It’s nearly time to start the autumn cleanup in the vegetable garden, but there are ways to make what can be a boring task into pleasurable experience. Well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but there are some great tips in this interview with David Mattern who manages the vegetable garden at Chanticleer in Pennsylvania. I came across this on Margaret Roach’s A Way To Garden website.

my vegetable-garden prep q&a with david mattern

Q. Though the vegetable garden at Chanticleer has had a strong ornamental focus in past years, I think you?ve shifted that a bit recently, yes?
A. This year we thought, let?s make vegetable gardens what they are. Vegetable gardens are about producing food. So this year we?ve approached it under the thought of let?s make the vegetable garden productive first, to really focus on growing healthy plants. Healthy plants will grow much better produce, they?ll look better, and be much more attractive. That?s sort of the direction we?ve taken this year, and it has been very productive for us.
Q. In the past, the ornamentality was the first thought in that equation?
A. Yes.
Q. So grow healthy vegetables and you?ll have productive and also beautiful at the same time.
A. We?ve realized that if we focus on productivity, the aesthetics kind of follow. The plant kind of show themselves off. Being at a public garden, it?s a display garden first?it has to look good. By making it productive, we?re finding that it is both attractive and educational in its own right. That kind of follows through.
Q. I know you?re a graduate of Longwood?s Professional Gardeners Training Program, and after that spent some time interning in England at some prestigious spots. Is that where have you derived your influences about growing edibles that we were just discussing?
A. Definitely my biggest influence, in vegetable gardening, really came from the time I spent at West Dean Gardens in West Sussex, in the UK. I worked under head gardeners Jim Buckland and Sarah Wayne, who are two fantastic people.
They?and West Dean?are best known for the Victorian-style walled kitchen garden [below, photo from West Dean website]. So I asked Sarah one day: ?How do you pick your vegetables? How do you select what you?re going to grow every year??
copyright-west-dean-gardens-84352-kitchen-garden-2-1I thought her response was really perfect. She said, ?I grow vegetables that look good.? She said, ?I grow vegetables that artists want to paint.? She went on to say that, ?I don?t always really pick vegetables based off of how they?re supposed to taste.?
And then she looks at me square in the eye and says, ?If they?re grown well, they will taste good.?

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I am a keen gardener and so created Garden Pics and Tips for people who love gardens and enjoy great pictures of plants and gardens. Also covered are practical tips on all aspects of gardening.