Planning the Kitchen Garden

Planning a garden is similar to planning an addition or a room to your home. You ask yourself the same questions: what will it be used for, how will it be used, how do you want it to serve you? There are as many different kinds of Kitchen Gardens as there are people and,so, I’ve prepared a list of the different directions a kitchen garden can take, hoping that it may serve as a guide for folks who may be planning their gardens for the first time, or for those who are thinking about expanding their gardening horizons. These are ‘thumbnails’ of the different types of gardens that one might think about. Subsequent posts will address each garden type in detail.

  • The Weekend Garden: Folks with weekend homes often look for a simple, low maintenance garden that doesn’t require daily visits to care for. Good candidates for this sort of garden include a concise list of short and long crop varieties. If I were living in the city and visiting my place in the country on weekends I’d want tomatoes, peppers, maybe corn, some salad greens, some perennial herbs, some root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips and turnips. I would avoid things that need regular attention, like cole crops and certain curcurbits.
  • The Summer Garden: This type of garden focuses on crops that produce well in the heat of the summer. This includes summer squashes, beans, peppers, eggplants, some cole crops; kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and then, basil, tomatoes,asian greens, potatoes, and collards.
  • The Family Garden: This is a garden that everyone in the family commits to. It will produce salad greens, radishes, squashes, beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, swiss chard, spinach, kale, collards, tomatoes, potatoes, and corn.
  • The Heritage Garden: Those who are interested in ensuring a diversity in our seed supply and open-pollinated plant varieties, as well as preserving heritage and heirloom plants, will be interested in cultivating and maintaining this kind of garden. Some of the varieties that will be grown in this sort of garden may lack the disease resistance that newer hybrids possess, but will make up for it in diversity and plant vigor.
  • The Potager: A french term, the ‘Potager’,(literally, the ‘soup’ garden) in my mind, refers to a system of planting and cultivating whereby the plants are packed in tightly and the garden includes flowers and other ornamentals.
  • The Paintbox Garden: This garden concept focuses on the aesthetics of color in the garden, taking into consideration the appearance of the vegetbles as seen in the garden, as well as their appearance as served up on a plate by a chef.

Cilantro Pesto. Eureka!

Farfalle pasta with broccoli and cilantro pesto.

Gardeners who plant cilantro know something about self-sowing. Cilantro is one of those plants that likes cool weather; early spring or fall. If you try planting it when the heat of summer is on, you will be disappointed with leggy plants that never develop the large, healthy, bright green, robust leaves that you see in the markets. It goes to seed rapidly and the plant becomes so spindly that it’s very easy to miss when weeding. The advantage to this is that, in its seeming invisibility, while you’re dashing around the garden and kitchen trying to deal with the zucchini, green beans, radishes, lettuces, etc…, the cilantro is busy casting it’s seeds about. When the cool temperatures start settling in, so too do the cilantro seeds.

Right now, the garden is replete with robust cilantro plants, and though I long to find a recipe for that wonderful, slightly acidic, slightly sweet, green sauce, cilantro condiment that is served in every Indian restaurant that I’ve ever patronized, (this would, of course, be a ‘canning’ recipe, which seems to be very hard to come by on the web), I’ve yet to find one.

This evening, in an attempt to forestall Andrew’s complaints about the cilantro plants ‘that you (I) never do anything with” I did a websearch and came upon a Cilantro Pesto Recipe. After reviewing several comments and suggestions for alterations, I got the drift and whipped up a giant batch in the cuisinart. I blended it with farfalle pasta and steamed broccoli florets and it was exceptionally delicious. It would be great served with shrimp, adding, perhaps some more lemon or lime juice and a few gratings of rind, and it would make a very nice, quick canape spread on bruschetta. ( I was just eating spoonfuls of it straight from the cuisinart, but this, though tasty and indulgent, is not, perhaps, the most elegant serving suggestion).

Better yet, unlike basil pesto, its retains its bright green color. I’m so enamored of this Eureka recipe that I’m going to freeze a few batches and remind myself of this season in mid-winter!


In a blender or food processor add the following:

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 – 3/4 cup of olive oil

4 cups or more of cilantro, stems and all

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)


Garden Chores to do now.

An early morning stroll through the gardens with a cup of tea, and then pen to paper to create the To Do list. After all this rain, weeding will be on the top of the list, but if you’re hoeing the kitchen garden, hold off until the soil dries out a bit, otherwise the weeds will simply re-root after being dislodged.

Late May ‘To Do’ List:

  • Feed the roses and deadhead them, if necessary.
  • Feed the perennials. (This isn’t absolutely necessary if have good rich soil, but we try to broadcast a balanced, organic fertlizer, throughout the borders, at least once a year, in addition to the horse and chicken manure that we mulch the gardens with in spring and fall).
  • Add aluminum sulfate to the soil around the microphylla hydrangeas (if you want clear blue flowers). This will be the second of three applications, early spring, late spring, early summer.
  • Plant flowers for cutting; zinnias, sunflowers,marigolds, cosmos.
  • Weed. This includes editing (pulling) self sown thugs that will shade out other valuable plants.
  • Thin the lettuce plants
  • Train the pea vines