Do things by halves
There’s no point in taking a “leave it to nature” approach to kitchen gardening. Fruit and veg demand regular, ongoing commitment and attention to detail – but that doesn’t mean you have to slave away all hours on your plot.
People usually take on far more than they can manage, then can’t keep up with the work so crops are ruined. My number one kitchen gardening tip is that you’d do far better to grow half the amount but grow it twice as well.
Site and situation
As a general rule, give edible crops the best part of your garden or else improve the conditions where you would like them to grow.
You can do this simply by planting a natural windbreak such as blackberries on a wire-netting fence, by improving the soil with lots of organic matter or, better still, by making a few intensive veg or salad beds with seriously well-enriched soil.
Veg patches used to be buried at the back of the garden, but these days a spot of designer flair is no bad thing, even with edible crops. Conventional rows are practical but you might consider a compartmentalised kitchen garden within a garden or a decorative potager – an informal flowerbed-shaped plot with veg and salad plants dotted about in drifts.
Top of the crops
Your aim is to make the best use of your space to produce a good range of crops you can eat all year round without ending up with a glut. First, mark in what you intend to plant in spring, roughly how long the crops will occupy the ground and what you’ll follow them with.
You’ll find it helps to plant produce into groups according to timescales so they slot in together to fill the space available. For example, some crops occupy the ground for the best part of a year, such as Brussels sprouts, while others, such as baby spinach leaves and lettuce, take only 10 to 15 weeks to grow.
If you sow a row of these between slower-growing crops, the salads will have come out by the time their bigger neighbours need more space.