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.

Plant a Vegetable Garden: No Excuses

Lettuces in the Kitchen Garden

Lettuces in the Kitchen Garden

Lacking space, there are few reasons for not planting a vegetable garden. One person I know, who prides herself on her creativity and gardening sophistication, and who owns a very elegant and historic property complained to me that when she bought the place, “there was a big vegetable garden smack in the middle of the lawn…I had to get rid of it”. This statement so shocked me as to render me speechless. Had I managed to regain speech during the course of her monologue, I would have suggested that, with some creativity and thoughtfulness, a person might find a way to highlight the vegetable garden, treat it as a valuable, enhancing landscape feature from which one might extract a sense of aesthetic pride as well as civic pride for ‘greening-up’ their lifestyle and reducing their carbon footprint. I didn’t, at the time, regain speech but am doing so now.

Creating a vegetable garden, or Kitchen Garden, the preferred term, is a project, but it’s an undertaking that will reap benefits that you may never have thought of. If you can’t begin the process yourself, you can get others to do the most difficult part, laying out the garden, tilling the area, creating raised beds (if that’s what you’re after), installing irrigation systems on timers, mulching paths to suppress weeds and reduce your work (or, better yet, laying down landscaping fabric beneath the mulch to virtually eliminate path weeding).  Siting it in the landscape is crucial and is the most important decision you’ll need to make for the project. The kitchen garden needs full sun and, ideally, it is located at a convenient distance from the kitchen.

As for making it attractive in the landscape; I see this as an opportunity to create ‘charm’ and to engage with the land and your food supply in a more intimate way. Fencing will be necessary to keep out the deer and the rabbits, but this isn’t a problem. There are numerous creative and handsome fencing options that will contribute to the aesthetic of your property and plenty of climbing ornamental plants to adorn your fence; many of such staggering beauty that you’ll be spoiled for choice in how to use them. Climbing roses, clematis, morning glories, perennial sweet peas; all contribute to making a Kitchen Garden inviting, beautiful and a place you’ll enjoy working in and relaxing in and looking at.