GAR­DEN­ING

Sim­ple steps for cre­at­ing a small but pro­duc­tive veg­etable plot

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - DAVE AL­LAN Visit asko­r­ganic.co.uk. Email your gar­den­ing queries to da@asko­r­ganic.co.uk

WHAT­EVER space you’ve got, there’s al­ways room for ed­i­bles. You could ei­ther squeeze a few plants into a pa­tio or use all-year-round good­ies from a large kitchen garden. And if you have a small piece of ground, you could cre­ate an at­trac­tive com­pact veg bed.

Bear four things in mind at the plan­ning stage: it needs good shape and struc­ture; there should be a three or four-year crop ro­ta­tion (see my col­umn of March 18); the plants must look good; and, with limited space, your plants must pull crop well.

What­ever the bed’s shape, it needs a fo­cal point, such as a per­ma­nent struc­ture for climb­ing plants. This will stay put for years and should en­hance the over­all ap­pear­ance of the garden, which means it’s worth spend­ing time and money to get it right.

In a re­stricted space, you’ll en­joy a larger har­vest by grow­ing climb­ing veg­eta­bles. It’s also bet­ter for your back to pick peas at shoul­der rather knee height.

You’ll need a two-me­tre tall struc­ture and it can be one of three shapes. Many gar­den­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers favour the wig­wam style, be­liev­ing it to be strong and bet­ter able to cope with a heavy mass of run­ner beans crowning the top.

The al­ter­na­tive, a cylin­der, stops the plants throt­tling each other at the top and al­lows for good air cir­cu­la­tion, thereby pre­vent­ing fun­gal dis­eases. Both types of obelisk can cost be­tween £20 and £190.

The dearer frames are durable and look good, even when they’re not sup­port­ing plants (try har­rod­hor­ti­cul­ture.com). Flimsy ef­forts will strug­gle to sup­port a hefty weight of beans dur­ing an au­tumn gale. As ever, you get what you pay for.

How­ever much you shell out, these frames will prob­a­bly have smooth metal poles which plants find hard to clasp firmly. So you usu­ally have to tie the stems to poles and then run the risk of dam­age dur­ing a windy spell. This lim­i­ta­tion also ap­plies to bam­boo canes which you might want to use for a home­made con­struc­tion.

As you’d ex­pect, I’m all for home­made ver­sions as they add a rus­tic touch to the garden. This is where na­tive ash, wil­low and hazel poles come into their own, be­cause their rough tex­ture suits climbers down to a tee. You’ll find it fairly easy to bind the poles to­gether with wil­low wands. If you don’t have ac­cess to these ma­te­ri­als, they’re read­ily avail­able on­line and in some garden cen­tres.

A sim­ple de­sign us­ing three to five poles works well. There’s plenty of in­for­ma­tion on­line for mak­ing cylin­dri­cal struc­tures.

There’s a third equally good shape that’s also home­made. Form a square from four 2.5m-long poles, with 45-60cm be­tween the poles. An­gle the di­ag­o­nally op­po­site ones so they meet in the mid­dle at 1-1.5m above the ground. When tied to­gether, the poles make a rigid struc­ture and the plants will scale the poles and leave an open cen­tre.

As with other parts of the veg garden, you need to ro­tate the crops on the struc­ture: run­ner or French beans, fol­lowed by cu­cum­bers, or climb­ing squashes; tall pod­ded or mange-tout peas; and fi­nally nas­tur­tiums to give you an at­trac­tive mass of ed­i­ble flow­ers. Since run­ners are peren­nial plants, you can safely break the nor­mal ro­ta­tion rules and grow them in­stead of mangetout peas.

Climb­ing beans and tall peas are pro­lific and of­fer you a wide choice. Look out for bright yel­low, red, black or ma­roon pods, or bi-coloured flow­ers. Browse the cat­a­logues for lots of ideas – there’s no short­age of at­trac­tive low-grow­ing veg­eta­bles to sur­round an im­pres­sive cen­tre­piece.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: SHUTTERSTOCK

Grow­ing plants such as run­ner beans ver­ti­cally is a log­i­cal de­ci­sion for those with limited space

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