How to Plan a Kitchen Garden

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If you want your favorite crops to be easily accessible, a kitchen garden is for you! A kitchen garden provides easy-to-harvest plants for your homestead kitchen. Here are some tips for how to plan a kitchen garden.

What is a kitchen garden?

While the name may sound deceiving, a “kitchen garden” usually doesn’t refer to gardening in your actual kitchen. While there is plenty of opportunity to grow herbs and small plants on your kitchen windowsill, a kitchen garden is usually grown outside near the house.

Kitchen gardens differ from vegetable gardens in that while vegetable gardens can be acres and acres, kitchen gardens are usually fairly small. Most kitchen gardens range from 20 to 200 square feet.

A kitchen garden can consist of vegetables, fruits, herbs, or flowers.

Why is it called a kitchen garden?

A kitchen garden doesn’t grow IN the kitchen, but rather FOR the kitchen.

Kitchen gardens are usually grown near the house because their crop is focused on everyday use. In a kitchen garden, homesteaders generally concentrate on growing crops that are used often, such as daily salads, fresh-cut flowers, or commonly used herbs.

While vegetable gardens are often grown primarily for the purpose of preserving, kitchen garden crops are consumed more quickly. Kitchen gardens can also be prettier, as they are generally easier to manage and are also seen more often. Vegetable gardens are often farther from the house because they require more space.

What can you grow in a kitchen garden?

Your kitchen garden is all about what will most help you in your homestead kitchen. You can grow nearly anything that you want to have close at hand for when you need it. Are you always using herbs in your cooking? Grow some thyme and basil. Do you love having fresh flowers on your table? Plant some marigolds and zinnias. Do you like to have fresh veggies with dinner every night? Grow lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans.

If you enjoy gourmet options, a kitchen garden is a perfect place to try your hand at growing foods that are more expensive to buy at the store. Try out some arugula, edamame, purple asparagus, or shallots!

How to pick out seeds

First, consider whether you should start your plants from seeds or whether you want to purchase starter plants.

Planting seeds takes longer and is a bit more work. However, it provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you see your plants growing! You will also have more choices when you purchase seeds rather than starter plants.

On the other hand, buying starters is one way to save time and begin with a heartier plant. When you’re starting out with homesteading, you can’t always do it all (no matter how much you would like to!). Starter plants can take one step off your plate.

You can purchase seeds from your local greenhouse or even from most grocery stores or hardware stores. If you want more choices, look through a seed catalog, such as Burpee, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, or Park Seed.

As you look through your seed choices, be sure to note the grow zone, sun or shade requirements, and planting distance. If you have a small kitchen garden, you may not want to choose sprawling plants, such as squash.

What crops are easiest to grow?

If you’re just starting out with your kitchen garden, focus on plants that are either easy to grow or that you use very often. Here are some of the easiest-growing plants to consider as you plan your kitchen garden.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Herbs
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Sunflowers

How do you plan a kitchen garden?

Before you start planting seeds, it’s helpful to map out your kitchen garden. This is a fun activity to do in the end of winter or early spring when you’re anticipating the soon-coming beautiful days of digging in the dirt.

After you’ve flipped through your seed catalogs and come up with some ideas for your garden, you’ll want to map it out to make sure everything will fit well within your garden space.

Start by sketching out your garden area. You can do this either on a computer program or by hand using graph paper.

Next, take a look at the crops that are most important to you. Decide how many plants you would like to grow, and check the spacing requirements for those crops. Fill in your sketch to determine how much garden space each crop will take.

Then, just keep adding plants until you fill up your garden sketch. Be sure to leave adequate room, noting how much space each plant takes and how much the plants will sprawl (if at all).

As you work, consider which plants will have short seasons and which spaces can be planted twice. For example, you’ll want to plant cool-weather crops like lettuce and spinach in the spring. After harvesting your beans, you can reuse this space for a summer crop, like beans, and then plant greens again in the fall. (Of course, your location will partially determine planting times.)

Enjoy your garden!

Are you planting a kitchen garden this year? What crops are you most excited about growing?

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