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.

The Garden Enclosure; Part II: The Arbor

Building a Rustic Arbor; a Foyer for the Potager.

Rustic Cedar Arbor

The rustic, cedar arbor waiting for its seating.

One of the things that has made weeding the kitchen garden a chore is the absence of a place to take a break. In an ideal world, there would be a somewhat shaded place, where a gardener could get out of the sun for a few minutes, with a comfortable seat and possibly a surface upon which one could place a glass of iced tea and a gardening book. So, this time around, we aimed to correct this flaw and build a 7′ wide arbor that will accomodate a bench or two. If you’re starting a new kitchen garden plan to include a somewhat shady spot to sit. It will make spending time in the garden so much more pleasureable.

Because our land slopes down into the garden, Andrew created a couple of short steps and a ‘floor’ surface paved with large, flat granite stones. The voids (or joints) between the stones are filled with sand and then fine, crushed stone.  As a finishing touch, Andrew liberally sprinkled seeds of creeping thyme over the surface and gently washed them into the crevices. Thyme is a slow germinator and has a comparatively low germination rate so we expect to see more weeds than thyme, but we’ll keep an eye on it.  When we get around to it we will build some rustic benches. (The gate opens out, not in).

We’ve planted the arbor with climbing things, champagne grapes and clematis, to create a sort of bower, and we will likely allow some of the self-sown morning glories from last years garden fence to join the cedar climbing competition. Two small, curved, planting beds on either side of the arbor will make it easier to mow around the garden and the japanese quinces that we’ve planted in the corners will give the chickens a place to take cover when the hawks are looking for lunch, rather than in the perennial borders.

Rustic cedar arbor with grapevines

Grapevines have been planted at the base to create a bower.