Victorian Kitchen Garden

Recently Kirk found something new to get us through the winter months. It's a little BBC show from the 1980s called "Victorian Kitchen Garden," and it is awesome:

It's like a precursor to those great PBS shows like "Frontier House" and "Manor House" that they used to make, where people recreate everyday life in a historical time period. This lacks the costume-y nature of those shows, but these guys use their research and first-hand knowledge from some of the last old-time estate gardeners in England to bring a decrepit garden back to its full Victorian splendor. And since this is more about food than flowers, it's super interesting. In a quiet, old-guy-narrating-a-BBC-documentary way. I think Jonas half-expects a knight to come riding by and stab people.

Anyway, Episode 2 has given me fresh food for thought in the winter gardening arena. It's all about nineteenth century greenhouses (kinda expensive to heat, but so beautiful) and, my new obsession (as in, How can I make this happen?), hot beds:

You can skip to minute 19, if you want, but you'd miss out on the head gardener's cool personal history and excellent tweed, which would be a shame. The hot beds are these very deep, brick-lined beds, shaped like our cold frames, but much larger. If you're local and have strolled around the skeletons of the gardens at Maudsley State Park, this might look familiar:

Now I know why those old brick beds are so deep! Turns out you throw in manure four feet deep, then cover with another foot of regular soil, and cover with glass. The manure will heat up that frame as it breaks down, allowing for a self-heated cold frame to start seeds and grow cold-hardy vegetables in even very cold weather.

So now I want one. There's a farm with a couple horses right on our street, so I think the manure part is covered. 

But are we ready for more digging and bricklaying? And where would we put it? I vote for the wasted ground in front of the hedge that hides our house from the street, but it might be tough to access during a bad winter – it's kind of in the plow zone in years when we get a lot of snow. Maybe there's enough room on the other side of the garage? Or along the property line as part of a driveway renovation? 

Like I said, I'm currently a little obsessed with this idea. But this is how everything gets done around here: months of mulling and drawing, troubleshooting and re-drawing, discussion and debate, until we finally figure out a new design for something. Anything. 

I'll keep you posted.


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