Get creative with edi­bles

Plan your potager gar­den now for crops next year. He­len Bil­liald shares her ad­vice

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

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

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