Upton's Kitchen Garden
In the heart of the ornamental garden at Upton, you’ll find the Kitchen Garden which originally supplied produce for the family. Vegetables and soft fruits are planted in rows on the steep slopes of the terraced garden, surrounded by the colourful herbaceous borders.
Brief history of the kitchen garden
An early plan from 1774 shows that there were 12 small rectangular plots set across the slope which was traditional for the period; these would have been easy to cultivate and manage, with labour being abundant at the time.
This was later changed to how it is today; the produce garden was reduced in size when the Bearsteds purchased the Estate. They set about moving the forcing frames and glass house from this area to make way for more herbaceous planting and enclosed the area with the Yew hedges. The productive area was kept in the same place as it yielded a good harvest on the south facing slope.
A few unusual varieties
Look out for the trained Japanese Wineberry growing on the lower slope. The fruits are small and shiny and the canes are covered with soft red bristles giving a strong autumnal colour.
Globe artichokes when in tight bud can be picked, peeled and the choke eaten raw or cooked. This was quite a fashionable choice in the 1930s. After fruiting they burst into bright purple flower heads attracting bees and visitors alike due to their enormous size.
What’s growing this year
A broad selection of soft fruit and annual vegetables are grown most years. Planting and sowing starts from mid-April when the soil starts to warm up and in time for the produce to be carefully harvested when the family were at home from July to September . Two thirds of the produce is harvested for both the seasonal menus and to purchase. The remaining third shows off the produce through the seasons.
Pick up a leaflet showing the layout and plant names of the produce growing. These can be found in the back hall of the house, near the garden entrance, or ask at the timed ticket hut.
Spot the companion planting of nasturtiums and French marigolds planted amongst the vegetables - their scent deters pests away from the growing vegetables but they also attract predators and pollinators.
The natural growing of pollinator plants and shrubs on a nearby border helps with the pollination of the Kitchen garden produce and acts as a wildlife corridor attracting insect pollinators into the gardens.
Check out Upton's Aster Collection, laid out alphabetically at one entrance to the Kitchen Garden. Some Asters can be in flower from the end of July until the end of October. Best to come towards the end of September the best displays.