13 October 2014
A Kitchen Gardener in the making
I used to think that I was something of a rarity; although I
have been a professional gardener and Head Gardener for quite a few
years now, I have never run a kitchen garden. Gardeners can be
divided into several groups but there seems to be a district
minority who would much rather grow beautiful flowers and
herbaceous borders than follow the strict rigidity imposed upon the
kitchen garden - I currently belong to that set.
One of the great attractions of coming to Allt-y-bela was to open up my mind and experience to productive gardening. In college we all learn to varying degrees about the fundamentals of vegetable gardens and there has been a huge revival in the art of vegetable gardening in recent years both as a rewarding and therapeutic activity.
The kitchen garden at Allt-y-bela is about two thirds the size of an allotment. It's the kind of size that most people could probably fit into their home garden should they wish to do so. When I took it over the kitchen garden at Allt-y-bela it was already very beautifully looked after and productive so as a newcomer that gave me the advantage of a good head-start without the fallback of a good excuse if things went wrong!
As part of my own education at Allt-y-bela a very nice chap by the name of James Clapp has agreed to come and advise me on the best methods of productive gardening. James has a vast amount of experience in market gardening and has not only the knowledge of best practice but also the hard won experience of putting these theories into practice in the real world.
The upshot of this is that we have decided to open up my education to others! We have designed a kitchen gardening course starting early in the new year which will follow the garden here at Allt-y-bela through the trials and triumphs of a growing season whilst passing on the essential knowledge to the course participants which will include site specific advice.
James is currently helping me to plan a crop rotation through the next twelve years here and being organic (he's become known to me as 'Organic James') his first piece of advice to me as I bombarded him with tales of caterpillar-based woe was, "It's really very simple, start with getting the soil right, it forms the basis of everything that comes after it. If the soil is not right then you will suffer far more from pests and diseases and once you have those everything you do is just palliative care."
I'm really looking forward to implementing his ideas, and one of the advantages to being a total amateur in this area of gardening is that I am not in the least bit precious about what I have been doing up until now and I can't wait to see what will happen when we fully implement the new rotation early next year.
Click here (live) to find details of the Kitchen Gardening Through the Years course. If you are interested in becoming a better vegetable gardener then James' huge wealth of knowledge, along with his charm and good humour, could be just the boost you need to get to the next level.
Words: Steve Lannin, Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer