Kitchen Gardening Basics
“I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.”
Kitchen gardens are all about making fresh garden fruits, herbs, and veggies more accessible, and there’s actually a pretty good chance that you’ve had your very own at some point, though you might not have called it that. If you have or have ever had a little cluster of herb pots by your door or a few tomato plants on a porch or balcony, you’ve basically started!
What is a Kitchen Garden, exactly?
The origins of these gardens go back to pre-revolution France. We hardly have to point out that the French are culinary masters, so their kitchen tips and tricks are ideal to steal for your own house. The French Jardin potager was different from traditional gardens in that they were designed for grazing. A big garden plot is meant to be
planted all at the same time, grown, and then harvested to be eaten or stored for later. A kitchen garden offers a treat of tasty fresh flavours at your fingertips for today’s snack or tonight’s dinner.
The kitchen garden made its way across the ocean to Canada and the United States
during the World Wars, when growing food at home went from practicality to an act of patriotism. At one point in 1943, about 40% of all the produce grown in the USA was grown right at home in backyards. While they fell out of fashion for a while, we’ve recently rediscovered that garden-fresh taste and the trend has enjoyed a breath of new life.
A kitchen garden brings those fresh garden flavours right to your backdoor. It’s a place for all the plants and herbs you love to cook with for harvesting a little at a time. Think of it as your own private produce aisle just a step from your kitchen where something is always in season and ready for the table.
How to Start Your Own:
Your kitchen garden, when you get down to it, is about you and your family. It’s essentially an extension of your kitchen pantry – so start with the herbs and veggies that you love to cook with.
Start small, maybe with a couple pots of herbs. Rosemary, thyme, basil, and any other
household favourites will help you to build the habit of poking your head outside to snip fresh flavour for today’s food.
Once you get into the habit of your daily trips to see what’s fresh, start thinking about adding tomatoes, salad greens, or peas to your garden. The more you use it, the bigger your garden should become.
Don’t be afraid to mismatch your kitchen garden. In the end, it’s all about the taste! Forget the matching pots and colour-coded plant tags – this is the perfect location for a bit of clutter and eclectic charm. Embrace what works for you, but don’t be afraid to leave the matching pots for the front door.
Kitchen Garden Hits and Misses:
Some tasty garden fruits and vegetables thrive in the small-scale kitchen garden while some others, unfortunately, don’t like the growing environment. We’ve got some ideas to get you started, and some warnings about what hasn’t worked for us in the past:
What works: Herbs are basically designed for kitchen gardens. They are hardy and typically easy to care for with minimal watering and lots of sun. Pick herbs that you’re going to use often because they will thrive the more you tear off of them. If you love chicken, maybe plant some thyme. If Middle-Eastern food is your flavour, try coriander.
If you want to go grow your garden, try adding some fruits and vegetables. Salad greens and cherry tomatoes are great starting points. Strawberries also make ideal container bloomers, but other berries, like blueberries or currants, are a better left in a garden bed.
What struggles: Part of planting in a container means that your plants will get tons of heat during the summer. It’s actually part of what makes them great for many of your herbs and veggies! However, veggies that prefer things on the cooler side, like broccoli and cauliflower, won’t perform well in a container. The heat will make them bolt too soon.
Plants that have long maturation times (anything over 80 days) will grow to an overwhelming size and take over your containers! Squashes and zucchini will devour your other pots with their leaves and do nothing but demand water. These plants are a better pick for a garden bed, where you can wait and wait and wait, and then harvest all at once.
Kitchen gardens offer the best of your garden for fresh-flavoured cooking. They are a great bridge between your kitchen and the healthiest, tastiest vegetables and fruits your backyard has to offer. They’re about what fits you and your family and home, making the best food more convenient every day