Ever wondered about growing your own produce? Whether you’ve got a windowsill, yard, allotment or garden, our Kitchen Gardener Laurent Murray shares some tips to get you started.
As the Kitchen Gardener at Doddington Hall I provide fresh, seasonal produce to our onsite Café, Restaurant, Production Kitchen and Farm Shop using the two acre plot contained within the Walled Garden. An area this size means we can accommodate a diverse range of crops practically all year round but having a confined space isn’t necessarily a barrier should you wish to try growing your own.
My first growing tip is first of all what do you prefer to eat? Then assess your area. If you’re fortunate enough to have a lawn or garden then examine the soil. Is it light sand or dense clay? If you pour water on the ground does it drain quickly or pool on the surface? Is it shady or sunny? These are the first steps and over time you’ll learn how your particular patch of land behaves according to the seasonal changes that it goes through.
The next stage is to experiment! No-dig is gaining a lot of attention recently and it means exactly that. By never turning soil over, you’re allowing earthworms and soil micro-organisms to create drainage channels and improve soil structure for you. This technique also means those without access to soil can still provide fine growing conditions. First take a container or build a raised bed with a minimum depth of 15cm (if placing on bare earth consider lining it with cardboard at the base to suppress weeds). Then top up with compost or well-rotted manure to the height of your chosen container. And that’s it. The compost/manure will inhibit weeds by excluding light whilst simultaneously acting as a fertiliser. It will hold moisture far more effectively than if left bare and means you have more time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
The final stage is growing your produce. I’d recommend starting off with green, leafy veg e.g. spinach, chard, lettuce, all of which can be directly sown and come up quickly. There are however a vast range of plants that can be grown and if you need guidance the RHS plant selector is a fine place to start.
There are also some great resources on hoe to grown your own on the RHS website here.
~ Laurent Murray, Kitchen Gardener
Find out more about the Kitchen Garden at Doddington Hall.