Got your meat but no veg?
Home-growing has been snapped up by the nation faster than an Eames lounger on sale. Find out why you should join the craze, and just how easy it can be, with Isabel Eyre, the founder of stylish gardening blog Fennel and Fern. In her first guest post for mydeco, the green-fingered lady tells us why vegetable patches are the new flower beds.
When I was growing up, vegetable plots were hidden at the back of the garden, often behind a fence. They were messy, makeshift patches which served no other purpose than to fill our plates at suppertime. That’s all very well and good if you have an enormous garden, but most of us don’t. So if we want to have a hot vegetable plot and a great garden, we need to work a little harder at design than just plonking a load of plants in the soil.
The first thing you need to realise when you’re designing a hot veg plot is that fruit and veg are utterly beautiful in their own right. Don’t believe me? Have a look at these:
(clockwise from left) borlotti beans by Claire Sutton; ‘Turk’s Turban’ pumpkins by Shihmei; romanesco (below); red-podded peas by Rebsie Fairholm; ‘White Queen’ tomato; rainbow chard; snake gourd flower by nobu; okra flower by Sarah Gilbert; purple curly kale by Steve; multi-coloured cauliflowers by Steve Minor.
It is perfectly easy to make your vegetable garden look as attractive as a flower bed, but I think we can go further than that. I’m going to show you how to design a vegetable patch that you’d pick over a flower garden any day.
Here are the key principles for a hot plot:
1. Design your garden around a strong geometric pattern. Here’s a large-scale example at the potager gardens of Villandry in France, where nine square plots contain tight patterns and neat rows of vegetables.
2. You can grow your veg in straight lines or in wild rambling clumps, but when you’re planning where to plant each different vegetable, think contrasts. Plant red lettuces next to green, ferny foliaged plants next to strong and leafy cabbages.
The ‘Freshly Prepped’ garden by Aralia
Use onion leaves as a spine running through a bed, and grow neon-stemmed chard next to black-green kale.
3. Don’t just think about the floorplan of your veg patch: make sure the walls or fences look great too. You can train fruit trees into fans, espaliers and cordons, which means they sit flat against a wall (below). When they are in flower, they look like a fan of fairy lights spread across your wall, and later in the year their neat branches will be covered in fruit.
Squash plants take up a huge amount of room on the ground, but work beautifully trained up an arch or through a trellis. Choose a variety that has fruit lighter than 3kg, such as ‘Uchiki Kuri’ or the mysterious black ‘Rolet’ so that the vine can support it from a height.
You can also plant beans to twine their way through sweetcorn plants, which looks stunning if you choose a pretty-flowered variety such as ‘Purple Queen’ or the Hyacinth bean.
4. Make use of ornamental flowers. They’re really important for bringing beneficial insects such as bees and hoverflies into your veg patch, and they can also jazz up any dull corner. Some are even edible: you can cook unopened sunflower buds in a little butter.
This year, I planted poppies among my carrots as their ferny foliage looks a bit dull on its own. You can also edge beds with chives.
Or maybe a beautiful willow seat like this one, designed by Katherine Roper:
So those are some principles for designing a really hot plot. I’m moving to a new, completely blank 100ft garden in a couple of months’ time, so I’ve applied them to the design for that site.
I’ve created four smart square beds, and in each I’ve used a different geometric pattern. I’ve trained fruit trees against the fences, and grown pumpkins over the metal arches leading down into the garden. It will almost look too good to eat.
Design aficionado and uber-active mydeco community member FRANKHAM created this vegetable plot moodboard last year. Take a leaf out of her patch and and design your hot plot with our moodboard tool. Great for figuring out which colourful and contrasting vegetables to plant and where.
Read more posts by guest blogger.