The Victorian Kitchen Garden

The following article is taken from Beeton's 'All About Gardening' published in 1871.

No better form can be devised for a kitchen-garden than a square, subdivided Kitchen Garden Fig.1 - 11k
Figure 1

by two centre walks, as in fig. I, or a long parallelogram, as fig. 2.Kitchen Garden Fig. 2 - 5k

Figure 2

Something like fig. 3 has been recommended by Mr. London and others, the rounded part being a fruit-garden. Kitchen Garden Fig. 3 - 12k

Figure 3

The same figure might also be rounded at both ends. The centre walk should pass through close at each end, a represents the wall; b, fruit-tree border, ten feetwide; c, walk, six feet wide; and d, border for dwarf trees or bushes, or the culture of strawberries, &c., six feet wide. Whatever shape be adopted, borders should always be introduced on each side of the main walks. Nothing tends more to relieve the heavy appearance of large masses of vegetables than such borders. They are separated from the main vegetable compartments by small walks, from 18 inches to two feet wide. These walks can be edged with pebbles, and have a sprinkling of gravel, or simply cut off as alleys, and left solid earth. If formed of some hard substance, all the wheeling can be performed on them instead of on the main walks.

Perhaps the nearer to a level a kitchen-garden can be formed, the better. A slight inclination to the south-east, south, or west, might be an advantage; on no account should it incline to the north. Some gardens, however, are formed on the side of a hill, and prove very productive. Where the garden is nearly level, it may often be desirable to give fruit-tree borders a considerable inclination, to get the benefit of the sun's rays and insure thorough drainage. Borders against the wall may be sloped in directions opposite to those which line the inner side of the walk. These borders have also a good effect laid on in round ridges.

    It is also in kitchen-gardens a good plan to throw up sloping banks or zigzag ridges for early and late crops. The south front of such banks, especially if a thatched hurdle or some other check to the wind is placed on the top, is equal to a south border; and the north side is equally useful for late strawberries, salading in hot weather, &c. Such banks are also most useful for training peas, &c., on table-trestles, within one foot or 18 inches of the surface. Some of the borders at the side of the walk might also be occupied by iron wire for training trees. One should be devoted to raspberries, planted three feet from the walks, and trained to a handrail at the side of the walk, from three to four feet high.

The size of the kitchen-garden must depend upon the demands upon it, and the mode of culture adopted. It is bad policy to have it too large. It should be kept in the highest state of cultivation, and its productive powers stimulated to the utmost by liberal dressings of manure. The soil should be trenched at least four feet deep, and drained a foot deeper. All the coarse vegetables, such as Jerusalem and globe artichokes, horseradish, rhubarb, &c., should be grown outside the walls, if possible, in a slip by themselves. Herbs should have a border devoted to them, and be grown in beds three feet wide. Thus cultivated, the back-garden becomes a source of interest and an object of beauty.

If the soil in the kitchen-garden is naturally good loam, no more is required than to mix a quantity of well-rotted dung with it before throwing it back into the trench, making the borders slope gradually towards the paths. If the soil requires improving, get a quantity of friable loam, mix rotten dung with it in the proportion of one part dung to three parts loam, and mix this again with the soil of the border where the trees are to stand. Plant healthy young trees of peach, nectarine, and apricot, and, if desirable, with grape-vines and figs: these ought to be placed 12 or 15 feet apart. We have seen a very convenient plan of growing grapes on a wall between the peaches. The latter were placed 15 feet apart, and a vine planted in each space halfway between; the vine was carried in a single stem to the top of the wall, where it divided into two stems, which were trained right and left under the coping; and as they were pruned on the spur system, they took up little room, and did not interfere with the other trees. On the east and west walls plant trained trees of plums, cherries, pears, and mulberries, after the same rule, but without the same precaution as to soil, as a these are not so particular.

In draining the kitchen-garden, one of the drains ought to run the whole length of the south border; for where peaches, nectarines, and especially apricots, are to be cultivated, the ground should be thoroughly drained.