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Simon Smith Garden & Landscape Design

The Productive Garden

14 April 2020

To make your garden as productive as possible there are a few things that are relatively easy to do. I’ll be talking about raised beds, fruit trees, fruit bushes and canes.

There is the practical importance of a good supply of fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden. The minute distance from fork to plate keeps your food miles down. Fresh fruit and vegetables are richer in vitamin C than their longer lived shelf life cousins. They save money and they give pleasure to the grower. In our house there was always an extra frisson of pleasure around the Sunday lunch table when someone in the family asked “dad are these YOUR potatoes and greens?”

My dad always grew a large range of fruit, vegetables and flowers on his allotment. By the time my older sisters had left home I was the one who was commandeered to assist in the digging, pruning and harvesting that happened seasonally. I was allowed to have my own blackberry bush which had savage thorns but produced an endless supply wonderful fruit and black stained hands!

One of the easiest things to grow in a garden is rhubarb. Once planted it just does its own thing while you wait to crop its amazing stems. The leaves are great on the compost heap. I can already taste rhubarb crumble or jam.

If you are short of space then raised beds are good for growing food. It’s easy to control weeds and drainage. Also the growing surface is raised to a level where bending down is reduced. If construction is from large sleeper sized timbers then the raised part can be used to sit on and even park a mug of coffee. The dimensions of a raised bed are important, 2m x 1.2m is a sensible size where the 1.2m width allows a stretch across the bed of 600mm for ease of maintenance and for cropping purposes. All sorts can be grown including ‘cut and come again’ lettuce, tomatoes, runner beans, French beans, carrots, courgettes and cabbage. Strawberries work well too. It is good to vary the crop from year to year to avoid build up of plant pathogens and pests. Two sets of raised beds may be the answer if you have room.

Fruit trees are a marvellous way of getting fresh fruit. I have a cooking apple, an eating apple, a plum and a wonderful pear tree. Fruit bushes and canes are good too. Raspberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant and blackberry all give nutritious food for the table. Greenhouses are useful for tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers.