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11 tips to create an ‘edible garden’

PUBLISHED: 10:07 22 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:07 22 July 2016

Growing your own food is more popular than ever as it saves you money and helps keep you fit and healthy

Here are Sally’s tips for creating an edible garden:

1. You don’t need an allotment or a corner of a field to grow your own food as any garden can be made more productive. With careful planning a small raised bed just a few metres long can provide a steady supply of vegetables through the year.

2. There are also a lot of attractive edible plants that can be planted amongst the ornamentals in the borders.

3. Vegetables grow well in pots, grow bags and hanging baskets too.

4. Walls and fences are not to be forgotten either, a cordon of fruit trees can provide a surprisingly large harvest each year.

5. Your soil is the most important asset in your garden and you need to look after it. If you want a productive garden you have to make sure your plants have plenty of nutrients. You can boost your fertility by adding compost, either made yourself from garden waste, or bought from local green waste contractors.

6. It is really easy to build a raised vegetable bed and it doesn’t involve lots of digging. Choose a sunny, flat area about one metre wide by several metres long. Strim any vegetation close to the ground and leave the strimmings on the ground. Build the raised bed frame with scaffolding planks and place in position and cover the ground with a layer of thick cardboard to stop any weeds and back fill the bed with compost.

7. Vegetables are happy growing in pots and containers. If you have space on a patio, you could build a large container for a mini-edible garden that will supply you with a plentiful supply of vegetables through the summer months. Use scaffolding planks to construct a deep, one-metre-square bed and fill with compost. You will have enough space to grow a selection of vegetables, for example, a wigwam of runner beans in the middle, a squash or courgette planted underneath in the shade of the wigwam, a selection of onions, French beans, beetroots, tomatoes and lettuce.

8. For gardeners who are loathe to give over space to a formal vegetable plot, there are many attractive vegetables that can be planted in a sunny ornamental border. In spring, clean up the bed, cut back any overgrown plants and remove the weeds to free up space for some vegetables. Then give the soil a boost by adding a thick mulch of good compost. There is no need to dig it in as the worms will do this for you. Not only will the mulch feed your new vegetables, but it will suppress weeds. The more ornamental vegetables include rainbow chard, red onions, beetroot, purple kohl rabi and bronze-leaved lettuce.

9. Perennial vegetables are often overlooked in favour of annual vegetables, but by growing perennials you get more food for less work. You are probably familiar with artichokes and asparagus, but there are plenty of others to try. Amongst the perennial brassicas are Taunton Deane kale, Daubenton’s kale and nine-star broccoli. Other perennial options include Good King Henry (poor man’s asparagus), sea kale, and rhubarb.

10. There are some edible options for shrubs too, so look out for Szechuan pepper (zanthoxylum simulans). The pink husks are harvested in autumn and can be used whole or ground. It’s one of the ingredients of Chinese 5-spice powder.

11. Edible flowers can really liven up a salad, both visually and taste-wise. Many flowers are edible: borage, chives, cornflowers, nasturtiums, pansies, pot marigolds, and violas to name a few. They add interest to salads, give flavour and colour to cakes and desserts, can be added to salad dressings and used to make cordials, vinegar infusions and cake decorations. One of the easiest and the most versatile flowers is borage. The sky-blue flowers can be crystallized, added to summer cocktails and salads, or frozen in ice cubes. And bees love it!

Unusual tubers

For something different try growing some of the unusual South American tubers such as yacon, oca, Chilean ulluco and Peruvian ground apple. They are attractive plants; yacon is a structural plant in the garden, growing to about one metre, while oca has bright green trefoil leaves and yellow flowers. They are planted in late spring but their tubers only start to develop in autumn and are harvested in winter, so the beds needs to be covered with fleece to protect the plants from frost and allow as long a growing season as possible.

Sally Morgan is an organic smallholder from Somerset. Her new book, Living On One Acre Or Less, is published by Green Books. Sally runs smallholding and butchery courses at Empire Farm. empirefarm.co.uk

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