The Vegetable Collection
The Vegetable Beds are a new addition to the Botanic Garden. In 2005 Kim Wilkie Associates were commissioned to produce a master plan for the Lower Garden, one that reflected the role of the Botanic Garden in the 21st century and linked the area more appropriately with the Walled Garden. The development of the Vegetable Beds in 2009 were a key part of this plan.
We have four allotment style plots that operate on a traditional four-year rotation, with one plot manured each year. The vegetables are divided into four groups:
- Brassicas - cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale etc.
- Legumes - peas and beans
- Roots & salads - carrot, parsnip, beetroot, spring onion, lettuce etc.
These groups of vegetables rotate around the four plots each year, helping to prevent the accumulation of pests and disease. Permanent crops run through each bed, such as rhubarb, sea kale, globe artichokes and strawberries. All of the crops are cultivated using organic principles, so no synthetic pesticides and fertilisers.
These plots aim to appeal to the widest audience possible and are used extensively throughout our education programmes. We utilise the collection to communicate messages about reducing our impact on global biodiversity. We do this by discussing issues such as:
- Growing our own food
- Buying locally produced fruit and vegetables
- Reducing food miles
- Reducing food packaging
The vegetables are harvested weekly during the season by volunteers from the charity The Oxford Food Bank. They are then distributed to three local charities:
The charities receive fresh, free produce ensuring the vegetables go to those who need it most in the local community.
It seems fitting that an area of the Botanic Garden has been turned over to the growing of fruit and vegetables. Not only was this land used as allotments by Christ Church College before being taken over by the Botanic Garden in 1947, but our first Curator, Jacob Bobart, was cultivating edible crops in the early days of the Garden to help fund further plantings.