The Kitchen Garden Diaries 2: One Man's Rubbish...
17 May 2018 - by Niamh Mullally

The Kitchen Garden Diaries 2: One man's rubbish, is Urban Jungle's treasure...

Here's Propagation Manager Niamh's second instalment of the Kitchen Garden Diaries. This entry is about working with the elements, including the weather, and up-cycled and recycled materials in creating a beautiful, environmentally friendly space to grow salad and vegetables . Read on to find out what, where and how Niamh sourced incredibly useful, interesting and unique features for the Kitchen Garden...

Kitchen Garden Team
The Kitchen Garden Team - Tracy, Niamh and Carl 

It wasn’t the smooth, planned organised start I wanted. The severe cold snaps delayed the start of the new Edible Jungle by many weeks. Finally, when construction began, further complications ensued when the foundations of the Costessey car park were discovered to be mostly concrete rather than rich Norfolk topsoil. A frantic ring round of all the soil suppliers for replacement compost proved equally tricky as the cold spell had delayed their production also.

The flip side of all this kerfuffle was unexpected time to sow more vegetable seedlings. I gladly obliged and continued to sow chard, spinach, leeks, spring onions, salad, herbs, edible flowers, kale, radicchio, kohl rabi, spigarello and broad beans. 500 square meters is a big space to fill.

seeds ready to be planted

Ready to be planted...

Eventually the right amount of compost was sourced. The first step to prepare the heavy clay was a generous, even sprinkling of calcified seaweed. This would in-time help to break down the clay. The next step was to construct the south boundary fence so that critters would not be able to enter. Chicken wire was sunk below ground for the on-site rabbits, and a simple two metre fence was constructed. The March snow had allowed us to identify many, many small footprints tracked around the poly tunnels at night. Evidence that there were indeed deer in the area.

So, at this point in construction the only costs involved were soil, some new wood and some chicken wire.

Scrap metal was donated and collected all winter from our neighbour, and local metal sculptor Paul Richardson. We've made unique trellises and climbing structures, gates and fencing with Paul's discarded sheets of steel, originally used for punching out sculptures.

Scrap metal

Scrap metal used to make gates and trellises

The very talented Tracie was able to put her considerable skills to use and within hours a gate was made.

The chicken wire whilst necessary is an eyesore. With all year round colour, interest and winged creatures in mind the climbers Akebia quinata ( chocolate vine), Lonicera tellmanniana, Clematis armandii and Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) were planted.

climbers for wildlife


We rarely throw anything away here at Urban Jungle so lots of cardboard collected from Cafe and Nursery deliveries was laid before the soil was evenly distributed. An effective weed suppressant.

Cardboard base

Creating the beds was straight forward. A template was cut, and an agreed width of paths decided. Wood-chip donated from local tree surgeons was laid on the paths and the beds emerged.

The beds are taking shape

The beds are taking shape

Like a rat up a drainpipe, I was in there with a seed tray and a dibber. Granted it was more a personal psychological need rather than real urgency to plant broad beans, but it felt very satisfying whatever the reason.

Scrap metal gates

Scrap metal gates

The entrance to the garden also needed a boundary. Pallets were used to make a giant raised beds connected by another up cycled gate. The width of the beds will provide a secure entrance whilst allowing extra planting space, because obviously 500 square metres isn’t enough! These pallets will be filled with the contents of our winter Cafe composting bins and topped with fertilised new compost. Artichokes, climbers, and nasturtiums have already been planted, these with time will cover the free, (but let’s be honest) unsightly pallet beds.

Abandoned barrels weren’t safe either. Ben is a talented young sculptor and using his skills they were transformed into giant planters with extra planting pockets for herbs.

While all this was going on, progress was being made in other areas too. The heritage potatoes are in the process of being planted. Up-cycled compost bags are ideal for this, luckily, we have an endless supply.


Heritage potatoes

Chillies and peppers are all growing well in the heated propagators. seaweed fertiliser was added at the pricking out stage to give the seedlings a taste of things to come. This week I pinched out the tips, to encourage bushy growth and larger yields.

Chilli tips

Chilli tips

The tomatoes are very happy. It won’t be long now before they are planted into containers in the poly-tunnel. Hanging baskets are planned of ‘Tumbler’, along with nasturtiums to make the most of the poly-tunnel space.

Honestly, construction is nowhere complete yet, but progress is steadily being made and so far, up-cycling is at maximum and costs are at a minimum. Once the weather improves, growth should be rapid and the first harvests from our new garden will begin.

Happy growing.


The Kitchen Garden will be open to the public mid-summer, keep an eye on our newsletters for more information. The Cafe is open everyday serving fresh produce harvested from the Edible Jungle. Book a table at

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