While spring brings the urge to stop into the local farmer’s market for the most colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables, why not consider planting your very own kitchen garden? A kitchen garden is simply an area where you plant your own vegetables, fruits and herbs to use in your kitchen. Whether in containers or dug right into your backyard, there’s just something about being able to pick fresh cherry tomatoes or sprigs of your favorite herb and then combining them into a fresh meal for your family. While gardening may seem like an overwhelming process, it really can be quite fun and fulfilling.
Before you plant your first seed, here are some things to consider as you get started:
- Start small. For your first kitchen garden, the best advice of starting small and gradually increasing your size holds true here. Think about the best space that works for you. Space can mean all sorts of things – containers sitting on the porch step, a backyard big enough to dig into, a few raised garden beds or even landscaping around the house. Just note that a good gardening space receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and has a convenient water source too.
- Start with what you and your family like. During your next family meal, discuss the idea of growing a kitchen garden. When the whole family is involved in the planning process, the whole family will be more committed to the tasks of planting, weeding and harvesting as well. Grab a notebook to jot down ideas as you converse and ask everyone to share their favorite vegetable or their favorite meal. Start with planting your family’s favorites. But maybe your kids don’t have a favorite vegetable (yet)! When I taught gardening classes, I had a bunch of kids always tell me they didn’t like tomatoes, but they did like ketchup and pizza! They were surprised to know those foods start with a tomato. You might try doing the same thing with some of your family’s favorite foods.
- Know your gardening goals. Are you aiming for a learning experience or do you want to be able to grow enough tomatoes to preserve by the end of the gardening season? Are you able to fit in a quick 15 minute garden walk each day, where family members can pull a few weeds, water a few plants and eventually harvest those fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits? Having your goals in mind allows you to focus your time and energy on what you truly hope to harvest.
And remember, good soil grows good food. Last year we planted sweet corn and as it grew, the leaves turned yellow and produced ears of corn that were only half developed with kernels. Why? Poor soil. Before growing anything in the ground, purchase an inexpensive soil analysis kit from your local garden nursery or home and garden store to identify the health of your soil. You can even work with your local extension office to learn more about the quality of your soil. And it’s easy to modify soil for the best growing conditions. More on soil soon!
With these tips, you will be well prepared to grow your first kitchen garden. Time to get growing!