The revolution of ‘growing your own…’ is shaking the gardening world. With a kitchen garden of your own, you can grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, salads or even edible flowers. What’s more exciting than picking your food ingredients fresh from your garden to prepare delicious meals for your family or even friends when they come over?
Starting your kitchen garden comes with lots of benefits. As a gardener, there’s so much satisfaction in tilling your garden with your own hands, later harvesting the fruits of your labor and hard work. With every harvest, you don’t just get to prepare your foods with fresh ingredients, but you’re sure of consuming fully organic gardening products.
Brian Robert Marshall, Barnsley House kitchen garden, Barnsley – geograph.org.uk – 809937, CC BY-SA 2.0
Vegetable seeds sales have surpassed those of flowers, thanks to gardeners’ undying passion for planting vegetables in their own gardens.
Whether you’ve got a keen eye on a vegetable container garden (using raised metal beds for example), seek to plant a few spinach seeds or carrots in your flower garden, consider a window garden for herbs or simply want to dedicate space in your backyard for gardening, you can start a kitchen garden in many ways.
Top 6 Steps to Starting a Kitchen Garden
Plan your vegetable garden early so you can start creating it in spring. If you’re a first-time gardener, a bit of trial and error might be involved to find out what works and what doesn’t. Despite the size of your garden, you can plant edibles. First, decide on how large or small you want your garden. However, that would depend on the space available in your yard.
A large garden would involve lots of preparation and maintenance work. If you’ve got limited space and time to work on your garden, consider a mix of containers or pots, dwarf vegetable varieties and growing some edibles in your flower bed. That would help maximize on the use of the small space available while increasing potential yield.
Step 1: Choose the Right Position for Your Kitchen Garden
Choose an open site on your yard that enjoys 6 to 8 hours of sunshine daily. Make sure the spot also receives enough sunlight in the morning to help your plants manufacture the food they need to grow. Track shadows in your front and backyard for a few days to find out where they fall because vegetables require sufficient light to grow.
If your space isn’t exposed to enough sunlight, opt for shade-tolerant crops. Blackberries, cherries, rhubarb, raspberries, and blackcurrants do well in shaded gardens. It’s also important to pick a location with sufficient protection from the wind. Hedges, picket fences and windbreaks or trees make excellent permeable wind barriers.
Step 2: What Would You Like to Grow?
Grow a vegetable you need and love to eat. Create a list of your favorite edibles, including herbs. Include various vegetable varieties and make sure your list has both cheap and expensive edibles. With your climatic conditions and available space in mind, narrow down your selection to the plants that can do well in your kitchen garden.
Choose crops that grow in various seasons to ensure you get to harvest throughout the year and seasons. Pick a mix of summer, spring, winter and autumn crops for continuous harvesting season after season.
Step 3: Prepare Soil in Your Kitchen Garden
Sample soil from different parts of your garden for pH testing. It’s important for you to know whether your gardening soil is acidic or alkaline. Take the soil to a local Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory for testing. Check out this pH soil testing guide to learn how you can do the testing on your own and even alter the soil pH to suit the plants you want to grow.
Whether the soil is more on the sandy or clay spectrum, add organic matter to improve its nutrient level and ability to retain moisture. Clay is ideal for later crops because it takes time to warm up. It also tends to be compact and thus requires breaking before you can plant your crops.
Preparing Soil for Planting Vegetables
On the other hand, early vegetables do well in light soils such as sand. However, you’ll have to add compost and manure in large amounts to light soils to reduce the rate at which they drain water.
Loamy soil is the best for gardening. It’s crumbly and loose, meaning it easily absorbs nutrients and water. Loamy soils also drain freely and retain water, atop is well aerated.
Step 4: Choose a Bed for Your Kitchen Garden
If you have poor soil in your garden and want to create your garden within a small plot or space in your yard, opt for a raised bed(s) with loamy soil. You can get one from an online or local garden center. The beds are raised to improve soil drainage in your garden. They also prevent soil from getting compact and improves its temperature.
Raised garden beds also prevent pests such as slugs and snails from invading your crops. In case of heavy rains, the sides of the beds also protect your soil from being eroded or washed away. Using a bed on your garden also means weeds are less likely to get into it.
Raised Garden Beds Filled with Soil
Make your own garden beds if you’re creative and strong, and of course, have the tools required. However, ready-made raised beds are readily available on the market for sale. Beds are often made from old railway sleepers, planks of wood, metal, durable stones or bricks and rustic yet attractive woven willows.
Use black polythene to line your bed if it’s made from wood to protect it from moisture and thus increasing its durability. Another benefit of beds is that you can sit on the edges while working on your garden. It means you get to work longer without getting tired, especially if you’ve got back aches. Moreover, some beds are portable and can be used indoors.
Step 5: Layout Your Kitchen Garden – Select the Right Features and Options
Choose a layout that’ll work for your needs and available space. When it comes to creating your kitchen garden, there are no rules. It’s all about your creativity. Grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, edible and inedible flowers in your kitchen garden. They’re bound to give your garden color, shape or even pattern.
Plant your seeds in independent blocks, rows or geometric patterns for an aesthetic, ornamental look. A mix of edibles and ornamentals in your garden is a good way to confuse pests, keeping them off your plants.
Vegetables Planted in Rows
Mono-cropping is ideal if your crops require special protection from pests. If you’re keen on coming up with a unique vegetable garden design, sketch it on paper prior to planting your crops or marking out your garden.
If your space is large enough to accommodate several beds, leave pathways in between them for easy access. Make sure the size of beds you opt for allowing for easy planting, weeding and even harvesting. Dense flower borders and long grass or vegetation near your kitchen garden can introduce pests.
Draw paths between your garden and other vegetation in your yard not just to keep pests away, but also make it easy to spot them. Grow climbers and vines to make use of vertical space in your garden. Beans, peas, and cucumbers climb frames, tripods, and trellis for support. The upward growth also lures black flies away from your shorter crops.
Sweet peas add fragrance to your garden and make it more colorful. Companion plants such as daisies and marigolds attract beneficial insects such as pollinators. Add a few fruit trees in your garden or yard, even if just one or two as cordons, espaliers or even step-overs to your garden.
Step 6: Plant Vegetables and Herbs in Your Kitchen Garden
You can start your vegetable garden from plug plants, seedlings or seeds. Start your seeds in a propagator, nursery or even a greenhouse. Buy vegetable seedlings or start your own. Place seed trays on your windowsills to propagate your vegetable seeds. Alternatively, plant a combination of seeds and seedlings in your garden.
Here’s a Video Courtesy of How Cast and YouTube on How to Grow a Vegetable Garden
However, you can sow most vegetable seeds directly into soil in your garden once it attains the right temperature. Develop a sowing program that runs for weeks to ensure you sow seeds successively for harvesting throughout the year. Edge your garden with contrasting plants such as flowers and herbs to cover bare spots in your garden as you progress into the season.
Grow fast-fillers such as salad greens and chervil after harvesting because they tend to grow again after they’ve been cut. Salad greens don’t just self-sow, but you can easily move and use them as fillers in your garden when necessary. Green manures such as phacelia and mustards grow fast. They’re also tough and bloom showy flowers.
Plant carrots, beans, onions, peas, cloche salad crops, and your first potatoes in February. Perpetual spinach and Swiss chard grow into winter, yielding harvests throughout the year. Baby leaves and rocket salads are the most costly at groceries, but the easiest to grow. Moreover, salads grow all-year round, making them a perfect addition to your garden.
Potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, onions, garlic, beetroot, strawberries, squash, mint, and chives are other veggies you can easily grow in your kitchen garden. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are also attractive, meaning your garden is a sure way to improve the appearance of your outdoor space.
Top 12 Kitchen Garden Crops
Here are the top 12 vegetables, fruits, and herbs you can plant in your garden:
Top 5 Kitchen Gardens for Inspiration
Do you need motivation and inspiration to start your kitchen garden? Gardening magazines and websites, both online and offline, can inspire you to be the gardener you’re. The following are some amazing gardens across the globe (the US and the UK) that you can check out for inspiration:
- Lotusland – The garden is based in Santa Barbara, California. Founded in the 21st century, the garden features high order botanical collections and the signature blue garden.
- Audley End House and Gardens – The Audley garden is home to more than 60 and 120 varieties of tomatoes and apples, respectively. It has a kitchen garden with an organic border.
- Wave Hill – The garden is located in Bronx, New York.
- West Dean Gardens – The garden is found in the UK and made up of glasshouses and a kitchen garden. It mainly features new and heritage varieties of vegetables.
- Attingham Park – Based in the UK, the garden was founded in the 18th century. It features glasshouses spanning two acres, an old kitchen garden, and a Georgian bee house. The garden is almost as old as the park and has everything you need to motivate you to start your own garden.
Contact us to find out more about gardening vegetables and other edibles from one of our professional gardeners.