Design a Kitchen Garden Plan

Developing a good kitchen garden plan is an essential aspect of providing fresh produce for your family while reducing your reliance on store-bought food. Not only can you lower grocery costs and save money by planting a garden, but you can also eat healthier for a longer period of time if you plan your garden appropriately.

Kitchen Garden Plan Basics

Since most kitchen gardens are limited in size, your garden plan is essential in producing a successful harvest. In most cases, garden space is limited and so it should be used wisely. Several facets of gardening should be factored into your kitchen garden plan in order to produce a successful, bountiful crop. These areas of concern include: gardening techniques, extending your growing season, the number of plants, the type of plants, and soil preparation.

Kitchen Garden Techniques

For the best use of the space you have available, you should create a plan that takes into consideration different methods of gardening including vertical, container, square-foot, and raised bed gardening. Many kitchen gardens incorporate one or more of these methods in order to grow more with less space. To make the best use of your space, plan ahead.

Vertical gardening allows you to take advantage of the space along patios, garage walls, and fences. You grow your garden up instead of along the ground, providing several benefits at the same time.

Container gardening enables you to take advantage of non-soil locations in your yard while also offering a chance to continue growing in the cooler months by bringing your container plants inside the home. You can use containers on the ground or purchase hanging ones that you can secure to hanging-planter poles or patio overhangs.

Square-foot gardening offers an organized method of gardening that many gardeners find easy to use since it provides a clear-cut method of planting.

Raised-bed gardening allows you to grow on otherwise unusable ground. The most difficult part is the need to prepare a box to hold the soil for your raised bed.

Additionally, you should learn how to extend your growing season to get the most out of your garden each year. By combining ground-saving techniques with season-lengthening strategies, you can effectively increase your harvest.

Extend Your Growing Season

If you want to feed your family with fresh produce for a longer period of time while reducing the amount of canning/preserving that you need to do, you should incorporate strategies for extending your growing season into your kitchen garden plan. Such strategies include:

  • starting your seeds early
  • planting spring, fall, and winter crops (succession planting)
  • using low tunnels or floating row covers in your garden design
  • cold frames
  • overwintering
  • New Vegetable Varieties versus Old Varieties

    Many gardeners tend to stay with the varieties of plants from past seasons that have produced well for them. However, trying new varieties every now and again can provide a bit of added flavor to your table. If you decide to incorporate a few new varieties, you should plant them in limited quantities until you see how well they do along with how well your family enjoys eating them.

    Deciding To Plant Herbs

    One of the things that you need to decide is whether or not you intend to plant any herbs in your kitchen garden. If you are into culinary pastimes, then of course you should plant as many as you can. Even if you are new to all of this, it wouldn’t hurt to try one or two herbs since they are relatively easy to grow, do well in containers, and are hardy enough to withstand a tiny bit of neglect.

    Herbs can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Popular choices for meat dishes include bay, horseradish, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary and sage. The following herbs go well with fish recipes: bay, dill, fennel, lemon basil, and garlic. Poultry dishes often rely on lemon thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme for flavor. Of course, if your family has a love of vegetables, you might want to consider the following herbs: basil, chives, dill, garlic, mint, tarragon, and thyme.

    Choosing What to Plant

    Determining what to plant is partly determined by what it is that your family likes to eat. However, if you want to encourage beneficial insects while reducing non-beneficial insect populations, you should create a kitchen garden plan that utilizes techniques that do so. Additionally, you should incorporate a bit of companion planning, placing plants together that thrive well in each other’s company while avoiding any combinations that discourage a healthy garden environment.

    If you want to provide enough fresh produce to fee your family, your garden should include a healthy planting of family favorites. While herbs should be included as they provide a beneficial presence to the garden environment as well as flavor to your pantry, you should focus on plants that produce crops that can be eaten as a major portion of the meal.

    If you are new to gardening, you should try plants that are easy to grow such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, radishes, and onions. You can learn a lot about gardening by starting with plants that are easy to grow and you don’t have to worry about killing them unless you neglect them shamelessly.

    Fall and winter gardens might include cabbage, kale, spinach, endive, leeks, and swiss chard. Spring gardens typically include some type of combination of the following: peas, lettuce, broccoli, and radishes.

    Basil attracts bees, so it should be placed near plants that require insect pollination including tomatoes and peppers. Parsley and chives do well together as do sage and rosemary. Cabbage, bush beans, sage, and onions are another healthy combination that you can try. Pole beans, corn, and squash are good companions as discovered by some of the earliest gardeners. In fact, beans get along well with a wide variety of plants including lettuce, spinach, onions, carrots, turnips, cucumbers, radishes, and peas.

    A Sample Garden Plot

    Click on the sample plan for a larger view.

    In addition to determining which plants you are going to include in your garden, you need to decide how many of each variety you are going to plant. Do you want enough produce to sustain your kitchen completely throughout the growing season or are you only planning on growing enough to supplement your grocery purchases?

    How Much Should You Plant?

    It isn’t always easy to know how many of each kind of plant you should include in your kitchen garden, especially if you are a first-time gardener. Unless you want to find yourself drowning in beans while dreaming of tomatoes, it is important to have an idea of roughly how many plants you need in order to provide sufficient quantities of your favorite vegetables, herbs, and fruit for your family for fresh eating.

    Of course, how many of any one variety of vegetable you need to grow depends in part on how well your family members like that particular one and how often they eat it. This is a good starting place in considering how much of any one vegetable, fruit, or herb your family consumes in a given year. From that, you can make a guess as to how much you need to grow of any one variety. For example, if your family consumes five pounds of potatoes in any one month, you need 60 pounds of potatoes for the year. If you look at the yield per plant, you can determine how many you need.

    Some basic guidelines can offer you an easy strategy for determining just how many plants you need. You can follow a rule-of-thumb guideline that offers you a generalized idea as to how many plants you need based upon the number of family members.

    If you want, you can simply use the chart as a guideline or starting place for your decisions on how many plants to include and tweak the numbers to fit your family’s size. The numbers are based upon fresh produce use only and do not take into consideration any canning/preserving that you might do.

    Planting Chart

    Variety 2 Family Members 4 Family Members 6 Family Members
    Basil 2 plants 4 plants 6 plants
    Beets 5 ft row 10 ft row 15 ft row
    Broccoli 2-3 plants 5 plants 7-8 plants
    Bush Beans 7-8 ft row 15 ft row 22-23 ft row
    Pole Beans 1-2 poles 3 poles 4-5 poles
    Cabbage 2-3 plants 5 plants 7-8 plants
    Carrots 5 ft row 10 ft row 15 ft row
    Cauliflower 2-3 plants 5 plants 7-8 plants
    Chives 1 plant 2 plants 3 plants
    Corn 7-8 ft row 15 ft row 22-23 ft row
    Cucumbers 1 hill 2 hills 3 hills
    Kale 2-3 plants 5 plants 7-8 plants
    Leaf Lettuce 5 ft row 10 ft row 15 ft row
    Onions 2-3 ft row 5 ft row 7-8 ft row
    Peas 5 ft row 10 ft row 15 ft row
    Peppers 1-2 plants 3 plants 4-5 plants
    Radishes 2-3 ft row 5 ft row 7-8 ft row
    Rosemary 1 plant 2 plants 3 plants
    Sage 1 plant 2 plants 3 plants
    Spinach 5 ft row 10 ft row 15 ft row
    Squash 1 hill 2 hills 3 hills
    Thyme 1 plant 2 plants 3 plants
    Tomatoes 2-3 plants 5 plants 7-8 plants

    Soil Preparation for Kitchen Gardens

    Preparing your soil is part of creating a successful garden and should be part of your garden plan. Make sure that you determine the condition of the existing soil and improve it with the addition of compost and fertilization.

    Keep a Garden Journal

    Keeping a garden journal is an excellent idea for those individuals who want to improve on their kitchen gardens year after year. Make notations as to which crops produced more than you needed as well as those that produced less. This allows you to adjust the number of plants for the following season to meet your family’s produce needs.

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