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The Kitchen Garden - Update

Last year we had high hopes for the kitchen garden which were sadly not realised.

Feeding, watering, and wishful thinking did not work, and the flowers and herbs did not thrive. The real indicator of a problem was mint. Ordinary, common garden mint which is normally rampant and hard to contain was struggling. It was fed more than once, and a second bed was freshly planted with strong young plants, which grew feebly. A number of mature rosemary bushes in this area had already died and been removed. Courgettes planted in May had leaves no bigger than 15cm across and a measly crop. Nasturtiums died. Meanwhile plants growing in the adjacent cut flower beds were flourishing. These were raised beds containing topsoil to a depth of about 50cm.

When the kitchen garden beds were originally created, wooden frames were placed on the existing ground and filled with compost. The area had previously been used for production of nursery stock, and the ground had become compacted, and was criss-crossed with irrigation trenches and tractor paths. The decision was made to remove and replace the soil and compost in these failing beds. A small digger was brought in, the square wooden frames were removed, and the ground beneath excavated and removed. It did not look like the nourishing fertile soil a gardener hopes for. In the area where the rosemary had perished the digger hit concrete which was broken up and removed. The excavations were filled with new, locally sourced, topsoil.

Now, as the ground has settled, the rain has stopped and the temperature rises we have started replanting. The nine squares will contain mint, tarragon, french thyme, lemon thyme, chives, dill, garlic chives, sage and parsley. The long thin triangular bed alongside the path will have edible flowers. These will include marigolds, dahlias, nasturtiums, heartsease, borage and daylilies. Elsewhere we will find room for some cape gooseberries. We had these for sale last year and some illicit tasting revealed the most astonishing flavour compared with the imported fruit generally available. Another addition this year will be a collection of scented-leaved pelargoniums which can be used for tisanes, or for flavouring cordials, ice creams and desserts.

On the downhill bed opposite the children’s play garden was a bed of lavenders. These have suffered from the wet winter, and from accidental damage during the excavations. As only a handful of them looked strong and undamaged they have all been removed. The earth here has been manually dug, and generous quantities of grit and compost added. The resulting tilth is much improved. Instead of replanting with one variety of lavender, we will plant blocks of the most commonly grown varieties. This should make it easier for our customers to compare the growth and flowering habits of each form, and make an informed choice.