Last winter, I cut down some of the overgrown shrubs in our front garden and replaced them with an experiment: a front garden allotment in the shape of four raised beds, each a metre square.
This is not the first time I have turned part of our front garden over to growing produce. In our old house, we built three raised beds on what had been a scrap of lawn out front. My logic is that if I am walking past the raised beds every day, I can keep a constant eye on what is growing, what needs weeding and what pests need removing.
My plan in our current garden is to rotate the beds, which have just two permanent fixtures in the shape of a Gertrude Jekyll rose in one and a Lady Hillingdon climber in another. This year the top left bed was a cut flower patch, with the pink scented Rosa Gertrude Jekyll, two varieties of sweet pea – Spencers Old Mixed and silver-on-plum Lisa Maria – cornflowers and ladybird poppies, both grown from seed from Great Dixter.
The top right bed started out as a ‘Three Sisters’ bed with sweetcorn, only one of which survived, up which I grew purple French beans ‘Cosse Violette’. Beside these I sowed some pumpkin and squash seeds which are now bearing fruit and then late in the day I poked some sunflower seeds into the ground, which have brought plenty of late summer cheeriness.
The lower right bed, closest to our front door was given over to garlic, which failed to bulk up, radishes, which were delicious and then I let them go to seed with pretty pink flowers, Cavolo Nero and rainbow chard. The Crocosmia which once grew under this bed poked its way up through all of these.
Finally, my lower bed was where I planted my trademark carrots and calendula. The pot marigolds (Calendula Officinalis) have done wonderfully in this south facing spot, flowering from late June onwards and still going strong. But with the carrots, I made the mistake of planting Arran Pilot first early potatoes behind them and they were soon overshadowed and grew too weak and spindly.
It is all a learning process. I am currently enjoying the overgrown abundance of pumpkins and sunflowers (not to mention bindweed!), which gives the garden a Cinderella meets Sleeping Beauty feel. But as winter approaches I will dig over the beds, ready to rotate my crops in the hope of an even more fruitful growing season in 2019.