Allotment; what an ugly word. When uttered it conjures up a hodgepodge of images; suburban shanty towns peppered with decrepit sheds, wonky bean poles and forgotten corners.
Say ‘kitchen garden’ to me and my heart skips a beat. Images of weed free, gravelled paths edged with clipped box fill my mind’s eye. Perfect rows of vegetables in freshly turned crumbly earth, expertly labelled, make me a little bit giddy inside. Allow me entrance into a beautifully maintained Victorian glass houses, warm and muggy and I am gone.
Tatton Park Knutsford, Cheshire
Allotments give me the impression of being taken over by The Borrower’s whereas a kitchen garden is a breath taking sight. Bold, structural layouts of paths, pruned fruit trees and terracotta forcing pots make these gardens a delightful place to be, even in the depths of winter.
So, I have called for change. Our family allotment is no longer to be called an allotment, or a plot, it is the kitchen garden. After all they both perform the same function. Both are areas of land given over to the production of fruit, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen. Kitchen gardens take it one step further, they provide flowers for the house too.
I am a great believer in a productive garden being a beautiful one and proved this with my edible gardens at the Rhs flower show Tatton. My reason for creating beautiful, productive gardens was because not everyone can get an allotment and most of us don’t live on a large country estate. Using our own gardens creatively to look amazing and provide us with healthy produce is the answer. Why have ornamental grasses when you can have sweetcorn with it’s bonny tassels. Ditch the begonias and petunias and plant borage and pot marigold instead. Both self-seed freely, flower profusely and can be added to salads or made into herbal tea.
Tulips for the house, feathery fennel for the kitchen.
The plans to turn my own back garden into a productive one have been scuppered by our five feathered friends. I wouldn’t part with my chickens, they are fantastic egg layers and fun to have around but they really do demolish a garden. So my kitchen garden is a hop, skip and a jump away, behind a hedge huddled together with some other ‘edible gardens’. I will just have to imagine that I do live in that country estate and am just taking a short stroll across parkland (aka Ashton Park) to fill my basket with lettuce, beans, strawberries, radishes and a handful of sweet peas for the house.