Following on from our own Lockdown project, we’re delighted to share our First Steps To Your Kitchen Garden with you.

If you want to impress friends and family members by cooking homegrown vegetables, or maybe you’re concerned with where your vegetables are coming from and how they have been grown, then your very own Kitchen Garden could be the way forwards!

Our Managing Director, John, started his own Kitchen Garden project with his daughter, Georgie, earlier this year. Here, Georgie shares the first steps of their journey with us…

First Steps To Your Kitchen Garden

“The English Garden as emerged in the 18th century has centred around a less formal, less symmetrical style than its popular European predecessors. Their designs are reflective of natural forms, creating elegant, yet rural spaces. My own garden of Wisteria covered walls provides such a space; beautiful yet still simple. But despite these appearances, for the most part of the year this charming space previously remained just that; a space for aesthetics and a pleasant view. This short read will detail how a garden of pretty patio space and shrubberies, transitioned into a functional plot, in the making of our Kitchen Garden.

Gardening had never been an interest within my family, despite its functional potential. So when lockdown came and left a usually busy family with nothing to do, it presented all the
opportunity we needed. Admittedly, not all the kids were on board, but there’s still time for them to get involved in the kitchen!

We thought we’d start with a small sample, perhaps try a couple of beds and see what it was all about. But before we could build the space, we had to decide what it was we actually wanted to grow. With little experience, we got on the phone with grandad for a bit of advice from the older generation; we received the details of his three part tomato mix: soil from the garden, gravel from the river, and cow pat to fertilise the lot. Thinking this a bit much for our beginner’s ambition, he told us to opt for potatoes instead. So after finding some online and leaving them to shoot, it was time to begin building the beds.

Before we could construct the actual frames, we had to prep the soil, meaning:

First: Choose the Plot

To make the most out of the space you’ve got to pick the right location.

• Accessibility: Think about what’s going where. Do you want your plot as far from the house as you can get? Maybe you do. If you’ve got the space for it, a peaceful spot with a short stroll may help get the most out of your new hobby. Or maybe you need a bit more proximity, to keep on top of things. Thinking more specifically about individual plants, we chose to place the main garden in one spot, whilst moving the herb garden closer to the kitchen, for easy access and maximum usage of these faster growing plants.

• Sunlight: Once your seeds have germinated and you start to see shoots, your plants are going to rely on sunlight to produce their own food. Try to pick the spot that has the most sunlight throughout the day, avoiding hedges, trees and other tall features.

• Terrain: Picking a flat spot is essential for when you later water your plants. Without that flat surface the water won’t distribute evenly, and you may find problems with drainage in the lower areas.

• Roots: You should already be avoiding trees, to get that maximum sunlight spot. But you should also consider placing your beds further from existing plants, to avoiding slicing up their roots when digging your new beds, protecting your existing garden.

Second: Remove the grass

If you’re working into lawn space, take care in making the area fit for your plants.

• Measure: Begin by deciding how large your want your plots to be; consider researching your materials first, to choose a measurement that works with a standard size beam.

• Mark Out: Tape off the area by placing a marker in each corner, and running string flat along the outer edge.

• Dig: Start to dig up the grass with a spade or fork, making sure to stack the patches in inverted layers (soil on soil then grass on grass) as you go. These will later rot down, adding to any compost heap.

Third: Turn over the soil

Before later adding more soil and fertiliser, we have to prep our existing base.

• Turn: Now that you have cleared out your desired space, use a fork to turn the soil up and over, to later help your plants root down.

Once we had prepped the space, we started to construct the frames, placing the side planks inside the edge of the bed. Once fitted together along this edge, the planks were screwed together to
create the base. We chose to use stainless steel screws, preventing rusting later on, but this isn’t a necessity if you just want to work with what you have at home. Now before adding the lip, we set to work maintaining the flatness we selected in the land, by checking the balance with a spirit level. If the frame didn’t lay perfectly flat in the bed, we used a chisel and point crow bar to raise the lower edge, and then packed soil in underneath to maintain this raised height. Now that the base was flat, we could finally finished the frame, by adding the upper lip. Each piece is placed to create a rectangle top on the base, before being screwed down, again using the stainless steel screws. We chose rectangular plots to best fit the space. To find out more about this part of the process, check out our handy step-by-step video.

Finally, we wheeled barrows of additional soil and fertiliser down into the beds, raked it out evenly, and compressed it down to finish each vegetable patch. Since the initial two potato patches, our garden has grown to six beds, giving us a variety from pumpkins to broccoli, to herbs and more. A few months later we’re just starting to harvest some potatoes, in fact, quite a few more than we had planned for. So now our lockdown garden can go from a father-daughter hobby, to the functional kitchen garden we wanted it to be.

We’ll be bringing you more updates from the Rencraft Kitchen Garden over the coming months, simply keep an eye on our social media pages and also the Latest News section of our website.