Do you desire to have fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit with which you can cook meals for your family? Creating a kitchen garden could be the answer to your dreams. You could look upon this garden as an extension of your pantry. Whenever you find the need to add a pinch of an herb or grab that extra tomato for the salad, you just go out the back door and get it.
A kitchen garden commonly occupies space away from the house garden. It can be close to the back door, but that isn’t a necessity.
Selecting and Preparing a Location
The best location for the garden is a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Other requirements include good soil drainage.
Once a location has been chosen, the next step is to determine the goals of the garden. How much produce do you expect the garden to provide? Many experts suggest that you start small until you get the hang of it. However, some energetic gardeners have been known to start big and carve out a large amount of land. Some have actually started out producing a kitchen garden in the neighborhood of 1,500 square feet. A garden this size should be able to meet a large amount of a family of five produce needs for a year. Experts say that when you do the math to determine the proper size of your garden, consider it as 300 square feet per person.
If you select a small plot of lawn in which to plant your garden, you can either build a raised bed from the ground or plant directly into the ground. Experts suggest that building a raised bed is the best alternative if your soil doesn’t drain well and you like the appearance of wood, stone or corrugated metal containers. Proceeding with this option can be more expensive and requires you to do more work than planting in the ground.
Regardless of whether you decide to create a raised bed or plant directly into the ground, you will have to figure out what to do with the sod you strip away. One alternative is to remove and compost it, which requires a lot of work, but guards against the appearance of grass and weeds in the garden. Removing the sod from a small space can be accomplished by cutting it into strips using a sharp spade. If you intend to create a large garden, then you may want to rent a sod cutter to perform the task.
You can avoid removing the sod altogether and use a technique referred to as “sheet mulching” or “lasagna gardening.” To perform this method, you cover the grass with one or more layers of untreated cardboard, newspaper, loam, compost, leaves, grass clippings or other kinds of organic materials. This process will kill and decompose the grass and will enrich the soil with a lot of organic matter.
Selecting the Crops
Selecting the crops that will be included in the garden should be a very easy task. Simply select what you like to eat.
The garden doesn’t have to supply every type of produce your family eats. You can limit it to things used in a salad –- lettuce and other greens. Starting off with this may be ideal because lettuce and salad greens don’t require a lot of space or maintenance and the produce grows quickly. It is actually possible to grow five to 10 different salad varieties in a single row.
The garden can also be a good source for herbs including parsley, chives, sage, basil, tarragon, mint, rosemary and thyme.
Planting the Garden
Once you have determined what will be in the garden, it is time to plan out the garden. This includes creating a sketch of what will be planted where and when. To come up with such a plan, you will need to familiarize yourself with how much space, water, fertilizer, and soil temperature each crop you intend to plant requires. A good source to help you determine all of this is an article called What to Plant Now at the Mother Earth News website.
When it comes time to actually do the planting you can use seed or transplant. Many people who cultivate a kitchen garden choose to use seed because it costs less; there is a greater selection from which to choose, and the gratification of watching something grow from seed to plant. However, using seedlings instead of seeds offers a greater chance of success.
Mulch the garden often. Organic matter including straw, grass clippings, pine needles, shredded leaves, and dead weeds that haven’t gone to seed can be used as mulch. Mulch is great because it prevents weeds, helps retain moisture, and adds organic matter to the soil.
Make certain that you offer your kitchen garden the proper amount of water. Seedlings need to be watered lightly every day or two so they can develop a deep root structure. Once they start to mature, you can feed them about an inch of water per week. If there is no rain, you should water manually or through a drip irrigation system.