28 May 2024

Gardeners’ World’s Adam Frost shows how to create a farm-to-plate garden

28 May 2024

This summer, BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Adam Frost will be surrounding himself with edibles as he creates the headline show garden, ‘The Chef’s Table’, at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham’s NEC.

The designer and plantsman says it’s a self-indulgent project because he loves cooking. “I probably was that kid that when I left school, they said you could be a gardener, or a chef or join the army.”

Over the years he has come across many chefs and cooks who have taken up the farm-to-plate ethos and he’ll be welcoming guest chefs including James Martin to cook in the outdoor space his has created.

Here he offers tips and tricks about how to create your own farm-to-plate space.

1. Work out your preferred spot

“Working out where you’re drawn to in your garden. If you’ve got a little spot that you love to go and sit but also how are you going to use your garden?”

2. Think about interplanting

“I always feel that people who venture into veg gardening either fall in love with it, or they get frustrated because it doesn’t quite work first time, or they haven’t necessarily got the space just to grow veg by itself.

“This garden is all about interplanting. You won’t necessarily tell that it’s purely a veg garden, as it will interplant the vegetables, the herbs and the ornamentals all in one space.”

Frost’s garden will feature a layer of both fruit and ornamental trees. “The premise is that I’ve found some old apple trees which will go in the centre of the plot, then a selection of other edibles and ornamentals. There will be a second layer of shrubs mixed in with fruit.

“I’ve found that if you interplant in gardens, your garden won’t take as much water as a standard veg garden.”

3. Flip your choices

“We grow ornamental and edible currants and ornamental and edible rhubarb. Think about flipping from ornamental to edibles and you’ll find that it can still look beautiful in an ornamental setting.

“A lot of herbs are really beautiful to look at, like sweet cicely, which is about to come into flower. It has a lovely aniseed scent and can be used to sweeten rhubarb instead of using sugar.

“We have masses of lovage in our gardens with a celery-type flavour which is good for a lot of meals. But there’s a smaller one called Scottish lovage, which has a lovely umbellifer flower on it.

“Then you have sorrels. You might have a normal green sorrel that we use for fish or stews, but there’s also a silver sorrel which has a lovely silvery variegated leaf which becomes a really good front-of-border plant. It’s just looking at herbs in a slightly different way.”

4. Consider fruit trees

“If you think about fruit trees, we don’t always necessarily consider that we’ve got enough room. But there’s a whole array of fruit that you can grow fanned against walls or in containers on patios.

“You can grow them as little step-overs, which are tiny dwarf fruit with a T-bar on top of them and they go on the edge of a border. So there’s an awful lot more fruit that looks ornamental because of the way that it’s pruned or looked after.”

5. Make the most of the prettiest veg

“You can use leaf beet, with wonderful different coloured leaf beets, different coloured beetroots and carrots. There are some wonderful squashes, a whole array of courgettes, and fennels.

“They’ve all got interesting foliage so if you think about interplanting those with some of the flowering plants, from late primulas to astrantias and salvias. This wonderful foliage gives you points of relief and all ties together.”

6. Create ‘picking’ paths

Instead of having a full width path, put in a path 40-50cm across to give you enough space to access the plot but which is softened by the planting, he suggests.

If you have gravel, let herbs seed into it, including borage, which has a soft blue flower and will give a softening effect to usable space, he suggests.

7. Don’t alienate the cook

“A lot of people want to have barbecues and there’s always some poor old guy over in the corner doing the barbecue while everyone else is miles away. The whole principle of the Chef’s Garden is that the person cooking is looking out on to the table.

“You could build a little bench and sit the barbecue next to it, making the surrounding area more inviting.”

Adam Frost will be appearing at BBC Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC from June 13-16.

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