Getting to know a garden is a long process and a luxury. I have had the luxury of working in an organically managed walled vegetable garden in the Cotswolds for the last 12 years and I feel like I have finally got to grips with what works and what does not.
Salad crops, beans, and peas, for instance, work beautifully. Root vegetables do not. Over the years I have added ton after ton of well-rotted manure, homemade compost, and leaf mould but the Cotswold brash soil keeps throwing up stones. A few years ago I would spend hours on my hands and knees picking individual stones out of each bed. These days I spend my precious time matching the right crop to the right conditions.
The vegetable garden was newly constructed when I arrived to take charge in November 2009. The adjoining glasshouse and potting shed were a figment of the owners’ imagination. The owners had great plans of self-sufficiency and spending lots of time out there themselves. In reality, their busy lives meant that the garden quickly became my opportunity to experiment.
Root vegetables grown in stony soil are peculiar looking beasts so I worked out fairly early on to grow those in the fruit cage. The imported topsoil in the fruit cage is the very best, stone-free soil on the whole estate and the carrots and parsnips grown alongside raspberries and redcurrants are generally magnificent. We do not seem to get bothered by carrot flies either. Maybe it is the fruity companion planting that foils the pests or maybe it is the fine wire mesh enclosing the cage keeping them at bay. Either way, I am not complaining! I use a wheat straw mulch to suppress weeds and keep slug and snail damage to a minimum and the resulting roots are very pleasing indeed.
MICROCLIMATES AND MOISTURE
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After training as a botanist and gaining her MSc in Crop Protection, Pippa Greenwood spent 11 years in charge of the RHS Wisley plant pathology department. She is the author of countless best-selling books and is a long-standing voice on BBC 4 Gardeners’ Question Time. Here she talks with Daniel Heighes
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OUR PLOTTEER OF THE MONTH
Last year we officially launched a competition to find 12 readers and their plots that would feature in Kitchen Garden magazine this year. Here we feature another of our talented winners
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