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The Walled Kitchen Garden

Article Index

  1. The Walled Kitchen Garden
  2. The site
  3. The walls
  4. Layout
  5. Other features
  6. Fruit and vegetable production
  7. Glasshouses, frames and pits
  8. Pineapple pits
  9. Vineries
  10. Back sheds
  11. The workforce
  12. The future of walled gardens
  13. Sources and images
  14. All Pages



thompsonA typical 19th-century kitchen garden layoutWalled kitchen gardens typically have a four-square layout, determined by two cross paths and surrounded by a perimeter path. This created four separate plots, ideal for a four-yearly crop rotation system. Larger gardens may well have had further subdivisions. It was advised that crops should run from north to south within these plots, to avoid rows of crops shading their neighbours and allow an even exposure to sunshine (Delamer,1855:10).

The perimeter path would have been laid at some distance from the walls (a rule of thumb would be to place the path at a distance the same width as the height of the wall), both for aesthetic reasons and in order to create generous beds for the roots of the wall trained fruit trees.

The most common material for the paths would have been hoggin, a mixture of sand, gravel and binding clay topped with gravel (Keen). This created a hard-wearing yet permeable surface. Paths were also made of cinders, brick or cobbles. Grass was sometimes used, although this meant higher maintenance and would soon become muddy when wet.  William Cobbett had strong opinions about grass paths, as he did about most things, stating that ‘grass is very bad' (Cobbett, p.27).

However, although it needed regular maintenance, Cobbett did approve of using box plants as edging (Cobbett, p.28-9). Clipped dwarf box certainly makes an attractive edging, in spite of its tendency to harbour slugs and other pests.  Other plants were also used, for example thrift, chives and parsley.

Hard edgings were easier to maintain: tiles, wood, bricks, or local materials such as stone, slate, pebbles and rocks were all common.  From around the 1870s manufactured stoneware tiles in a variety of styles were produced and became very popular (Campbell in Wilson, p.27).

There would have been at least two or three entrances to the garden, generally wooden doors or ironwork gates. Almost always there was one in the northernmost wall between the glasshouses, providing access for the gardeners. A larger entrance in the wall nearest to the stables or farmyard provided access for cartloads of manure and other materials. A further - often grander and more elaborate - entrance was specifically for the family when they came to visit the garden. This practice became increasingly common throughout the 19th century.

A ‘slip garden' was often created outside the walls. Sometimes enclosed itself, it provided space for propagation and for the growing of the hardier, less fussy crops such as potatoes and cabbages. The slip garden was also the location for the less attractive aspects of the garden, such as manure heaps, hot-beds, cold-frames and the like.