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Nanna Stærmose

01 Jul 2021 15:04

Garden frames are a pivotal tool at Graasten Castle

For gardener Jens Hansen, the garden frames are an important tool for growing both vegetables and flowers at Graasten Castle.

In the Danish Royal Kitchen Garden at Graasten Castle are 72 garden frames specially designed for the garden. The garden frames are an important piece in the purpose of the kitchen garden - to provide vegetables to the castle and the Danish royal family.

They are in dead straight rows with the tops standing at an angle upwards, so that the crops get as much air as possible. There are currently a total of 63 garden frames in the Royal Kitchen Garden, which is part of Graasten Castle. It is the Royal Castle and Culture Agency who are responsible for the daily operation, and the GreenhouseForum has stopped by to have a chat with gardener Jens Hansen, who since The Royal Kitchen Garden opened last summer has been one of the driving forces in cultivating the garden and making it yield.

The garden frames are new and designed especially for the Royal Kitchen Garden at Graasten Castle by Juliana. Right now, it is overflowing with vegetables such as beans, potatoes, lettuce, and herbs, but the garden frames are also used to grow flowers such as dahlias.

It is all grown for the purpose of providing the castle and the royal family with vegetables when they are on holiday in southern Jutland throughout the summer, but some are also sold in the castle shop. The cultivation thus has a purpose and here the garden frames have a central role.

"Of course, we use our greenhouses for germination, but the garden frames are an important tool when the plants are leaving the greenhouse and get transplanted outside in the open," says Jens Hansen.

 

Beans are a regular crop in the Royal Kitchen Garden.

The Royal Kitchen Garden

In 2015, it was decided by the Municipality in Sønderborg and the Palaces and Culture Agency that in order to attract the public and tourists to Southern Jutland, the Royal Kitchen Garden at Graasten Castle should be transformed into an attraction.

Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark and Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte inaugurated the Royal Kitchen Garden on July 24, 2020.

Some crops from the Royal Kitchen Garden are sold at the garden shop, but otherwise, the crops are grown to supply the royal family with vegetables when they are vacationing at Graasten Castle.

Both vegetables and flowers are grown in the old and beautiful greenhouses and new garden frames, that the Royal Kitchen Garden houses.

Here you can read more or see the opening hours of the Danish Royal Kitchen Garden at Graasten Castle.

The garden frames help to harden the plants so that they become more resistant to both sun and wind. And it is not insignificant, because a lot must be grown to be able to supply the kitchen at Graasten Castle. In addition, some crops that come outside from the greenhouse can stop their growth, Jens Hansen explains, and there is no time for that.

“The vegetables should preferably be ready when guests arrive. Therefore, I start early in the year to be sure that we get some crops in the early summer, and at the same time I make sure to germinate/plant continuously throughout the spring, so we have new supplies and backup solutions if anything should go wrong,” says Jens Hansen.

There are no special demands from the Royal Household on what to cultivate. But a vegetable that has always been in the garden - because yes, there has always been a kitchen garden, it just has not been open to the public - are beans. They are currently sprouting from one of the garden frames - just as the potatoes of the sorts Ditta, Marabel, and Saw also sprout from one of the garden frames. Jens Hansen cannot remember every single crop - because there is not just one potato sort or one bean sort. For him, it is about putting together the garden’s crops so that there is something to harvest continuously throughout the year. 

“In terms of potatoes, I make sure there is one sort that comes early, one that comes late and one I can harvest between those two, but we do not need potatoes until late June, so it is not something we stress about,” he says.

 

Naturally, we use your greenhouses for germination, but the garden frames are an important tool when we move the plants from the greenhouse outdoors

 

 

The Royal Kitchen Garden is full of variation and testifies that you can prepare a rich meal that stimulates both taste and sight.

“We also grow a lot of edible flowers in the garden, such as monks cress and marigolds, and then we have an abundance of herbs. If I have to mention some of the more exotic ones, it could be hummingbird sage, coca cola wormwood, bronze and herb fennel.

While Jens Hansen shows the garden, he moves the water hose around from time to time. It is a hot summer day in June, and it requires constant observation and many amounts of water to keep the garden lush and the crops healthy. Another important factor besides water is the soil itself. Jens Hansen makes sure to keep it healthy with the help of green manure beds 

"As for our green manure beds, every fourth bed in the kitchen garden is fallow with green manure in. Once we have harvested our vegetables, we plant the garden beds with different green manure mixtures, which we plough in the spring before we sow/plant in the beds again," explains Jens Hansen.

The crops in the green manure beds are, for example, clover, purple tansy, winter vetch and buckwheat. On the one hand, the plants absorb nitrogen into the soil, and on the other hand, some of them have long roots that reach down and break the clay layer, which means that the soil is broken down and adds more nutrients.

 

The potatoes are sprouting in the garden frames.

 

Everything is thought of, and even though May was a wet month that caused some challenges for the gardener, the crops can soon be harvested, although not as much as the gardener had hoped.

“We have been challenged with a cold May this year, but then it is a good thing we have the garden frames,” he says.

Regardless of a cold May, it is now summer at Graasten Castle and in a few weeks, we will have royal guests.