Ahead of the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show next week, Hampton Court Palace reinstated its Royal Kitchen Garden. Based on a 1730’s plan of the garden, built on the site of Henry VIII’s Tiltyard, the garden will showcase rare and heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables, and will once again complete the link between the gardens, the historic kitchens, and the King’s table at the palace
To celebrate the opening of the new garden, we caught up with Hampton Court’s Kitchen Garden Keeper Vicki Cooke to get gardening tips for Londoners
1 A window sill can keep you supplied with fresh herbs through the summer months. Sow a few basil seeds in a pot of multipurpose compost and once they reach about 10cm tall, pinch out the tops for eating. This will encourage more shoots to form from lower down to make a bushy plant. Keep harvesting the tops as they regrow.
2 Coriander, dill and chervil need sowing at regular intervals to maintain a constant supply as they quickly run to seed. Sow seeds every few weeks for a constant supply of leaves. If dill and coriander do run to seed, the seeds can also be dried and used as a flavouring.
3 Chillies, especially the dwarf types, can be grown in pots on a windowsill. Start the seeds in a warm place in Feb or March and pot on as they grow. One plant can make a lot of chillis! Plants will survive for a few years if kept somewhere frost free over winter, just cut down the foliage by about half after they finish fruiting.
4 With a bit more space, the choice of edibles to grow is much wider. Strawberries will grow quite happily with minimal attention in larger pots in a sunny spot. They produce fruit for a few weeks in June, though you will have to make sure you get to the fruit before the blackbirds. Alpine strawberries will tolerate shade and produce a small crop over a long season, perfect for adding to your breakfast cereal.
5 Tomatoes can be grown in a variety of ways and will provide fruit from July until the frost (or blight) gets to them. The tumbling types are suitable for hanging baskets and planters and can even be grown in 2l water bottles hung upside down on a fence. Cut off the bottom and carefully feed in a young tomato plant so that the stem is sticking out of the neck of the bottle. Turn upside-down and fill with compost and attach string for hanging. The upside-down tomato will grow upwards and the open base makes for watering easy.