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  • Dana Tutela

6 Tips for a Successful Kitchen Garden

Updated: Jun 9

Vego kitchen garden

Follow these tips for a thriving kitchen garden that will provide fresh produce and herbs for your family!

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Many of us love the idea of being completely self-sufficient and living off the land, but most of us do not have the means to do so. We might be faced with limited space, time commitment, or funds. This is where a kitchen garden can truly shine. It's relatively small and needs less tending than a huge vegetable garden with rows and rows of crops. It supplements your traditional grocery store needs with fresh homegrown food. A kitchen garden can be as simple as a single raised bed with some herbs or a larger enclosed garden area with multiple beds and a variety of vegetables and fruits. Regardless of size or style, the following six tips will help you create a successful kitchen garden that you will enjoy for years to come.

Tip #1 Keep it Simple and Manageable

When designing your kitchen garden, keep it simple. It’s better to start small and add more plants later once you have a handle on your time and physical requirements. If you have too much to do every day, you might get discouraged and have a disappointing experience. I live in a hot humid area in South Carolina. Summer gardening happens early in the morning before the sun is overhead and late in the evening if it’s cool enough. For me that’s about one to two hours of chore time in the morning. I have seven raised beds and a small orchard with 10 fruit trees. It’s a lot of sweaty work, but I knew that when I planned it.

Vego kitchen garden with bamboo trellis

In addition to size, be aware of your plants’ needs. Some plants like cucumbers or snap peas require a trellis and training. Some plants like squash and tomatoes attract destructive bugs and have to be inspected multiple times a day. Some plants produce an abundance of food that will need to be properly stored or canned. All of these chores are manageable if you plan ahead and don’t overwhelm yourself.

Tip #2 Choose a Site Near your House

This might seem obvious, but plant your kitchen garden in a spot where you can get to it quickly and easily. Unfortunately, mine had to be planted a short distance from our house due to hilly terrain and a large tree canopy. When I’m in the middle of making dinner and need a fresh sprig of rosemary, I need to trek up the hill to cut some. It’s not ideal, but I have no other choice. I try to plan ahead when I’m working in the garden during the day to cut some fresh herbs or veggies for dinner before heading back to the house. At our last house, the kitchen garden was in the side yard, and I could zip out the back door and cut what I needed quickly. That was ideal!

Narrow side yard kitchen garden

Tip #3 Use Raised Beds and Containers

Use raised beds filled with compost and rich soil. The height will make it easier to tend and easier to control what’s in it. By that I mean the soil, weeds, pests, animals, etc. We have three dogs who like to potty in the ground beds. That’s a big no for my edible plants! We also live in the woods with deer everywhere…hence the enclosed kitchen garden on the hill! Half the battle with growing healthy plants is the dirt. I like raised beds because I know exactly what is in there. I love my Vego raised garden beds!

For more information about raised beds, read The Pros and Cons of Raised Beds.

sage plant spilling over edge of metal raised bed

Tip #4 Use a Watering System

Use a watering system like drip irrigation or a sprinkler on a timer. Having this in place makes it so much easier to manage a kitchen garden. My husband and I travel more often now that our daughters are grown. I love it that I can travel without worrying about my garden frying in the South Carolina heat because I took the time to install drip irrigation in all of my raised beds. I set the timer to days/ times/zones to water and let it do its thing. This has been such a game-changer for me as a gardener. My garden might look like a jungle when I return from a trip, but at least it’s still green and not brown!

drip irrigation

Tip #5 Utilize a Compost System

Have a compost system near your garden. I’m always amazed at how many bags of debris I can take away from my kitchen garden after working in it. I’m not very good at managing a true compost pile, but it’s on my to-do-list! For now I toss what I can to the chickens. Clippings and dead plants go into a temporary compost pile that I started. Weeds and diseased material go into trash. For trimmings and leftover greens in the kitchen, I use a Lomi, an electric countertop composter. This compost is tossed into the compost pile to break down further. I love my Lomi!

Tip #6 Plant What You Will Eat

This might be the most important tip for a successful kitchen garden. Plant what you will actually eat. My first herb garden had every herb I could squeeze into it. I realized quickly that I basically use the same ones over and over again. My kitchen garden must have sage, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill and mint because I use them in my recipes frequently. I once planted pineapple sage because I was intrigued by it at the nursery. It took over the raised bed I planted it in and I never used it. Not once. Lesson learned!

The same rule applies to fruits and vegetables. I hate tomatoes, but my husband loves them! I grow them for him (and my chickens). Otherwise, they would not be in my kitchen garden. This season I planted sugar snap peas. I’m not sure I would do it again because I found myself skipping over them when making dinner. No one really wanted them on their plate. On the other hand, this season I planted 6 cucumber plants. I have so many to harvest! I love having cucumbers on hand, but we can’t eat them fast enough! I’ve been making lots of pickles.

jars of pickles on counter with wooden spoon

Be prepared to share with neighbors and to store what you harvest if necessary. This means having freezer bags and/or canning equipment on hand. A successful kitchen garden can supply you with a bounty of food--so be prepared!

I hope this inspires you to make your own kitchen garden. Keep it manageable and productive so you can enjoy it for years to come!

These tips will ensure you have a successful kitchen garden and enjoy homegrown living!

cheers in the garden

For more inspiration, check out my blog post Six Ways to Create a Relaxing Garden.

back of woman sitting at blue table with glass of wine in garden

Short on space? Try my DIY Hanging Herb Garden and enjoy fresh kitchen herbs right outside your door.

pin for vertical hanging herb garden

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