Easy Kitchen Garden, Step by Step

Grow a kitchen garden to enjoy safe, flavorful and nutritious homegrown food.

| February/March 2011

  • kitchen garden
    Grow a kitchen garden to enjoy safe, flavorful and nutritious homegrown food. Photo by judywhite/GardenPhotos.com.
    PHOTO: JUDYWHITE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
  • kitchen garden plan
    If you plan carefully from the outset, your garden will be easier to maintain and enjoy.
    LEE REICH
  • kitchen garden produce
    Even a small garden can produce a big chunk of a household’s produce needs for a year.
    ISTOCKPHOTO/LESLIE MORRIS
  • kitchen garden mulch
    You’ll be wise to employ much mulch throughout the growing season.
    ROGER DOIRON
  • kitchen garden location
    Think carefully about the best garden location — the closer to your kitchen, the better.
    JUDYWHITE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
  • kitchen garden greens and herbs
    Salad greens and herbs are some of the easiest crops for a kitchen garden.
    JUDYWHITE/GARDENPHOTOS.COM
  • kitchen garden kids
    With a kitchen garden, families can be happier and more active by growing awesome food with their own hands.
    ROGER DOIRON
  • kitchen garden transplants
    There’s no shame in planting transplants rather than seeds.
    ROGER DOIRON
  • kitchen garden alice waters
    Alice Waters, founder of the edible schoolyard movement.
    THOMAS HEINSER/COURTESY CHEZ PANISSE FOUNDATION

  • kitchen garden
  • kitchen garden plan
  • kitchen garden produce
  • kitchen garden mulch
  • kitchen garden location
  • kitchen garden greens and herbs
  • kitchen garden kids
  • kitchen garden transplants
  • kitchen garden alice waters

In its simplest form, a kitchen garden produces fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs for delicious, healthy meals. A kitchen garden doesn’t have to be right outside the kitchen door, but the closer it is, the better. Think about it this way: The easier it is for you to get into the garden, the more likely it is that you will get tasty things out of it. Did you forget to add the chopped dill on your boiled red-skinned potatoes? No problem — it’s just steps away.

Starting a Kitchen Garden

If you have to choose between a sunny spot or a close one, pick the sunny one. The best location for a new garden is one receiving full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight per day), and one where the soil drains well. If no puddles remain a few hours after a good rain, you know your site drains well.

After you’ve figured out where the sun shines longest and strongest, your next task will be to define your kitchen garden goals. My first recommendation for new gardeners is to start small, tuck a few successes under your belt in year one, and scale up little by little.

But what if you’re really fired up about it? Even in year one, you may be able to meet a big chunk of your family’s produce needs. In the case of my garden in Scarborough, Maine, we have 1,500 square feet under cultivation, which yields enough to meet nearly half of my family of five’s produce needs for the year. When you do the garden math, it comes out to 300 square feet per person. More talented gardeners with more generous soils and climates are able to produce more food in less space, but maximizing production is not our only goal. We’re also trying to maximize pleasure and health, both our own and that of the garden. Kitchen gardens and gardeners thrive because of positive feedback loops. If your garden harvests taste good and make you feel good, you will feel more motivated to keep on growing.



Preparing the Garden Site

If you’re starting your kitchen garden on a patch of lawn, you can build up from the ground with raised beds, or plant directly in the ground. Building raised beds is a good idea if your soil is poor or doesn’t drain well, and you like the look of containers made from wood, stone or corrugated metal. This approach is usually more expensive, however, and requires more initial work than planting in the ground.

Whether you’re going with raised beds or planting directly in the ground, you’ll need to decide what to do with the sod. You can remove it and compost it, which is hard work, but ensures that you won’t have grass and weeds coming up in your garden. If you’re looking to start a small or medium-sized garden, it’s possible to cut and remove sod in neat strips using nothing more than a sharp spade and some back muscle. For removing grass from a larger area, consider renting a sod cutter.

Catrina
3/11/2014 10:15:35 AM

Wonderful article! I am a huge fan of kitchen gardens and believe in making them simple for everyone. Here is a link to a great resource, www.patiotoplate.com







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