Get creative with edibles
Plan your potager garden now for crops next year. Helen Billiald shares her advice
Plan your potager garden now for colourful crops next year
There’s been a seismic shift in gardening over the past two decades. Where once we decided to have either a veg patch or an ornamental garden, or perhaps a formal potager, now people are fusing them all into a single attractive melting pot that’s as good for the soul as it is for the stomach. If you’re keen to embrace this disregard for boundaries and create your own modern potager, the first question to ask is how far are you willing to go? Are you after an underlying formality planted up with a profusion of edibles and ornamentals? Or maybe you’re seeking a wildly cosmopolitan cottage-garden mash-up, threading yacon through the penstemons? Whatever option you choose, there are lots of tasty plants to consider.
NOVEMBER IS an ideal time to plan ahead. The ground’s easy to work and plants have sunk back far enough to make landscaping projects easier. But whatever look you’re after, here are a few useful pointers: 1 Look at the garden’s layout. Hunt for design ideas in magazines, design books or Instagram then mark out plans for beds, divisions, paths, seating areas and larger plants with white lawn spraypaint and bamboo canes. Ask yourself: do you need a lawn? Would it pay to edge paths? Might the seating area be better at the heart of the garden? Can you reach the centre of each raised bed? 2 Make your mark. Take a willowweaving course, try a bit of metal working, save up for a sculpture, build an arbour, bean wigwams or a pumpkin arch. If you love spending time cooking, how about buying a pizza oven with large containers of herbs sited nearby? 3 Plant a fruit tree. November marks the start of the bareroot-planting season and with rootstocks and training methods including standards, espaliers and step-overs, there’s something for every corner. Find a good nursery and consider quince, apricot, cherry and hazel as well as apple and pear trees. 4 Make space for perennials. Perhaps you already grow globe artichokes, rhubarb and asparagus, but why not make room for sea kale, sorrel, chives or perennial kales such as ‘Taunton Dean’ and ‘Daubentons’? You might keep root vegetables and quick-to-crop salads in rows or large pots, then use perennials to create a mixed border. Plant redcurrants as a tall back-ofborder shrub; use strawberries and chives as edging; yacon gives amazing autumn foliage against dahlias and cosmos, while kale, bay, fennel and lovage foliage complements herbaceous plantings. 5 Study seed catalogues and experiment! Grow what you love to eat, but also think about what will bring colour, texture and height. Each year, surprise yourself by growing a new crop – anyone for tree spinach or pig nuts? 6 Remember less is more. Instead of sowing 30 overcrowded kohl rabi, it’s better to lavish care and attention on 10 widely spaced Chelsea-worthy examples. It doesn’t just reduce gluts; an awareness of individual plants means you spot pests and diseases sooner too. 7 Welcome flowers and herbs. Whether you’re a keen cook or just enjoy a splash of colour, try alternating rows of vegetables and flowers, or let self-seeding borage, opium poppies or calendula travel through the plot. 8 Plant in succession. Keep sowing seed in modules and you’ll always have sturdy young plants to pop into gaps. One tiny propagation area can generate hundreds of plants. 9 Interplant crops. Maximise space around slow-growing Brussels sprouts or purple-sprouting broccoli by planting quick-growing baby leaf rocket, spinach, mizuna and mustard around their feet. 10 Banish bare soil! Keep bare surfaces weed free by mulching in spring with a 5cm (2in) layer of manure or garden compost.
Plant a fruit tree for height, structure, blossom and harvests