Ultimate Kitchen Garden Planner

Kitchen gardens are growing in popularity. With the rise of food prices and the increased awareness of the general public about the state of the food system, many gardening enthusiasts are taking to their own backyard to supply themselves with homegrown goodness.

Starting a kitchen garden can be intimidating, there are so many choices as to what to plant and how to design the layout. We’re here to reveal some of that mystery and help you on your way to growing your own food at home.

kitchen garden

Photo sourced from Creative Commons/Rodtuk

What to plant

There are several main categories that make up a kitchen garden, and the key is to select a few plants from each for variety and success.

1. Root vegetables

Root vegetables are the base of so many hearty meals. While they can be purchased rather cheaply at the grocery store, they’re so much better tasting and better for you when grown locally, in your own backyard. Most root vegetables are easy to grow, and some are so fast growing you can harvest several times in one growing season.

Popular root vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Onions
  • Turnips

2. Big wigs

Onto the big wigs! At the heart of every meal is a big wig vegetable or fruit. The juicy tomato, the hearty eggplant, and the sweet melon are the highlight of every summer plate. These big wig crops need room to grow and many require a trellis to climb or contain them. Beautiful wrought iron or rustic wood can be used as a great centerpiece in your kitchen garden, with these charmers climbing up and growing around them.

Popular big wigs:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers, hot and sweet
  • Eggplant
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumbers

3. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens should be a staple in every home garden. They’re easy to grow in sun and partial shade, and can be tossed into practically every dish for a nutritious boost. These smaller crops are great for fitting in around the big wigs, as they’re happy to grow in partial shade and are at home in smaller spaces.

Popular leafy greens:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Mustard
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard

4. Herbs

Herbs are very expensive at the grocery store, whether you buy them fresh or dried. There’s truly nothing like picking fresh basil out of your backyard to toss into a fresh pasta dish, or cutting a spring of rosemary to adorn your roasted potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow, very forgiving, and can be used at every meal. An herb garden is a great accompaniment to the kitchen garden.

Popular herbs:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Cilantro
  • Marjoram
  • Mint (grow in a pot or it will take over your garden!)
  • Dill

6. Flowers and fruit

Edible flowers and fruit are very at home in a kitchen garden. Strawberries are wonderful for fitting into borders or placing in a decorative planter. Blueberry bushes can be grown in containers or as a centerpiece to a large garden. Showy flowers like marigolds, nasturtium and sunflowers add bright pops of color to the space.

Kitchen garden

Photo sourced from Creative Commons/Rhonda Hayes

Planning your kitchen garden

1. Start small

Now that we’ve listed all the possibilities for your kitchen garden, we want to assure you it’s not necessary to plant them all, especially if you’re a beginner.

It’s too easy to get excited about gardening and over-plant your space, resulting in a giant garden that you don’t have time to care for. A 10 x 10 foot garden is plenty large for a beginning gardener and you can grow a wide variety of crops.

Start by choosing just a few plants from each category above.

2. Plant what you eat

Take a look at what resides in your fridge, and the produce staples on your grocery list. These are a good start to a kitchen garden. Don’t start off growing Jerusalem artichokes if you’ve never eaten them before! Start with what you know, and what your family will eat. This will not only supply you with the vegetables and herbs necessary for cooking your favorite meals, but will give you motivation to care for your garden.

3. Consider design

Kitchen gardens can be a true testament to one’s sense of creativity and design. These gardens can be laid out in any number of geometric or organic shapes. The use of beautiful paths and borders, trellises, garden art, and water features add to the charm of a kitchen garden. This aspect of design is not at all necessary for function, but does make your HOA or significant other happy!

4. Before planting

There are a few preliminary steps to take care of a few months to a year before planting.

First, map out your future garden. Will you plant one large space with paths between rows, or several raised beds? Planting the garden close to your kitchen will also make care and harvest easy and quick.

Laying out flags or string can really help to visualize the space. Once your space is decided, it’s a good idea to take some time to observe the sun and rain patterns. Take note of the movement of the sun, most kitchen garden crops need full sun and should be planted in a spot where they will receive both morning and afternoon rays.

Check on the garden plot after a heavy rain, is water pooling in the area? Drainage is a major factor in gardening, you may need to consider mixing some sand into the area to help drain excess water.

Once you’re sure of the location of your future kitchen garden, spend some time killing weeds and amending the soil. Taking the time to destroy weed seeds now will save you a big headache later. Conduct a soil test at your local cooperative extension to see if the soil is lacking in any nutrients. Mix in compost or aged manure for your future plants to feed off of.

kitchen garden

Photo sourced from Creative Commons/ Angela N.

Laying it all out

When designing your kitchen garden, find placement for the largest, most cumbersome crops first, then fill in around them with smaller types.

These big wigs take up the most space and usually require trellises to keep them in place, they can go at the center of the garden, or along the sunniest side. The big wigs include the towering tomatoes, bushy beans and vining squash or melons. Take a close look at the seed packet to figure out the full mature size of the plant, and portion off your garden accordingly.

Next, place the smaller sprawling crops that can stand some partial sunlight while growing alongside the big wigs. Leafy greens and root veggies generally do well in this fashion.

Lastly, line the border and fill in small spaces with the little guys. Garlic, edible flowers and small herbs will grow well when nestled into these spaces.

Alternately, you can utilize raised beds to plant one variety of each crop in each bed. This makes it easier to rotate crops throughout the beds, but the lack of diversity can lead to issues with pests and disease.

Below you will find some examples of great kitchen garden crops. Get creative! You can’t go wrong growing what you love!

herb garden

Photo sourced from creative commons/ Elliott Brown

Kitchen garden planner

Below you will find some examples of great kitchen garden crops. Get creative! You can’t go wrong growing what you love!

Pasta lover’s garden:

  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley

Soup garden:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Organo
  • Thyme
  • Sage

 Salad garden:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mesclun mix
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers

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