Showing posts with label vegetable gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetable gardening. Show all posts

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kitchen Garden Inspiration from Chateau Villandry

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the gardens at the Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley of France. The gardens there are gorgeous. Of all of them, though, the kitchen garden is the one that made the biggest impression on me. My memory of that visit has forever changed what comes to mind when I hear the phrase, "kitchen garden."

I've grown vegetables and I know that "working" gardens, the ones that produce our food, aren't always picture perfect. They start out in spring looking orderly, but as the season progresses and gardeners get bored or busy with other things, the garden begins to go a bit wild. Vines wander, weeds creep in, lettuce bolts, and yellow leaves tattle on gardeners who water too much or too little.

Before my visit to Villandry, I thought of gardens as being either ornamental, planted and arranged to bring beauty into a space, or edible, planted for the purpose of food production. Never the twain to meet. But leave it to the French, with their love of all things beautiful and delicious, to combine the two.

I was there in September, the time of year when vegetable gardens often look their worst. But here, with beds edged with boxwood, flowers and espalliered apple trees, the garden looks tidy and thriving. 

Villandry's kitchen garden is all organic. Gardeners use non-chemical techniques both old and new to maintain the health of the soil and plant material. 

It's all here: cabbages, kale, beans, various greens, leeks, berries, dwarf fruit trees and more. I saw pumpkins and squash being harvested when I was there. Rose standards mark the corners of beds. Annuals and perennials provide cutting flowers and seasonal color.

Where does all this bounty go? The chateau restaurant, La Doulce Terrasse, offers a seasonal menu featuring produce from the garden and the local area.

If you would like to visit Villandry and enjoy its gardens, information is available on their official website. Even if you can't visit in person, you'll want to take a look to find inspiration for your own kitchen garden. Bon appetit!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Advantages of Starting Vegetables From Seed After the Summer Solstice

Many of us have been there. We start out with great intentions. We're going to grow our own food. We have plans and tools and seed catalogs. We can almost taste the luscious vegetables we are going to harvest from our gardens.

And then stuff happens. Other things come up that require our attention. The weather is too something - hot, cold, wet, dry - and we don't get the garden planted. Or maybe we do get it planted, but our crops  "bolt," start going to seed too early, resulting in disappointing flavors and textures. So here it is, the end of June, it seems too late to start a garden and we give up on our dream of growing vegetables.

But according to Ryan, the Garden Coach at Botanical Interests (a Seattle Garden Ideas affiliate), many vegetables do better when planted now, after the summer solstice. These include: vegetables in the Brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), vegetables that form heads (lettuce, radicchio and others), and vegetables that like cooler conditions (carrots, beets, spinach, etc.)

Ryan explains why this is a good time to be sowing vegetable seeds in this article, "Second Chances." There are several factors, including day length and soil temperature, that make it likely that planting now will result in a better harvest than was possible earlier in the year. And of  course, if you need seed, Botanical Interests is an excellent source. They carry many organic and heirloom varieties. Absolutely NO GMOs.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Living Salad Wall

A neighbor of mine is interested in installing a vertical garden, or living wall, to cover a concrete wall in his back yard. As he and I have been doing research and talking about this project, I've become inspired to do a little experimenting of my own.

I bought one of Bright Green's GroVert living wall planters (Amazon affiliate link) to see see how their system works. This 10-cell, polymer panel measures 8" wide, 18" tall and 4" deep. Multiple panels can be linked together to create a solid living wall.
The cells of the planter are set at a 45 degree angle to keep water and soil from falling out once the panel is mounted on the wall. Very clever! 
At the base of each cell is a "moisture mat" - another smart idea - that holds water and keeps plant roots from drying out. 

Here's the fun part - planting! I decided to fill my panel with salad greens and a few herbs. But there are lots of other possibilities, including succulents, foliage plants and annuals for sun or shade, depending on where you plan to install your vertical garden.

For my "living salad wall" I wanted lots of color and texture, plus I wanted organic starts since I plan to make salad eventually with what I've planted. So I headed to West Seattle Nursery to see what I could find. I came away with lettuces: 'Wildfire Mix,' 'Salad Bowl Red,' 'Winter Density,' a spicy mesculun mix, and endive. I also got 4" starts of cilantro, Italian parsley, French thyme and and 'Apricot Trifle' nasturtium.

I realized as I planted these that it might have been better to have planted less in each cell, and filled in with more potting soil. It is tempting, though, to do just what I did, because a 4" pony-pack fits really nicely into each cell. But no worries, I can easily revise the planting if necessary as the season progresses.

OK, with the planting done, the next step was to water thoroughly and let the panel sit at a slight angle to drain before mounting. While the panel was draining, I installed the bracket to hold the panel onto my fence.
You'll have to furnish your own fasteners. Fortunately, I had some galvanized wood screws on hand.

And here it is - my living salad wall! 

To top it off, I added an irrigator box.
This little box mounts on top of the panel and holds a quart of water. (I'm showing it here with the lid open. After adding water, you'll want to close the lid to keep dirt from getting in.) Small holes in the bottom of the box let water slowly trickle down into the planter, keeping the plants and the moisture pads irrigated. 

It will be fun to see how this works out. As with any gardening experiment, I expect some plants to do well and others will need to be replaced. If I get a few salads out of it, I'll consider it a success. Regardless, the planter and irrigator will still be around for me to use in another season.