” - unless you are very lucky. Even if you have got netting around your plot to keep rabbits out, you need to protect vulnerable plants from wood pigeons. At Felbrigg, we net our vegetables.

When netting veg, always build a sturdy frame and make sure the netting allows for the crop at its full size plus some space. Never under estimate a determined pigeon! Not only will they peck your plants through the netting, they will bounce up and down on the top to push the netting close to the veg so they can peck it.

Certain plants like cabbages and kale are fine under a fleece netting. Fleece can be more flimsy and it does reduce the light levels so only use it if your plants are in full sun and not planted out in a shaded location, the massive advantage is it will help to keep off cabbage white butterflies, plus kale grown under fleece is ‘softer’ and more tender.

Need some inspiration? Why not visit our walled garden today and have a chat to one of the members of our garden team.