Gardening for Your Kitchen: Growing for Consumption
Although gardening is mainly considered as a hobby, a lot of people use their garden as a place for growing plants that have leaves, flowers, roots and fruits which can be eaten, either raw or cooked. Such a garden is known as a kitchen garden.
A kitchen garden or an edible garden basically refers to a garden which is mainly made up of plants that are intended to be eaten. Although a kitchen garden can also have a couple of decorative plants here and there, a large part of the garden is dedicated for growing edible plants.
More and more people today are growing kitchen gardens because of the numerous benefits they offer. First off, having a garden with edible plants is a great way to save on your monthly food bills since you would be able to grow fruits and vegetables that you can use for your daily food consumption. Instead of buying your greens, herbs, vegetables and fruits at the market, you can just go out to your garden, pick what you need and cook it or eat it fresh. Having a kitchen garden would also allow you to eat healthier foods since you would be able to choose the type of fertilizer you would be using. For instance, if you choose to use organic or natural fertilizers, it would mean that you and your family would be consuming organic fruits and vegetables. Aside from these, tending a kitchen garden in your own backyard is a relaxing way to spend your weekends, either alone or with your family.
If you are looking into setting up your very own kitchen garden, here are some tips that could help you get started.
1. First off, you would need to gather ideas on how to go about creating or reorganizing your kitchen garden. To make the process easier, you could try searching for some gardening websites or flipping through gardening magazines. These offer plenty of ideas and useful tips that would be able to help you out. As you browse through them, list down the ideas which you are interested in the most and the plants and herbs that you would like to be in your garden then use them to come up with a plan that would serve as your overall guide.
2. As you do the planning, it is advisable to resist taking in more than what you can handle, especially if you would be working on your garden by yourself, without any professional help. For instance, if you come across spectacular and magnificent gardens on magazines and websites, it would be best to first assess if it would be something that you can actually do and afford before going ahead and trying to copy them. Many beginners who make the mistake of copying complex gardens without checking first if they have the budget, resources and abilities to do so get overwhelmed and frustrated in the long run which could result to wasted time, money and energy.
3. You would then need to choose the location for your kitchen garden. Although you could turn your entire backyard into a kitchen garden, for beginners, it is advisable to start off with small spaces, expanding as you learn more about how kitchen gardens work. Depending on the plants and herbs that you would be planting, the area that you should be using could either receive full sunshine or partial sunshine. To know how much sunshine the plants you are planning to use would need, a little research might be necessary. For instance, tomatoes and peppers require full sunshine while herbs like dill and basil need a bit of shade in the afternoon. Also, if you are primarily planting a kitchen garden to provide you with produce for your daily cooking, it would be good to have it near your kitchen.
4. You would then need to create the layout for your garden. In this step, you would need to come up with the best arrangement for the plants and herbs that you would be planting. Measure out the area that you have designated for your garden and using a sheet of paper and the list of plants and herbs that you have, sketch a plan or arrangement that you would be using as you plant. Spacing is very important for plants to grow properly and produce healthy crops so you need to make sure that you are allowing enough room for each one that you plant. For example, if you would be planting pepper, red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant or parsley, you would need to allot a width of about 12 inches for each plant. If you would be planting fennel, spinach, thyme or cilantro, a smaller width allotment of 6 inches for each plant would do. For tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers, however, you would need to allot a larger width of 18 inches for each one. Aside from the spacing, you should also make sure that you would be allotting spaces for your walkways.
5. You could also consider installing protective barriers around your kitchen garden, especially if you live in an area which is a rabbit, deer or woodchuck territory. Protective barriers such as fences would also be useful if you have small children who love playing in your backyard. To conceal unsightly fences, you could plant fast-growing plants such as morning glories.
6. The next step would be to evaluate the type of soil you have. Keep in mind that a healthy and beautiful garden starts with good soil. To determine whether your soil is in good shape for the plants for your kitchen garden, you would need to have your soil tested. You could either buy a kit and then test the soil yourself or send a sample of your soil to a local testing agency. The latter option would be the better one as you would be able to get a more complete analysis. By getting your soil tested, you would know if it has the nutrients that your plants would be needing. You would also be able to know which fertilizer to use and if you need to add more humus if it lacks some essential nutrients.
7. After planting, remember to never overwater. If your plants are receiving regular rainfall (about once a week), watering might not be necessary anymore. However, if you are experiencing a dry season or if you live in an area which does not receive a lot of rainfall, you could water them using a drip irrigation or a trickling hose to make sure that the water down would go down deep, reaching the roots.
8. You should also avoid overfeeding. Keep in mind that overfeeding plants would not help them if they have been stressed due to extreme heat or if they have been attacked by bugs and pests. The best fertilizer to use would be an organic one which would slowly break down and provide the nutrients that your plants need as they need it. Feeding once every 6 weeks or so should be enough.
9. Harvesting often and checking your kitchen garden every now and then to know how they are growing are also advisable not only for your plants but also for yourself. Picking fruits and herbs for your own use and consumption has been reported to not just stimulate new plant growth but also help gardeners feel happier and more relaxed.