5 Secrets to a Successful Kitchen Garden

Kitchen Gardens are a great way to make fresh edibles available for cooking just steps away from your kitchen table. How should the kitchen garden be designed for optimal use?  What should everyday cooks keep in mind as they start a kitchen garden?  How can you keep your kitchen garden harvest from spoiling before you get a chance to use it? These are all important questions to consider as you begin a kitchen garden.

This year marks my 10th kitchen garden and I’ve learned a lot about how to integrate my kitchen garden into my cooking. In my kitchen garden, I like to grow the things I will eat or feed my family every day. In this post, I share 5 secrets to a successful kitchen garden.

Kitchen Garden Lavender

1.  Keep your Kitchen Garden Close

My kitchen garden has always been on my deck.  I have a clear line of sight from my kitchen to my kitchen garden. Many people put their flower gardens near the house and their vegetable garden away from the house. However, by keeping the kitchen garden near the house, you help keep critters away from your edibles. Additionally, you can keep an eye on your beautiful kitchen garden – which means that you’ll be more likely to use it when it’s mealtime.

Kitchen Garden herbs

2.  Plant What You Cook

I always tell new gardeners to “Plant what you cook and cook what you plant”.  Gardeners love to see things grow. But it’s a shame to plant spinach or zucchini if you are never going to eat it. The first year of my kitchen garden, I grew things I knew that I would never use in the kitchen.  All that money, care, and precious garden real estate was put to poor use just to see what it was like to grow eggplant.  What’s in my kitchen garden today?  Loads of basil for making batches of pesto, a few lavender for aromatherapy uses, spinach, dill, oregano, cilantro, oregano, parsley, and rosemary for every day cooking, six different kinds of lettuce, swiss chard, and cucumbers for salads and green and yellow peppers for sauces.

Kitchen Garden Lettuce

3.  Make it Pretty

Last year I started adding a few annuals and succulents to my kitchen garden. They make my kitchen garden containers a little more eye-catching. Anything that keeps your attention on the kitchen garden means that you’re more likely to use it.

Kitchen Garden Annuals

4.  Sow, Harvest, Sow, Harvest

As a rule, I keep my kitchen garden going from the 1st of April to the 1st of October (zone 4). It’s not like I have the luxury of 6 or more months of frost-free weather. I need to maximize my kitchen garden by repeat sowing and harvesting through the summer months.  Salad greens are very easy to direct sow.  Generally speaking, most salad greens that are direct sown will be ready for a salad bowl in three weeks. In my garden, I like to grow a large variety of salad greens. I direct sow them every few weeks so that we can have salads with our dinners throughout the summer.  I’ve also learned to view any of my kitchen garden crops as having a 4 week life span. Most of my crops last about a month before they peter out. This is also a great way to keep your garden fresh; cycling a variety crops in and out of your beds.

Kitchen Garden Annuals Succulents

5. Maximize Your Garden Space

I like to squeeze my plants into any available space in my kitchen garden.  I grow a large variety of plants – mostly herbs, greens, and aromatics – in a very tight space, so I need to make sure to label my crops so they don’t get mixed up.  Right now I have cilantro and parsley growing next to my lettuce.  A few years ago, I came across a cute idea for marking my plants in my kitchen garden: wooden kitchen spoons. I buy them at thrift stores for pennies, I label them with a sharpie, and then spray them with polyurethane for protection. These markers look absolutely adorable in a kitchen garden.

Kitchen Garden Markers

Here’s to creating your own fabulous kitchen garden!

Still growing...

Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
Jennifer Ebeling
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