Tim Bate of Skillin's Greenhouses just taught a great class called Kitchen Gardening for our Spring Open House series here at Skillin's Greenhouses. Following are the notes from his presentation and there is a great deal of good information here:
What IS a Kitchen Garden?
A kitchen garden differs from the traditional vegetable garden, which can be thought of as a family farm in miniature, with multiple long rows of vegetables.
A kitchen garden can be a central feature in an all-season landscape; or a simple vegetable plot that includes fragrant herbs, fruits and edible flowers; or a collection of containers bursting with color and flavor. It is often a structured space with geometric patterns - but a carefree, cottage style, or combination of formal and casual is also beautiful.
It is a traditional part of many European gardens. Its use is growing rapidly in the U.S, especially by gardeners that do not have the acreage or time for a little family farm, but find they do have a sunny spot of soil or space for pots, and an appreciation for the best tasting food.
Why plant a kitchen Garden?
• Because of the cost?
• To know where your food is coming from?
• To move towards being more “green”?
• Tastes better!
• Fresher food.
Where to grow?
• Choose a sunny spot with a minimum of 6 hours of sun.
• Near a water supply
• Near the kitchen?
• If it is going to be a design feature, do you see it from the house, and/or walk through it to enter the house? Is it part of an outdoor living space?
• In raised beds
• In containers
• Soil types – Sand, clay, silt, loam. What do you have?
• A soil test may be helpful in determining soil potential. http://anlab.umesci.maine.edu/soillab_files/faq/index.html
• Adding compost improves soil structure and improves results. Take one of our composting classes or pick up the class composting handout.
• Using organic fertilizers provides major nutrients (N-P-K), minor nutrients and trace minerals.
Think of your favorite vegetables and flavors.
Do you favor traditional Asian vegetables and greens with accompanying seasonings? (See Botantical Interest Seeds!) Do you love fresh salsa, or a rich, ripe tomato sauce for pasta? Would you like a salad with that? A tall glass of iced lemon verbena tea, perhaps? Make a mean mojito with mint. Start small and plant what you love.
Some kitchen garden plants
• Tomatoes – Bush (Determinate) vs. Vining (Indeterminate) Stake vining types to add vertical structure. Plant in garden a couple of weeks after last average frost date, or after last average frost in a container like Earth Box. In the absence of a soil test, a ½ cup of lime incorporated into soil around the transplant is a good idea.
• Green Peppers/Hot Peppers – Good for containers if you want to get an early start. They like it just right, not too hot and not too cold. Planting closely helps to shade the peppers.
• Pole Beans/Bush Beans - using Pole beans adds vertical structure and extends season. Keep picking for extended production. For beauty and flavor try the Italian heirloom variety Trionfo Violetto.
• Lettuces – Good cool season crop. Plant from seed or transplants. Can be interplanted with radishes to maximize planting space. Plant seed in spring every 2 weeks for a succession of fresh greens, and then again July 15 to Sept 1 for extended season harvest.
• Radishes – Plant from seed. Good for interplanting among later season crops
• Chard/Beets – Plant from seed. Eat the thinnings. Adds beautiful color to the garden.
• Spinach – An easy, cool season crop. Interplant with carrots to maximize planting space. Spinach is a quick grower and provides a bit of shade and cover for the slower to start and more delicate carrot seedlings. Plant again Aug 1 to Sept 1 for extended season harvest.
• Carrots – Soil should be clear of rocks, soil clods and other debris to a depth of 1 foot, and keep on top of the weeding. Thin, thin, thin seedlings as they mature and eat, eat, eat all season after they begin to color up. They are little more work, but a carrot right from the ground is a sweet treat, indeed. Ask any kid!
• Cucumbers – Bush vs. Vining Again, use the vining type is a good way to maximize available space (and hanging cucumbers grow straighter). Keep picking to extend the harvest; large, seed loaded cucumbers left too long on the vine diminishes production rapidly.
• Fennel – A delicious plant, but also beautiful texture in the garden. All plants with umbel-like flowers are fantastic for attracting beneficial insects and butterflies!
• Annual Culinary – Basil, Dill, Stevia, Rosemary, Parsley
• Perennial culinary – Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Chives, Sage
• Scents – Lemon Verbena, Geranium, Mint, Pineapple Sage
– plant bushes and trees at north end so as not to cast too much shade over the garden.
• Strawberry jar?
• Espalier Apple/Pears
• Lemons in pots
• Limes in pots
Soil needs to be kept evenly moist during seed germination, so frequent light watering is the rule. After that, 1 inch of water per week is needed for best growth and production, usually applied in 2 ½ inch applications.
Watering is best done in morning so foliage dries during the day, with evening being the least favorable as overnight moisture encourages diseases and is favored by many insects.
Water the ground and not the foliage, if you can, by using soaker hoses. If you are hand watering, apply water in soil reservoirs around plants.
Some plants in containers, like tomatoes, will need to be watered almost every day. Self-watering systems like the Earth Box keep plants evenly moist. This is especially good when growing tomatoes in containers
Weeding and Mulching
Tilling brings weed seeds to the surface where they will happily germinate. Except for periodic additions of compost, minimize turning the soil and the weeding chore is diminished greatly. Weeding is still required, however, and it is very important, especially when the plants are young.
Mulching helps control weeds in the garden rows, and after the seedlings have some size, or after transplanting, mulching over their roots assists greatly in regulating soil temperature and moisture.
Start small and start growing!
Tuck a few vegetables into your flower garden
Add a couple of pots of herbs
Include something that you like to touch or smell beside the pathway.
A couple of great books on gardening:
The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
The Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman
Special thanks to Tim Bate of Skillin's
March 29, 2011