The Kitchen Garden at Felbrigg – getting started

The Kitchen Garden at Felbrigg

Have you been thinking of growing your own? Felbrigg's Head Gardener shares her five top tips for getting started on your very own kitchen garden, and making the best possible use of your vegetable patch, whatever the size.

Top Tips
Rhubarb growing

Check the recommended spacing for the crops you want to grow

When the plants are small, it can often look like there will be 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.

A selection of vegetables grown in a kitchen garden

Grow what you actually like to eat

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.

Carrots in a wheelbarrow planted in a kitchen garden

Make the most of your space

Potatoes, while popular with the first time kitchen gardener, take up a lot of space, require a lot of water, and are hungry feeders so will deplete your soil. They are also 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 could be worth much more, giving you a greater return in terms of variety and value of crops.

A gardener working in a kitchen garden

Take a look at the seed content of the packet

When it comes to buying seeds, there are so many varieties of each type of vegetable to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones to pick. Make sure you take a good look at the seed content of a 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 is definitely worth a quick look to check!

Volunteers working in the walled garden at Felbrigg

Protect your produce

Once you’ve sown and planted out your vegetables, always make sure you allow them time and have the materials ready to protect them. At Felbrigg, we net our vegetables and build a sturdy frame - you shouldn't underestimate 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, but this can be more flimsy and does reduce the light levels, so I only recommend using it if your plants are in full sunlight and not planted out in a shaded location

Tina the Head Gardener at Felbrigg in the Walled Garden

Meet our Head Gardener - Tina Hammond

Find out what it takes to be the Head Gardener of a National Trust garden.