Has it ever happened to you that you don’t have enough lettuce for a salad? Were you ever in a situation where you really wanted to eat strawberries but couldn’t make yourself go to the supermarket and buy some? Well, here’s a solution for you: grow your own kitchen garden!
A kitchen garden is a smallish garden which is supposed to be kept as close to your kitchen doors as possible so you can constantly harvest it. In that way having fresh fruits and vegetables in almost any part of the year will be possible.
Not only can you grow fruits and vegetables, but you can also grow and harvest spice herbs, such as basil and laurel. Growing your own crops to cover your everyday needs will make you self-sufficient in this regard, and it can be a useful and rather challenging pet project of yours, and great activity!
How to Make Your Own Kitchen Garden
Now that you know some basic facts about kitchen gardens, we come to the main course: making your own kitchen garden. I’ll give you some basic pointers and pieces of advice so you can easily set up your little piece of gardening paradise.
1. Choose the Proper Site
When it comes to choosing the right spot, pick one where the sun shines the most. If it gets at least 6 hours of more or less constant sunlight, this is where you should do it.
If you’re unable to plant indoors, you can do so on your balcony! Balconies, rooftops, window sills. All this can be used for growing plants in containers, such as tomatoes, peppers, and leafy greens.
2. Simple Beginnings
Once you’ve decided where you want to start your kitchen garden, it’s time to choose what to sow. It would be best for you to start small. Think about what kinds of crops you want to grow, and then choose the appropriate seeds or seedlings. Don’t overreach! Consider carefully the size of the kitchen garden and the amount of crops necessary to suit your needs!
Mind the spacing! You can plant in rows or in triangles, but be careful not to crowd the plants too close together. They thrive when they’re apart and have enough space to grow and develop properly.
And another thing: if you don’t have any gardening experience, we strongly advise you to start with plants which are the easiest to grow. Beans, basil, cucumbers, and eggplants would be perfect.
If you want to know more about it, I’ll invite you to have a look at this article I recently wrote on starting a vegetable garden indoors.
3. Seeds or Transplants?
When it comes to choosing between seeds or transplants, one should consider the level of one’s experience and growing conditions.
Those who have some gardening experience tend to buy seeds, since it costs less, and you’ll be having a greater variety of seeds to choose from. However, if you’re a beginner, starting with transplants is a good idea.
This is especially useful if you’re growing plants which have long periods of development, such as tomatoes. Your chances for bountiful harvest are greater.
4. Sowing in Raised Beds
Growing your crops in raised beds has many benefits. If the soil of your garden is not exactly suitable for planting seeds, you can make your own beds above land, and fill them with some quality, nutrient-rich soil.
Same stands if you are making an indoor kitchen garden or a balcony garden.
For starters, it’ll save you from all the back pain you’d suffer from while constantly bending over to plant/harvest your crops. The problems with critters and potential pests would be virtually eliminated, since they wouldn’t be able to reach and possibly damage the crops.
However, if you do notice some pests, here are some nice recipes for homemade vegetable bug sprays that I’ve discovered. Do not forget that there are some beneficial insects, so these should stay where they are!
5. Hanging Gardens
If you want to try yourself at growing a kitchen garden but you simply don’t have enough space to let it grow and spread horizontally, you can always let it go vertically! Just like the legendary Hanging Gardens of queen Semiramis, your kitchen garden would also be able to thrive if you provided some verticality.
To do so, you can always install wall planters or railing planters. These are perfect for any and all vining plants you plan on growing. Your beans, tomatoes, squashes, and melons would be most grateful! Fences and stakes would also be a great help.
I know that there are a lot of those hanging planters with a lot of room, but they are mostly made of felt or so. For me, wooden planters work much better. The material is more natural, and to be honest, they are much sturdier and easier to go about with.
A vertical kitchen garden is relatively easy to maintain, since you’ll always be able to clearly see where particular fruits are, plus the chances of them being infected by various fungal diseases are significantly lessened.
6. Pick Plants which Mature Early
Many common plants have varieties and subspecies which mature earlier than most other plants of the same family, so they’re highly recommended. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, it gives you positive feedback. Seeing the fruits of your labor ripe and ready for picking is a great confidence booster, and it will encourage you to experiment more, and invest more of your time into your kitchen garden.
The second reason is of more practical nature. If you’re living in a climate where summer is fairly short, having early-maturing plants in your kitchen garden will allow you to maximize your productivity and harvest as much as possible before the season ends.
Interplanting is a very useful technique of planting compatible plants on the same patch of your kitchen garden. Compatible plants are the plants which require more or less the same amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients in order to properly grow.
An example of a go-to interplanting combination is the beans-squash-corn combo. These three vegetables require basically the same type of weather conditions to prosper, and work in perfect symbiosis.
Corn stalks are strong enough to support the bean vines and allow it to grow upwards. Squash, on the other hand, grows on the ground, and you can use it to suppress weeds so it doesn’t drain the nutrients from the soil which the plants you’re growing need.
8. If Possible, Edge Plant!
There are plants that can naturally support and guard the plants you’re growing in your kitchen garden, and the best way to use their beneficial effects is to plant them on the very edge of your kitchen garden. That way, you’ll get natural sources of mulch, protection from overly strong wind and/or sun, and they’re even able to deter pests! Wormwood, basil, and lemon grass are some of these plants.
9. Watering Your Garden
Providing sufficient supplies of water for your plants is essential, and how often you should water them depends on the overall climate conditions and the quality of the soil.
If you’re living in a moderate climate, watering your kitchen garden once per day would be enough. Just give your plants a nice, good soak, and they’ll be sure to thrive. If you’re living in a more hot climate, or your soil is rather sandy, than you should water your plants more often, or otherwise they will wither and die.
10. Fertilizers and Mulch
You can invest in chemical fertilizers, but there is another thing you can do to fertilize your kitchen garden: recycle your kitchen waste! It’s easy, it’s effective, and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
As for mulch, always opt for natural sources of mulch. Grass clips, chopped leaves, rotted hay, even newspapers. All of these are great sources of mulch, and are widely available.
Kitchen gardens are a great source of fresh crops you can be absolutely sure they’re healthy, since you’re the one who grew and harvested them! If you decide to try it out and grow one yourself, bear in mind our little tips, and delve freely into your gardening adventure! You have our whole-hearted support.