I spent the first ten years of my life on a farm in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Everybody had farms back then, yet they all had kitchen gardens for their personal use. I imagine that stemmed from the Victory Gardens during World War II. When we moved to Southern California I can’t recall knowing anyone with a backyard vegetable garden. I met and married my late husband in Northern California and he just happened to write vegetable garden books, among other books, and he introduced me to small space, French intensive, biodynamic gardening. From then on I was hooked on developing small space kitchen gardens for our favorite recipes. I loved Mexican cooking, Duane loved Italian. Growing these specialized gardens became a labor of love and of course forced me to try new recipes and new vegetable varieties.
Today, as yesteryear, growing a kitchen garden has become a necessity for many families. With a kitchen garden these families are now eating far healthier than ever. I prefer postage stamp size kitchen gardens, which are small gardens that put the fresh ingredients that cooks’ need at their fingertips when they need them. Kitchen gardens are very special places designed by, and for, people who love to garden and cook healthy foods. While others are designed by good cooks who are constantly looking for a variety of vegetables to add to their dishes that let them express their personality.
Unfortunately, many people today complain that they are short on both time and garden space. The postage stamp kitchen garden solves both of these problems because it 1. Produces tremendous amounts of vegetables in a small space using intensive techniques; 2. Requires much less weeding, watering, and effort; 3. Maintains ecological balance using intensive organic methods that create a vigorous, healthy vegetable garden; and 4. Often combines in-ground gardens with containers, or raised bed gardens. I also recommend using heirloom seeds in your kitchen garden, because those saved seeds will remain true to the parent plant and are exactly the same each year. My favorite size of in ground raised bed is 4 x 4 feet. It’s easily managed, grows tons of vegetables and can be placed near the kitchen. If you have a large family then design a bigger bed, 4 x 8 feet is another good size, or even larger. Or, plant several postage stamp beds with different vegetables in them. Give the kids their own postage stamp bed to grow things they like.
A postage stamp kitchen garden bed does not plant in rows, but the seeds (or plants) are spread across the bed and allows all plant’s leaves to touch each other. Even planting some things beneath the leaves of growing plants. I’ll be writing more about this in later blogs.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Grow an Asian vegetable bed, a salsa bed, a salad bed, an Italian bed, or a soup bed. Whatever your family likes to eat and you like to cook can be grown in a specialized kitchen vegetable garden. If you choose to plant heirlooms, make sure you plant one species of any variety in a single bed, so there is less likely a chance of cross pollination. If you choose to plant hybrids, don’t plant with heirloom varieties. Regardless of what you plant, have fun with it.
Ellen's Kitchen Garden
My latest book The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden Book by Ten Speed Press will be released February 2014.
© Copyright by Karen Newcomb
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