I have always admired those who had expansive veggie gardens in their yards . In fact, growing up in South Jersey, this was standard for folks in my town. Not only were we surrounded by farms and orchards, many families had nice size veggie gardens in their backyards boasting fantastic jersey tomatoes, corn and string beans. Today’s families are looking for ways to grow their own., but these traditional garden designs don’t fit their current lifestyles. So consider the following as an alternative to your grandparents style vegetable garden!
Once I got my own home, I always had a desire to replicate these style gardens, but space, sun/shade and just lack of time prohibited. So two years ago I set about creating what I like to refer to as my “personalized” kitchen garden. It gives me the joy of growing herbs and vegetables for my summer season cooking, but is incredibly functional, uses a small space and flows within the designs of my backyard perennial, container and water gardens.
I assessed what I believed to be my specific kitchen garden needs. First, it had to be right outside my kitchen/entertaining area. Creating a site towards the end of my backyard made no sense to me. I wanted easy access that would allow me to step down off my deck with scissors in hand to pluck whatever I needed for the evening’s meal. I decided two raised bed areas bordering my screened in porch bordering my deck was a perfect location. The site specifics also offered me the 6 plus hours of sunlight needed each day to produce crop.
Second, I had to decide what veggies and herbs I would use during the summer months. I considered carefully what ingredients frequented my summer cooking recipes. I had no desire to can or freeze. I wanted to be able to consume, share with friends and family but not waste. So my planting inventory included Roma tomatoes, 3 varieties of basil, chives, purple cabbage, lettuce, parsley, peppers, rhubarb, 2 varieties of strawberries and mint. This list gave me options for salads, garnishments, summer ice tea recipes and baking the recipes my family enjoys.
Third, I wanted the space to be compact, I don’t have a great deal of time throughout the season to dedicate more maintenance hours. I design my perennial gardens to require only a bit of weeding and fertilizing throughout the growing season. Both the location and raised bed design, limited weed seed migration. Raised area with bordering walkways made weeding, when needed, easier.
And finally I wanted the dedicated space to flow aesthetically within my current backyard garden design. The flat, rectangular traditional veggie garden look would not fit in with my backyard perennial and water gardens. Designing the area within the mix of hardscapes and existing gardens naturalized the area to fit within my flowers and natural ecosystems. I also used decorative trellises for my vines, versus standard garden stakes and cages. This compliments my use of other pottery and structures that allow for climbing vines throughout my dedicated bedding areas. The color and texture of the kitchen garden compliments my all-season blooms that surround it.
New twist on the kitchen garden……..as always, keeping gardens sensible and sustainable!