For those unfamiliar with the Food Garden we use this gently sloping, south-facing area to grow a range of food plants from peas and pomegranates to potatoes and pearl millet.
Apart from a few permanent residents, the garden’s quarter-acre is filled each year with plants raised from seed. Planning for this begins now, when we take stock of the growing season, and this carries on through the winter as we draw up next year’s layouts, calculate plant numbers and finalise seed orders.
Examples of layout and seed order
So what have been the successes this year, and where does it all go?
Our cane fruit has produced by the kilo, keeping Valerie in the Horniman cafe busy making delicious berry mousse. We grow an early blackberry (‘Kotata’) which ripens in mid-July, followed by raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries and Japanese wineberries through August and into September. I’ll be out picking the last of them once I’ve written this.
Our Loganberries; basket of mixed berries from earlier in the summer
Everything in our ‘Leafy and Fruiting Vegetables’ section has done well too. We’ve had lettuce, chard, some lovely red cabbages, tomatoes and aubergines, courgettes and cucumbers and some truly massive marrows. Later on there’ll be kale and Brussels sprouts too. Yum, I say. You heard me right.
Me with volunteers Keith and Irene; aubergine ‘Black Beauty’ in the garden; view of the Leafy/Fruiting section
Hungry plants like tomatoes and marrows get a boost with a liquid feed made from the comfrey plants in our Medicinal Border.
I let the leaves break down in a bag and collect the rich black liquid that drains out; it’s high in potassium which helps plants develop and ripen their fruits. The liquid needs diluting before use and stinks outrageously but it’s sustainable and doesn’t cost a penny.
Comfrey in the medicinal border; comfrey feed in bucket
Over in the Bulbs, Roots and Tubers section there’s lots still to come. As the nights lengthen there’ll be potatoes and sweet potatoes in September, swedes and carrots in October, and celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips from November onwards.
I’ve already harvested beetroot, turnips, onions, shallots and new potatoes over the summer. Chef Jason put our beets to good use in the cafe, making borscht, and a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad.
View of bulbs, roots and tubers section; onions drying for storage; first turnips of the year back in June
Every week during the summer I look at what’s been harvested and send the Horniman Cafe a list. Once they’ve confirmed what they want to use it gets bagged, crated and delivered early in the morning.
3 different crated deliveries ready to go
When you visit the Food Garden please keep in mind two simple rules:
- Keep to the paths
- Don’t pick anything
That’s it. Other than that it’s yours to explore and hopefully be insired by.
Feel free to come and say hello if you see me working down there. Questions are always welcome, including ‘what’s the best way to cook a marrow?’ Maybe it’s the gallery full of taxidermy I walk through every morning before I get out to the garden, but my answer is ‘stuffed.’