If you're looking for an easy and fun way to get into gardening, a kitchen garden may be the perfect option for you. And knowing the 4 steps to grow in a kitchen garden will help you to have a homegrown space with the best vegetables in the neighborhood.
When I first started gardening many years ago, I had my husband throw together some wood to create a small garden in a raised bed. I didn't have a clue about what to do next. I had never grown in a raised bed before. I tried and failed that first season. All my summer veggies turned yellow and didn't produce a thing.
Growing in Dirt
As a young girl, I had seen my dad grow things by planting them directly into the dirt. I had seen the fields of plants when visiting my farming grandparents in Indiana. I thought planting directly into the ground was how gardening was done. And boy, did the thought of planting in hard dirt discourage me from even trying to grow things.
I was officially a plant killer. It took me years of trying again, learning all that I could, practicing, and trying more to know that I was missing key elements to a successful kitchen garden. I want to take the work out of gardening for you so in this post, I'm going to share the 4 steps to growing a kitchen garden with a list of the best vegetables to try first in your gardening adventure. Let's save you time and energy by adding these 4 steps to planning your first garden.
Raised Bed Gardening
Then I heard about raised bed gardening. A raised bed is a gardening plot that is higher off the ground than the surrounding soil. The edges of a raised bed can be created with concrete blocks, lumber, or metal sides. This type of garden is popular because it is easier to work with than traditional in-ground gardens and it can extend the growing season by trapping warm air and protecting plants from frost.
That just means I didn't plant directly into the hard ground but had new soil added to an empty box for a garden to start. I thought my garden would be successful by just having a raised bed.
But I was wrong. I had too many raised beds & it felt overwhelming. I didn't know what to plant and when for the greatest success in the garden. I also couldn't see my raised beds from the house. That made it easy to forget about what I had growing in the garden to use in the kitchen or to maintain.
A Kitchen Garden is more than a Raised Bed
Let's take a look at raised beds and how to use them in a kitchen garden.
Raised Garden Beds
By having a smaller garden that is accessible to your home, the kitchen garden is easier to maintain & use each day. It becomes a part of your meals, food plans, and health. Using your raised bed garden as a kitchen garden is brilliant as long as it's not too big, easy to see from your home, and isn't overwhelming. You want to feel and be successful with gardening, so start small.
Can you imagine spending 10 minutes a day in your kitchen garden and being able to grow all year? A kitchen garden simplifies gardening and makes it easy to keep it going. You won't feel like giving up because you won't have to spend or waste lots of time maintaining your garden. It's done in just 10 minutes a day.
What is a Kitchen Garden?
Let's dive into what is the best way to set up a Kitchen Garden.
Location Close to Home
One of the benefits of having a kitchen garden is that it needs to be close to your house. This means you can see it from your living space and remember to water and care for it daily. It's also easy to access the food that you grow, which makes incorporating your garden into your daily routine easy.
Control Over Soil
This means you can amend the soil & grow healthier plants and produce more, which is an important component of a garden. In a traditional in-ground garden, you are at the mercy of the soil and what it provides for your plants. With a kitchen garden, you have easier access to the soil and can care for it more easily in just 10 minutes a day.
Use Space Efficiently
Intensive planting is perfect for a kitchen garden. This type of planting means that you will be growing more plants in a small space. By using small plants in bunches or staggered plantings, you can fit more plants into a small garden area. Trellising or using vertical space can also help to increase the number of plants you can grow in a small garden.
Any Size or Shape
Kitchen Garden can be in containers, vertical planters, and raised beds. As long as you have quick access to these spaces and can see them, remember to go out for just a few minutes a day to check, water, harvest, or just breathe in. You don't need much space to grow your own food.
What Other Options to Grow In besides Raised Beds?
Vertical planters may be a good option for you if you have little space to grow. These planters can be placed on a porch, deck, or balcony and can be filled with soil & compost. You can also hang them from a wall or ceiling. Planting fresh herbs, and using seed packets for lettuces, spinach, greens, bush beans, & root vegetables are great options for a vertical planter.
My favorite vertical planters are called Green Stalks. I have 5 of them and have loved how easy they are to maintain, water, and grow out of. Check out my blog post about Vertical Planters HERE.
Containers can be placed on a porch, deck, or balcony and can be filled with soil and organic compost easily. As long as there is sun & water, with holes in the bottom of the containers for drainage, then you can plant anything that you would plant in a raised garden bed. You may need to add a support system, like a trellis to help larger plants like tomatoes and squash to grow up to utilize the space more efficiently.
Planting your herb garden with Italian parsley, chives, and lemon thyme can be easy ways for small kitchen gardens and amazing plants are each a perennial plant that are favorite varieties for year-round use and take little time to take care of.
If you want to find out more about container gardening, then check out my blog post about how to garden in the fall and winter with containers HERE.
Growing Season Extended in Kitchen Garden
One of the benefits of having a kitchen garden is that you can extend your growing season. By using small plants in bunches or staggered plantings, you can fit more plants into a small garden area. Trellising or using vertical space can also help to increase the number of plants you can grow in a small garden.
For example, by planting cool-weather crops in your kitchen garden at the end of summer you could get a head start with the next season. In your own garden you could grow salad greens and leafy greens (bok choy, tatsoi, chard), spinach, beets, radishes, kale, and broccoli. You can extend your growing season as your summer crops are finishing up. These crops can be planted in early spring or late summer and will continue to produce food until early fall.
By intensively spacing & planting, you can have a garden growing all year.
Sunshade in the Heat
If you want to extend your growing season even further, you can use a shade cloth to protect your plants from the sun. A shade cloth can be used to provide shade during the hottest part of the day and will help to keep your plants cooler, which will extend their growing season.
When the temperature is over 85 degrees, warm weather crops like eggplant and tomatoes stop producing fruit and just survive the heat. A plant cloth can help these crops to continue producing when the temperatures are high.
Plant Cloth in the Cold
A plant cloth can also be used to protect your plants from the cold. By using a plant cloth, you can keep your plants warmer, which will extend their growing season. You can also use a plant cloth to protect your plants from frost.
A kitchen garden is smaller and makes it easier to cover when the temperatures get below 35 degrees, too cold for many plants to survive, but with protection like a plant cloth, the plants will stay warm enough to grow all winter long. Check out my post on how to protect your plants in frost HERE.
Set Up for Garden in 4 Part Method
When you look at your future kitchen garden, make sure to have these 4 elements in place for success. When I first started with a raised bed, I missed these key pieces and had a harder time keeping my garden going consistently throughout the year.
When I go to clients' homes to do kitchen garden consultations, these are the four elements that I make sure to hit so that their gardens will be successful.
Choose a sunny spot for your kitchen garden that gets full sun. The hours of sunlight is crucial for growth, so make sure to place your garden in an area that will get plenty of direct sunlight. In the summer, your garden needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. In the fall and spring, your plants only need 4-6 hours of direct sun.
Another tip is to have your garden facing South so that the exposure to the sun is greater. Take a notepad outside and track the sun & shade at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. during the spring, summer, and fall. This will give you a great idea of how much sun your future or present garden is getting.
By using a raised bed, vertical planter, or container you have control over what garden soil your plants are going to be growing in. This is your chance to give the plants an easy space to grow their roots in fertile soil & organic matter, with good drainage, & be able to get nutrients that make for a strong garden.
Adding organic compost & nutrients to the sandy soil is also a good choice for the sustained health of your garden.
Having a plan set up to water by hand or manually through an automatic watering system will be crucial for your plants growth. Keeping your plants moist and not dried out will help the roots to bring nutrients to the plant. Watering helps to regulate the temperature so that growth will be constant for your garden.
Know your Season
Know what right plants to grow in the right time according to the high and low temperatures of each month. Use the planting plans HERE to know what to plant in your garden for each season.
What is Cool Weather & what to grow in the kitchen garden?
Cool-weather crops like it best when the temperatures are 35-75 degrees.
Leafy greens like bok choy, tatsoi, and chard are great vegetables to grow in the kitchen garden during cool weather and when planted by seed will come up in a couple of weeks.
These vegetables can withstand cooler temperatures and will continue to grow when the temperature is below 35 degrees when protected by plant cloth as mentioned above.
Cool Season Crops to Plant
What are warm temperatures & what to grow in the kitchen garden?
Warm-weather crops like it between 65-85 degrees and can keep growing especially when given protection at 30-50% with sun shade. These crops will continue blooming and fruiting if the intense heat doesn't get too much for them. If the direct sun is hotter than 90 degrees then these plants go into survival and just focus on their roots and not on fruiting.
Some examples of warm-weather crops include:
Cherry Tomatoes- with support on a trellis
Sweet Peppers & Hot Peppers
What is hot weather & what to grow in the kitchen garden?
Hot weather crops like the heat and do not need a sunshade. These plants enjoy over 85-degree weather, and they will continue to produce throughout the season. Some examples of plants to grow in your kitchen garden are:
Green beans or pole beans- on a trellis
Long beans- on a trellis
Summer squash- staked up
Cucumbers- on a trellis
Use Your Garden Like a Grocery Store
If you're looking for a great way to extend your growing season, use your garden as a grocery store, or want to try your hand at gardening for the first time, a kitchen garden may be a great option for you.
With just 4 simple steps - location, soil, watering, and knowing what plants to grow - you can have a thriving garden right outside your door. Use our planting plans and the 10-minute-a-day gardening course to get started today. You could have your own kitchen garden too.
Learn from my mistakes. You don't have to have a green thumb to know the easiest way to grow organic food with a step-by-step guide. Take vegetable gardening to the next level and bring the best results with these tips.