Wisley Vegetable Garden gets a Makeover

Exciting times in the Veg. Garden this year!

Established in the Sixties, the Veg. Garden has remained almost unchanged for all this time. This season we have decided to make some major changes to the layout of the beds with the addition of some permanent structures, the aim is to add a vertical dimension to the area and to break up the monotony of straight rows of vegetables.

 

ground preparationGround preparation has now been completed in the two areas at the center of the Veg. garden, the old raised beds have been removed from the top half of the central area. Along the two main paths five arches on each sides are being installed, and, the beds will be dotted by metal obelisks and wigwams created using natural materials such as birch and hazel branches.

Flowering climbers are to be grown over the obelisks to add a splash of colour and an exotic feel, we have selected Ipomea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’, Eccremocarpus scaber ‘Tresco Mixed’, and Rhodochiton astrosanguineum ‘Purple Bell’.

Courgette ‘Black Forest’ is a productive cultivar, suitable to be grown on the wigwams thanks to its trailing habit.

 

Trailing squashes and miniature pumpkins have been chosen for the arches as well as some unusual cucurbits, rarely grown in this country.

Cyclanthera pedata, commonly known as “achocha”, is a very vigorous climber belonging to the same family as gourds and squashes. It is a Central American vegetable, very easy to grow and the numerous tiny flowers are loved by bees. The fruits are harvested very young, when they reach about five centimeters in length, and taste like cucumbers when eaten raw. They acquire a delicious taste of roasted green peppers when stir fried.

Another exotic climber used to cover the arches is Sicana odorifera. Native to tropical South America, it produces reddish brown fruits up to sixty centimeters that look like cucumbers, with a delicious taste of melon and can be used fresh or used for preserves.  The yellow flowers also have a sweet fragrance.

 

seedling in glasshouse3The Wisley glasshouse is full of healthy seedlings ready to be planted out, some very attractive varieties of coloured lettuces such as ‘Amaze’ and ‘Pigale’, celery ‘Octavius’ and celeriac ‘Monarch’, and a selection of allium crops including chives, pickling onions, early leeks, and mammoth onions.

Summer cabbage ‘Dutchman’, a reliable pointed cultivar ready for harvesting from mid-June, has been planted on the allotment plot as well as cauliflower ‘Clapton’ and calabrese ‘Ironman’

Very soon the crops to be grown in the glasshouses will be ready for planting, our cucumbers have almost reached the two leaves stage and will be planted in the “Classic” glasshouse in the next couple of weeks.

 

An additional couple of weeks are required for the tomato plants to be ready for the “Wisley” glasshouse. We usually plant tomatoes when the first flowers are beginning to open. This season we are growing a selection of varieties including both cherry and salad tomatoes.

 

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The patio area is also being rejuvenated with new furniture and a display of vegetable crops and flowering plants grown in pots, the idea is to inspire visitors to grow crops even when space is limited or in urban settings.

The focal point would be the crab apples that will provide interest with the blossom, the fruits and autumn colour with the foliage. The vegetables to be grown in pots have been selected for their attractiveness as well as taste.

Mario De Pace

New Year in the Vegetable Garden

January, usually not the most exciting month in the vegetable garden.

Other than preparing the ground when the weather allows and a bit of general maintenance, there is still some waiting to do before the planting season can get started.

 

This year, however, the addition of the new glasshouses from Gabriel Ash has given me the opportunity to start some crops early, thanks to the staging shelves.

October and November have been mild and, in order to avoid having broad beans damaged by frost in January, I decided to delay sowing until now. In the protected environment of the glasshouse they’ll germinate faster than in the ground and by March I’ll be able to plant them out safely without compromising the earliness of the crop.

 

I’ve sown the seeds, one per pot, in 9 cm (3 inch) biodegradable pots filled with general purpose compost, from three different varieties of broad beans: together with the very popular ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ I’m going to try a new introduction named ‘Valenciana’ and a reliable dwarf variety called ‘Robin Hood’. Unless the weather during spring and early summer will be unseasonably cold, I should be harvesting the first pods by the end of June.

 

cucumbersin the new glasshouse1Around the second half of February I’ll be sowing cabbages for summer harvest as well as lettuces. I find that the pointed types of summer cabbages such as ‘Dutchman’ are particularly good to be started early. Once in the ground they’ll grow quickly, ready for harvesting at the beginning of summer. Lettuces will benefit from the good light levels and the lack of heating will be ideal to avoid ‘leggy’ seedling.

I hope there will be some space left to ‘chit’ the potatoes, ready for planting out possibly around Easter. One variety of potatoes will be grown in bags which will be kept inside the glasshouse until the summer crops are ready for planting. By doing this, I’ll have an earlier crop of new potatoes as well as maximizing the use of the glasshouse space.

 

The variety I’ve chosen for the bags is ‘Jazzy’, one of my favorite second early potatoes. The tubers don’t get very big but are produced in large numbers and the taste is really good.

chilli in the new glasshouse
By late May/early June, tomatoes and cucumbers will be the protagonists in the two glasshouses. The newest glasshouse, named ‘The Wisley’, with a base of bricks and tall glazed sides, will house tomatoes grown in pots and trained as cordons.

This season I’ve selected some of my favorite cherry tomato varieties and one orange slicing tomato that I really like because of its sweetness and the consistency of the flesh that reminds me of mangoes. Its name is ‘Orange Queen’ and I’m usually able to collect my own seeds since it is an open pollinated variety.

 

 

IMG_7529-minThe other glasshouse, which I believe is called ‘Classic Eight’, has been used already to successfully grow cucumbers and some unusual squashes last summer.

This year it will only be cucumbers as they are very popular during our summer tastings of soft fruits and vegetables. To extend the cropping season while at the same time have healthy and productive plants, I usually do two planting of cucumbers. For the first one I sow the seeds on the third week in April and plant the young plants in the glasshouse at the end of May.

 

Within four/five weeks, harvesting begins and by mid-August they’ll have reached the top of the training wire. In mid-July I’ll sow a second batch of seeds and, four weeks later, new plants will be ready to replace the fully grown ones, extending the harvesting period sometimes until October. This season I’ll be growing ‘Socrates’ and ‘La Diva’, two varieties classed as mini cucumbers, although they usually reach about 30 cm, and ‘Carmen’, a standard type that usually grows up to 60 cm. These three varieties have, over the years, proved to be very productive and healthy, reliably producing only female flowers.

The replacement of the two glasshouses is just one of the changes taking place in the Vegetable Garden in 2017, redesigning some of the beds and a new extension of the patio area are also projects that the Edibles Team are working on. We hope that they’ll be completed before the main planting season.

Mario De Pace

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