Where is the best place for the vegetable garden?
The vegetable garden is no longer tucked away out of sight. Now that our gardens are getting smaller, people are finding the most ingenious places to grow vegetables.
And I think we’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of a vegetable garden. There’s no longer any need to tuck it away out of sight.
And I have visited a lot of wonderful gardens in the last few years, so I thought I’d look at where these gardeners have put their kitchen gardens.
The vegetable garden near the house
I think there’s an interesting new direction towards bringing the vegetable beds closer to the house. This look appreciates the beauty of growing vegetables.
My only concern would be that I might not want to harvest leaves or roots from a particularly glorious-looking row. But it’s also more convenient – you can pop out for a few herbs or salad leaves.
Make the greenhouse a focal point
Greenhouses were once considered the ‘utilitarian’ part of the garden, but now many people love to see a beautiful Victorian greenhouse in pride of place.
These friends have a large greenhouse in relatively small garden (see pic below), and it looks wonderful. They furnish it as a room as well as growing plants in it. It makes a wonderful summer house.
Professional gardeners Steven Edney and Lou Dowle have an exotic theme to their garden, so a greenhouse is essential for the winter. Instead of hiding it away they boldly placed it right in the middle of their garden, just a few feet from the back windows of the house.
It is surrounded by their fabulous jungly planting. Although Steve and Lou’s garden is a wide rectangle – probably around 40ft wide and perhaps 80ft long – it is so lush that it seems endless. You can’t see the borders and twisting paths invite you on enticing journeys.
A kitchen garden in the front garden?
Steve Edney and Lou Dowle grow their vegetables and herbs in the front garden, mixed with flowers.
Other options for vegetable garden layouts…
The traditional place for the vegetable garden is out of sight of the house. But if you have a middle-sized garden and you can see the whole garden from the house, that can be awkward to plan.
It’s particularly difficult if you have a square or wide garden, because the space doesn’t necessarily divide up naturally. The garden below belongs to Robin Grimble and is often open for Faversham Open Gardens.
In a long, thin garden…
It’s relatively standard to have a vegetable border at the bottom of a long, thin garden. However, if you shield it from the house with high fences, trees or trellis, it may get too shady.
Garden designer Posy Gentles has a raised vegetable bed and some pots with courgettes in them at the bottom of her garden. She hasn’t put up any screen.
Even if you don’t want to see vegetables growing, they are relatively low compared to shrubs, perennials and some annuals. You can’t see the bottom of Posy’s garden until you walk down there.
An L-shaped garden…
This is an easy one because if you don’t want to see the vegetable borders, you can put them round the L.
We have an L-shaped garden and so our vegetables grow out of sight.
I regret this – I’d like to see them, but short of putting vegetable beds on the main lawn, there’s nowhere else to put them. And Mr Middlesize likes his lawn and does not want to give it up.
The rise and rise of the vertical veg garden…
There are lots more ‘living wall’ schemes now. At the Ascot Garden Show last year, a group of young designers created an edible living wall for a small courtyard garden.
You will probably need to think carefully about watering and drainage but there are several wall planting systems around now. I haven’t tried any so I can’t advise.
Fellow blogger Mark Ridsill-Smith is the expert – his blog is called Vertical Veg. He’s been growing vegetables and salads up walls and in window-boxes for many years.
And the vegetable garden on the roof…
The main issue with a roof garden is what weight it can take. Once you’ve sorted that, it’s an excellent place to grow vegetables because it’s often the sunniest open space available.
I visited a suburban garden in Australia, where the beehives were kept on the roof because that kept them out of the way of nervous neighbours.
There’s a lovely roof garden on the John Lewis flagship store in Oxford Street, with lots of ideas for veg and fruit planting.
Vegetable garden container ideas
Many veg can be grown in pots – I have a friend who grows leeks in quite deep square ones and potatoes in an old dustbin.
Salad veg grow really well in window boxes – I find it much easier to keep the slugs off. And a couple of window boxes of mixed lettuces will last for a good six weeks if you pick the leaves around the outside rather than chopping across the top. If you pick the bigger leaves from the outside, new leaves grow, so you get a bigger yield.
These are vegetable planters at table height, and they usually have cloche and netting covers. I’ve been watching some of the veg growing challenges on Instagram which feature raised bed planters. There’s no doubt that the height and the cover makes it easy to grow veg. And it’s probably easier to keep snails and pigeons at bay too. But I haven’t tried them myself.
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What about a vegetable garden with flowers?
This is very much in tune with the cottage garden feel that is growing increasingly popular today. It looks wonderful, although it won’t be the most labour-saving garden you could have.
(If you want to know more about easy-care gardens, read this post on brilliant low-maintenance plants.)
These are the ‘railway siding allotments’ from BBC Gardeners World Live (13th-16th June 2019), showing a delightful mix of vegetables and annual flowers.
Charles Dowding also mixes flowers and vegetables in his three-quarter acre ‘no dig’ garden. Here’s a post on how ‘no dig’ applies to flowers just as much as vegetables.
This week’s video:
This week’s video follows on from the post on choosing the materials for your garden path:
Pin to remember vegetable garden ideas:
There are more ideas for where to grow vegetables on my Middlesized Garden Pinterest board Small Space Vegetable Gardens. And if you want to know more about growing vegetables, Charles Dowding’s Organic Gardening, the Natural No Dig Way is my number one reference book.