Discover more about edible plants and celebrate National Gardening Week
With one of the country’s biggest gardening celebrations underway, it is the perfect time to get outside and reconnect with nature.
National Gardening Week runs from Monday 29th April to Sunday 5th May 2019 and to celebrate we caught up with our head gardener, Jonathan, to find out about what edible plants we have at Pensthorpe. Over to you Jonathan…
This year’s RHS theme of National Gardening Week is Edible Britain and gardeners are being asked to share their love of home-grown produce. Although we haven’t really branched into vegetable growing, we do grow a lot of edible plants.
Visitors to Pensthorpe may have seen the beans and sunflowers around Hootz House in the Corten Infinity Garden, and some may not know that plants like dahlia tubers, the Hedychium ginger roots and the banana flower, which is edible although very astringent in taste and nothing like edible bananas, are all edible plants and plants that we have here at Pensthorpe. Even the magnolia flowers in the car parks are edible!
In the Habitat Garden we have herb plants like rosemary, lavender, mints and sages and luckily the geese are not too fond of them!
The Wave Garden is rich in edible plants like yew fruits, although be aware that yew seeds are poisonous. In margins of the garden, the nettles and the brambles, with the glorious blackberries in summer, can be eaten. There are also hazelnuts and sloes and even weeds like the common dandelion can be eaten, with the leaves tasty in a salad and the flower can be used to make a marmalade.
In the Millennium Garden there is ground elder and the young shoots of this plant can be eaten, and it was apparently a favourite of King Henry VIII!
Pretty much every garden has something edible and foraging is still as popular as ever, from dandelions to mushrooms, but make sure you do your research when it comes to foraging.
My favourite seasonal foraging book is Never Mind the Burdocks by Emma Gunn.
Using the edible plants in our gardens is a great way of engaging the young gardeners of the future, which is a keen message of National Gardening Week, to promote the outdoors and its benefits for health and wellbeing. This is also an ethos that Pensthorpe believes in and promotes through its various nature trails and educational opportunities.
Top tips for growing edibles
- Consider your growing space – is it free draining, sunny and sheltered? Does it spend half the day in the shade? Do you need to provide wind-breaks?
- Discover your soil – Ideally any vegetables need a free-draining, neutral (pH) soil with plenty of goodness in it ready to feed your plants.
- What will you be growing? Plan your vegetables to ensure successional food, you don’t want to have all your food ready to harvest in the same week and then nothing for the rest of the season!
- Protection – Inevitably, insects and birds will find your crop equally as tasty as you do and you may need to consider the best, environmentally friendly forms of pest control.
- Organic matter – Before planting, mulch your soil with compost, leaf mulch or well-rotted manure in order to gain strong healthy seedlings.