Since medieval times gardeners have engaged all of our five senses: touch, sound, sight, smell and taste by growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs side by side. An excellent example of this is the French kitchen garden or potager. These gardens also provide a safe haven for local fauna to feel at home in, including birds, insects and reptiles.
Even if space is limited, you can still create a garden that tastes as good as it looks. Many varieties of fruit, vegetables, and herbs can be grown in small outdoor areas or in pots, hanging baskets, leftover containers or on windowsills. There are even plants that can be grown without soil, such as cress or pea shoots.
There are many fruit and vegetable options we can grow to stimulate our sense of taste. Many of these plants produce not only great tasting fruits that attract insects and animals who, in turn, disperse their seeds but they also produce edible seeds, roots and leaves.
When considering which fruit and vegetables to grow, choose those you regularly enjoy eating, which can be expensive to buy in the shops or are easy to grow. Plants can be grown from seed or purchased ready to plant.
The following are examples of those that grow well and don’t take up much space:
Dwarf varieties of fruit and vegetables grow well in containers, whereas climbing ones make excellent use of vertical spaces (such as walls and fences) whilst also looking attractive. Consider growing plants such as beetroot, chives, shallots or herbs to maximise soil space and to add colour and texture.
Many salad leaves, such as lettuce and rocket, are expensive to buy and lose their taste after being packed and left on a supermarket shelf. The leaves are easy to grow and take up very little space
You can inspire children to learn about the food they eat. Give them a corner of the garden to call their own to grow fruit and vegetables in various situations, from open ground to pots and containers. Choose containers with drainage holes and large enough so plants will have room to grow. Fill with fresh, peat-free, multi-purpose compost. Crops in pots need feeding more regularly. A slow-release fertiliser is ideal.
Encourage the children to sow seeds of easy-to-grow plants such as lettuce, radish, peas and beans or plant strawberry runners in containers or baskets. Tending the young plants as they grow, then harvesting and eating the food they have grown are a great way of engaging children’s sense of taste in the garden.
Herbs and some of the flowering plants are particularly significant as they are multi-sensory. A continuous medley of aromatic, flavoursome fresh herbs are easy to grow and harvest, adding vibrant flavours and texture to any meal.
Common culinary herbs
The commonly used culinary herbs can easily be grown in traditional herb or vegetable gardens, raised beds, containers or mixed borders and include:
Most herbs originate from the Mediterranean and require a sunny position.
You might also like to grow edible flowers for a variety of textures and tastes:
Please note: When planting edible flowers, take care to differentiate them from other non-edible flowers. This is of particular importance when the garden is for children.
Useful herbs to plant in the kitchen garden include:
The brassica family – chard, kale, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, purple sprouting and brussels sprouts - can be grown and harvested over the winter months. Root vegetables such as carrots and beetroot can be harvested in late autumn and stored carefully for several months.
Perennial herbs like bay, rosemary, sage and thyme are hardy enough to survive the winter but may need protection against the harshest weather. If you have a sunny windowsill in your kitchen, you can, with the right care, grow annual herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme.