When planning the new garden on the north side of Dovewood, I decided it should include a productive area we now call The Kitchen Garden.
Most of the garden has an edible aspect to it. We have the fruit trees, which we lovingly call the Orchard, (since 10+ trees constitutes an Orchard). There are herbs and Strawberries growing at the ‘feet’ of the fruit trees. The Nuttery……well…… two Hazels in the Woodland bed! And scattered through the rest of the beds you will find edible flowers as well as Honeyberries, Blackberries and Asparagus. There is also an Elderberry, which we are growing mainly for flowers (Elderflower Cordial), although we can use the berries too.
The Layout of the Kitchen Garden
The lower part of the garden (the construction of which you will find in this post) is where we have the raised beds. Two of them are next to the fence and are permanently planted with Loganberry, Boysenberry, Kiwi (Issai) and Asparagus. The main area for growing the vegetables has two large raised beds – approx. 8′ x 4′ – with a couple of small low boxes attached for companion planting.
I am not quite sure where I first heard about ‘Square Foot Gardening’ or as we now know it, ‘Square Metre Gardening’ (which are also known by the acronyms SFG or SMG). I did some research and came across a book written by Mel Bartholomew who, I believe, was the first proponent of this method of raising vegetables.
(Sadly the book is currently out-of-print)
Mr Bartholomew was a retired engineer and therefore, perhaps, someone used to examining the minutiae as well as the whys and wherefores of anything (in my experience!). He realised that to grow vegetables intensively by close cropping, intercropping and with staggered harvests, reduced the work, the weeds, and the gluts, in the Veg Patch. He writes about his theory clearly in his book Square Metre Gardening. This brilliant book goes on to lay out all the details simply and without fuss. Mel details how to work out how much area you really need to grow enough produce for your family, as well as how to set up the bed(s), the growing medium, and composting. Included in the book are detailed charts for Planting densities as well as a Plant directory.
SMG in practice
As you can see in my photo I have a wooden framework on one of the beds to help me plant by the square. Whilst the initial outlay for the timber for setting up the beds as well as the Multi-purpose compost, vermiculite and coir for filling them was high, it was re-couped by the savings I made growing our own Veg. You can read more about Square Metre Gardening in this Post
Part of the new plan was space for a Greenhouse. I have never had one before and so I made sure we could fit one into the new design. I hoped for a 7 x 7′ Aluminium frame, giving 49 sq. feet of growing space. It is slightly shorter than the standard 6×8 – and as we know, every bit of space counts in a small garden. However it would sit nicely in to the corner of the plot. So I was delighted to find one on eBay, second-hand, for just £50 and not too far away to collect! Having a Greenhouse enables me to start off my veg seeds, and overwinter some salad leaves. In Summer I grow Tomatoes, Peppers, Aubergines, and even bring on some early Strawberries.
So What to Grow in the Beds?
Aaah! Decisions, decisions! In some ways, it has been made simpler by the fact I have a family member who only eats about 5 types of veg. Three of which take up a lot of space, Potatoes, Cauliflower and Brocolli. The other two ‘likes’ being carrots and Brussel Sprouts. To make life a bit easier, I grow Potatoes elsewhere in the garden in planting sacks, although that means we won’t be self -sufficient in Spuds. You can read How To Grow Potatoes in Sacks here.
I have found a variety of Cauli that produces a number of small curds (heads) per plant. This is ideal for two to eat, and space saving. And the Broccoli? We decided that neither of us care that much for it and so dropped it off the “To Grow” list.
The rest of the veg choices are down to my personal preference. I grow Salad, Beetroot, Courgette, Peas, Onions, Leeks, Carrots and Parsnips. I have also grown Garlic and Shallots. The fine beans I have to be grown in another spot.