Do you have a kitchen garden? Have you thought about creating one?
About 8 years ago, I decided I needed one. I had a front yard that was on a highway which was unused mainly because of noise and ratty grass with a view of a fence. I hadn’t done any serious gardening before, just a few herbs or tomato pots and the odd flower garden but always on a smaller scale. As a former professional cook and avid home cook, I started seeing the potential of walking outside to gather fresh herbs and produce and having this fenced chunk of yard being unused and needing to be mowed was really beginning to bug me.
Kitchen gardens are an old idea, called a potager in France and a kailyaird in Scotland they can be ornamental and very structured or a simple and humble vegetable plot. My vision was based loosely on a French potager – purposeful and structured edible plantings that would keep some structure year round. So without my husband’s blessing, I just started tearing up the lawn. It was quite time-consuming but I was on a mission and because he wasn’t in agreement with this plan, I had to prove it was a good one!
I didn’t get the whole yard dug up that year, I achieved about 1/3 but that was a pretty substantial amount. I tried to plant a combination of woody herbs and a fruit tree that I hoped would keep some shape to the garden in the winter as well as the usual suspects of peas, beans, carrots, lettuces, herbs and tomatoes. I had varied success but I learned a lot. My yard was sunny and hot so tomatoes loved it, the ground was rocky and hard under just a bit of topsoil so carrots did not do well. Purple pole beans thrived and added beautiful color and height to the garden and zucchini were prolific and made me feel like a garden rock star lol.
It turned out well enough that I was hooked and my husband was on board and the following year, he and my stepson helped me rip out the rest of the grass. We brought in a load of soil to add which helped me be able to grow beets and carrots, created 2 pathways to separate the gardens to help with crop rotation and planted a fig tree, a stone fruit salad tree and bay tree. Slowly my kitchen garden took shape although it has been messier and less organized looking than I had envisioned.
I have learned almost entirely by trial and error and the good people at our local nurseries. Successes have been my fig and apple tree, fails the fruit salad tree (Still standing to give privacy but not really producing fruit) and a few plantings that were rated for zone 8 (I’m in a zone 7 but I’m a risk taker).
I originally set out to plant strictly edibles and did that for the first few years but now I sprinkle in more flowers so that I can pick them for bouquets and help my little pollinators as well. I now love to spend evenings in the garden which has a view of my fruits, veggies and flowers and as I look at them, I inevitably start weeding with complete disregard of time.
My kitchen garden is beautiful and productive in the summer but in the winter it is very brown with a fair amount of bare dirt where veggies had been. I have tried to plant more evergreen plants to camouflage it a bit but really, it’s just not the nicest entry view when people come to our house in the winter and I’ve just become OK with that. I have tried doing some winter vegetable growing with mixed results, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale etc. but I find that while I love gardening and weeding from spring through fall, I don’t really love it in the cold and wet of winter.
My garden is definitely still a work in progress and I would love to hear back with your thoughts. What zone are you growing in? Successes? Frustrations? Tips for me?