Gardens:
The Kitchen Garden

Location:

Productive Gardens

Descriptive Summary:

This is a south-west facing area of around 20m x 40m, redeveloped from a bracken-covered slope in 2006-7 and separated from the main gardens and buildings by a public bridleway. The area is cultivated organically and dedicated to providing produce for the house, including vegetables and cut flowers, and to composting as much site waste as possible.

The Garden has a utilitarian style, with generously proportioned gravel paths and beds allowing for easy maintenance. As there was almost no topsoil present, roduce is grown in untreated timber (locally-sourced larch) raised beds. Originally each measured around 3m x 4m, on top of locally sourced gravel, which in turn was laid over membrane which suppresses bracken regrowth.

In 2015 these beds were redesigned to be smaller (the timber having rotted) – circa 1m x 2m – and in 2017 we tweaked them to be slightly sloping to the south. This idea originated in Karen’s observations of vegetable growing in mountainois regions of Japan she had visited, where beds were always angled to the south, harnessing as much sun and soil warmth as possible. In summer 2018 (admittably, an usually hot one) these sloping beds were on average 3 degrees warmer than the remaining flat bed. Another change in 2018 has been the adoption of gardening guru Charles Dowding’s ‘no dig’ system, where soil is mulched to prevent weed growth and retain moisture, and beds are never tilled or dug. So far the results of this have been compelling – heavier crops and much less maintenace. Other permanently planted beds on this site include rhubarb.

1.5m wide paths run in a grid formation throughout the site, which also houses sheds, cold frames and two polytunnels. Beds are generally block-planted, with heavy mulch ingretaining a very high level of soil health.

For a decade a large fruit bed with a bird-proof fruit cage contained raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, red and white currants, red and green gooseberries, a loganberry and a tayberry. In 2017 this was in decline and was replaced by a second slightly smaller polyunnel which in 2018 has grown some 40 tomato plants, as well as squash, cucumbers and courgettes. Some space is devoted to nursery areas for young plants and propagation. Cloches and fleece are used to extend the growing season for salads and green vegetables.

A large polytunnel (40 square metres) was erected in 2014 and overwinters young plants, protects winter vegetables and grows tomatoes, courgettes, exotic herbs and cucumbers over summer.  This covered space has tranformed the range and quality of vegetables we can produce, and means we are able to enjoy greens and salads 12 months of the year.

The entire perimeter of this area was planted in 2006/7 with mixed hedging of mainly native species with a focus on fruit, nuts and hips, mingled with old and species roses.

A selection of plants:

Maker/s:

Karen Guthrie, Adam Sutherland, David Coxon, George Watson

About the designers/maker/s:

Karen Guthrie (Artist & film-maker) and Adam Sutherland (GA's director) have lived and gardened on site since 2001.

Date:

2006

Origin:

This site was identified in 2005 as the most likely site for a much-needed Kitchen Garden, being relatively sheltered and sunny. The lack of topsoil, bracken, and drainage problems pointed towards raised beds as the best and lowest-maintenance solution, though initial costs for timber and topsoil were high.

Raison d'etre:

The production of organic food on this challenging site is intended to act as a demonstration and exploration of what can be achieved, as well as contributing to an environmentally sustainable way of life on site. The Kitchen Garden aims to provide varied fresh produce for the household all summer as well as food to store and preserve for use over winter. The site is also a small test bed for agricultural projects such as trialling cold-tolerant varieties and experiments in growing Asian vegetables, some of which were used for a local Japanese cafe as part of the project, Return of the 7 Samurai. A few of the beds also provide flowers for cutting for the house.

Adaptions / renovations

Honesty stall selling excess produce, summer 2007 and removed early 2011 due to theft.

Poultry area developed in 2008/9 but successively attacked by vermin - badgers, foxes and stoats – leading to its demise in 2015

Asparagus bed removed in 2011, because it was an abject failure.

Large polytunnel erected 2014

First timber beds replaced in 2015

Second polytunnel erected 2018

  • Early summer glory
  • July produce
  • Artist Pablo Bronstein's shed facade
  • Bespoke signage by designer Supermundane
  • The Site of the Kitchen Garden, spring 2006
  • Block planted flowers and veg, summer 2007