Check out the 12 best beginner tips if you’re starting a kitchen garden to grow your own flavorful fruits, aromatic herbs, and fresh vegetables!
1. Site Selection
The perfect site for a kitchen garden receives plenty of sun and has a reserved area that is partially shaded so that you can grow all your shade-loving herbs and vegetables there.
Also, it should have good drainage and quality soil. One way to check drainage is by checking the area after a downpour. If puddles form, it’s not suitable for a kitchen garden, but if the water seems to seep in or flow away rather quickly, it’s fine.
Choosing a flat area devoid of roots and rocks makes it easier to till and prepare the soil before planting. In case the soil lacks good drainage, consider creating raised beds that allow plants to grow above the ground level.
And if you lack a gardening space, starting a vegetable garden on a patio, balcony, rooftop, or even on a sunny windowsill is also possible. Vegetables like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers grow easily in pots. Here’s a list of vegetables that grow well in containers!
Also Read: How to Start a Balcony Kitchen Garden
2. Start Simple
Choose hybrid and heirloom seeds and seedlings both for planting, and start to identify the vegetable types and varieties you prefer according to your taste and what grows best in your kitchen garden.
In the beginning, it’s best to start with easy-to-grow herbs and vegetables like mint, basil, parsley, lettuces, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, radishes, Asian greens, etc.
If you never had a green thumb, master the basics of growing these most popular and easy to grow vegetables, then start growing finicky edibles that need care like cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, onions, cabbage, artichokes, rhubarb, bitter melon, carrots, melons, etc. For fruits, you will need grafted saplings. Growing them in your kitchen garden is also a rewarding idea!
3. Start Vegetables in Raised Beds
Growing vegetables in raised beds have many benefits. They improve the productivity of the vegetable garden and make planning and planting easier. For instance, if you have a problem of poor soil, you can fill up the planting beds with quality topsoil.
A raised bed can also save you from back strain as you don’t have to bend repeatedly to harvest the crops. Fewer crawling pests and weeds are also some of the advantages. Check out more about it here and here!
4. Lacking Space? Go Vertical
Don’t let the lack of space deter your love for home-grown food! Consider installing wall planters, railing planters, and even hanging baskets to support crops that grow vertically.
Space-hungry vining plants such as pole beans, tomatoes, peas, melons, squashes, gourds, etc., can be grown straight up with the help of stakes, fences, trellises, or cages.
Growing vegetables vertically saves time and simplifies the maintenance part because you can easily see where the fruits are. Also, upward-facing plants are less likely to fall prey to fungal infections, thanks to the improved air circulation around the leaves.
Consider growing vining crops along one side of raised garden beds and using sturdy end posts in-between to provide a strong climbing surface. Don’t forget to secure the growing vines with the trellis, and don’t bother about tying heavy fruits like melons and squash- they tend to form thicker stems for support. Don’t miss this helpful article available at the Micro Gardener!
5. Space Out Well
Pay attention to how you arrange your crops. Spacing out well is the key to get a good yield from each bed. Planting in rows or square patterns is common, but you can try to plant your vegetables in a triangular pattern.
This way, you can tuck in up to 15% more plants in each bed. Ensure not to cram them up in your planting beds. Plants don’t reach their full potential (in terms of size and yield) when crowded. Here is a planting space guide for your reference.
6. Do Succession Planting
Succession planting can help you improve your kitchen garden’s productivity and provides a constant supply of vegetables. Here’s more of it!
7. Use Transplants instead of Sowing Seeds Directly
You don’t have to wait for the garden crops to mature before starting the next batch. Sowing seeds in trays and pots can give them a good head start and even preclude the setbacks that arise when the seeds struggle to adapt to the garden soil.
Once there is enough space, you can transplant mature seedlings on the soil instead of sowing seeds. Since the transplants are a couple of weeks old when you plant them, they will be healthier and adapt faster than the direct-seeded plants.
8. Choose Varieties that Mature Early
Especially for those living in colder zones, where summers are short. This way, you’ll be able to harvest as many crops as you can before the growing season ends. So obviously, selecting crops that mature quickly is the most logical step and worth giving a try.
9. Sow Compatible Crops Together
Learn about the companion planting and the vegetables and the herbs that do well together. You can plant veggies with the same growing requirements together. Learn more here!
10. Try Interplanting
Interplanting compatible plants save space, repels regular pests, and even makes your venture more productive in general.
Here are some examples of compatible combinations you can try:
Corns, beans, and squash
This classic three-sister combo works because all three crops require the same sort of weather conditions. Robust cornstalks support beans, while squash grows on the ground, thereby out-competing those pesky weeds.
Tomatoes, Basil & Marigold
Marigolds are routinely planted among tomatoes to repel insects and nematodes. Basil, rosemary, sage, and parsley make worthy companions as well. Remember, while tomatoes and potatoes are part of the same family, they do better when planted separately.
Basil, Chives & Pepper
Growing pepper alongside basil and chives is a great way to enhance the fiery flavors of pepper and suppress weeds.
Eggplant, Beans, Thyme & Spinach
Eggplant has a nitrogen requirement, which can be met by planting legumes in the same planting bed. Thyme helps to ward off insects, while spinach keeps the weeds in check while it prospers in the shade of eggplants as it prefers a moist space that receives partial sun.
11. Do Edge Planting
It basically involves growing support crops or companion plants on the garden bed and along the edges. The reason why these plants are so important is that they benefit the garden by offering mulch, protection from weeds, warding off pests, and acting as windbreaks.
A Few Crops for Edge Planting
Plants like basil, tansy, marigold, wormwood, nettles, lemongrass, comfrey can be used for this.
- Halcyon Hosta
- Lenten Rose
- Creeping Phlox
- Creeping Juniper
- Angelina Stonecrop
- Yellow Alyssum
- Silver Mound Artemisia
12. What to Grow When You’re Beginning?
Think about the edibles you’re likely to eat most and plan out your kitchen garden accordingly. While most vegetable crops grow equally well in various weather conditions, it’s always better to learn what grows best in your garden zone before making a final call.
Also Read: Money Saving Gardening Tips
The Following Tips Can Help You Out
- Choose crops that grow fast.
- Grow plants with high yields. This is going to encourage you initially.
- Select crops that don’t require a lot of care and are less prone to pest infestation.
- Grow plants that can give multiple crops and allow you to stretch the growing season. For example, tomatoes will produce several crops over the season, but planting cauliflower will give you just one harvest.
- Herbs can be harvested regularly, and growing them is a nice way to save up on expensive, store-bought options.
- Cut-and-come varieties of greens like spinach are the best and easiest to grow.
How Frequently to Water the Kitchen Garden?
Since fruits and vegetables are 70% water, you’ll need to ensure your plants get a good soak regularly. This is even more important for young seedlings that haven’t yet formed a deep root structure.
Your safest bet is to water the plants once every day when they’re establishing. Once the crops start to mature, they won’t need more than an inch of water every week. If you live in a hot area or place with sandy soil, water more frequently.
Two Most Important Things to Remember
Kitchen Waste Composting
Instead of throwing away your kitchen waste into the trash, recycle it. It’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Learn more here!
Consider using organic mulches such as newspaper, cardboard, rotted hay, chopped leaves, and grass clippings.