Over the past 4 years, I’ve been slowly transforming my veg plot from a big, overgrown patch of brambles, knotweed, tree stumps and nettles, to a serene kitchen garden with space for a hammock, a big outdoor table, and space for a BBQ. It’s really important to me that I can enjoy simply being in my veg patch, not always feeling that it is a place for gardening. Last year I made great progress, and now that the actual garden is more or less “finished” (in that it has paths, raised beds, fences, structure and so on) I am on a bit of a mission this season to make it look amazing in the height of the summer. So, I’ve been thinking and these are my absolute must-have plants this summer:
This is my easy win. As I did last year, I’m going to dot lots of calendula in and around the veggies. It adds so much vibrant colour and they flower for such a long time. Plus, there’s the added benefit of attracting bees and butterflies and other insects to help balance out the eco system and keep other insects off my veg!
I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of eating artichokes. They just don’t really do it for me – I’d much rather have a corn-on-the-cob! However, the plants are brilliant with their big, spiky leaves and their fabulous purple flowers. I planted 5 of them last summer, and they’re already producing lots of lovely leaves this spring. I’m hoping they’re going to grow enormous and add a bit of texture and shape to the plot.
If you haven’t yet grown these pretty climbers, then please please give them a go this summer. They’re so similar to sweet peas to look at, but you get to eat the crunchy pods as you’re pottering around your plot! I grew mine up a fairly rubbish chicken wire frame last year, but even so they really added something to the veg patch. This year, I’m going to put a bit more effort into making the chicken wire frame look a bit nicer so that they can scramble up and look stunning. FYI, they easily grow to 6 foot, so if you do build something, make sure it’s nice and tall!
Lavender and/or Rosemary
I love the spears of foliage that both these plants provide, and once they are established they can look really quite impressive. The rosemary I got from Rocket Gardens last year is already a good two foot tall, and looks so pretty when in flower. The lavender has taken a bit longer to look good, but I have learnt that it prefers “bad” soil to fresh compost. Since I replanted it in an un-touched patch of stony/clay soil, it seems much happier! Also, bees love both these plants and it’s nice to hear a bit of a buzz! They smell amazing too as you brush past with a wheelbarrow!
I find a block of sweetcorn growing in the veg patch really appealing to look at. The plants add good height and swoosh around with the breeze. Of all the things I grow, I think sweetcorn is my absolute favourite for taste. SO much sweeter than shop-bought, and an absolute joy when you can just harvest a cob and put it straight on the BBQ!
It’s an obvious choice, but nothing quite beats the sight of beans climbing up bamboo poles in the middle of the veg patch. I really like Rocket Garden’s varieties too – you get beautiful red flowers from the runners, soft pink flowers from the Cosse Violette, speckled red pods from the Borlotti and I think some of the french beans have white flowers. I’ll definitely be growing lots of these again this summer!
Finally, I have to add Cavolo Nero to the list for its dark green, majestic leaves. They have a fab waterproof quality that makes them look really lovely in the morning dew, and as they grow bigger and bigger they really add something to the veg patch. I think it’s the contrast of the dark green against all the other lighter, brighter greens. Such a great crop!