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  • Barry Norman

the modern kitchen garden

For the first live meeting for TGC members in 18 months, Barry Norman a RHS vegetable

expert gave a lively talk at the Village Hall in September, attended by over 40 members. With over 50% of Vegetables and 95% of Fruit imported he gave a very strong message that we should be growing more ourselves and eating within the Seasons.

He soon got into detail describing the 3 types of vegetable gardens. Starting with the

traditional garden, which is fine for large plots, he emphasised the need to minimise walking over the cultivated area by having temporary planks rather than walkways of grass or slabs which encourage slugs etc. But he suggested the old methods of double digging and putting the manure at the bottom was now proven to give no real advantage over spreading the manure on the surface in the autumn and let it leech into the soil over winter then lightly dig over in the spring.

He then moved on to container growing which was versatile but emphasised that use of shallow growbags was not always the best way forward due to the need for constant watering. Larger pots were much preferred for vegetable growing using a 60 soil/40 compost mix giving stability. Mixing flowers with certain vegetables such as chard, fennel or La Rossa was also suggested to liven up the patio and have an edible landscape. With smaller plots available he was an advocate of training vegetables up netting or sticks and

showed examples of butternut squash growing 14-foot up netting draped over a wall. He was not so keen on hanging baskets for vegetables unless they had at least a depth of 45cm and a reservoir to keep the roots moist. Grown correctly in containers he showed examples of rhubarb, potatoes, carrots, and beetroot with bumper crops.

Lastly, he turned to raised beds with their own created soil medium and bark or woodchip paths. They offered good accessibility less digging and were slug free. Building with railway sleepers was one way but a less expensive and lighter method was the use of treated wood or old agricultural tanks. The use of a plumb line was recommended when building to ensure even drainage.

During the talk he gave several helpful growing tips which are highlighted below.

Top tips

• Use Non-Slip Cord for supporting climbing veg. Can be obtained from LBS Horticultural Supplies (

• Tomatoes/cucumbers etc like to keep their feet wet and need reservoirs to be constantly topped up.

• Cherry tomatoes need to be tamed for maximum crop, so cut flowering ends to 14 flowers per truss, thus enabling 6-7 trusses to form.

• Do not over feed containers. Always err on the side of caution.

• If you are growing potatoes in bags, keep below 63deg and in semi shade. When ready, cut off the haulms and the potatoes will clean up easy. Can be stored like this in the dry until needed (even until Christmas).

• Remember to turn pots regularly to give a balanced display.

• Have ideally 3 compost beds. One to be added to, one resting and one with soil ready for use..

Simon Edgington


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