Kitchen Gardener Inchico Garbutt takes you through a year in the life of the historical Kitchen Garden at Hampton Court Palace – from plotting beds in the winter to harvesting in the summer.
Welcome to the Kitchen Garden! It’s one of the most active gardens at Hampton Court Palace, as a cycle of fruit and veg is grown in this space all year long.
The year’s sowing schedule is planned at the start of the year in January, as we plot every bed (254 in total!) with what to grow that year. By June, the Kitchen Garden has transformed into a mini produce farm, selling a wide range of seasonal vegetables, from chard to rhubarb (and flowers from the Nursery) most days on a market stall located in The Wilderness area of the gardens.
The Kitchen Garden is about an acre, which is a 1/6 of its original size when William III and Mary II created it during their reign in the late 17th century. The garden would originally have supplied the royal court with all their fruit, herbs and vegetables and many gardeners would have worked to keep up the annual planting and picking of produce. Today, we are a modest team of two gardeners and seven regular volunteers.
The seed sowing schedule starts in the new year in the Nursery with aubergines and peppers, followed soon after with tomatoes. By mid-March, the wall-trained soft fruits such as apricot, nectarine and peach trees start to blossom, adding a flash of colour to the Kitchen Garden. This is a sign that the weather is getting warmer and it’s time to start paying attention to pests in the garden. Our biggest concern is the box tree caterpillar which can completely defoliate the hedges. We monitor our box hedge weekly for a sign of caterpillar damage as well as placing and checking box moth pheromone traps.
In April, our Nursery gets packed with trays full of seedlings. Most of our vegetable seeds are grown in module trays. On average, we sow two seeds per module and prick out extra seedling. In May, it’s time to sow cabbage, courgette and squash seeds for autumn. At the same time, seeds that were sown from March to April are now ready to be planted in the garden, including chard, leek, brussels sprouts and celeriac.
This time of year (August), we are harvesting a wide range of crops, such as spinach, chard, kale, chillies, tomatoes, herbs and beetroot. Apart from harvesting, our days are busy with ongoing maintenance tasks, especially weeding all the beds and paths, planting out new crops, including brassicas, and summer pruning our fruit trees.
We look forward to seeing you in the gardens, where we are always happy to answer your gardening questions!