Kitchen Garden Tips

It seems as though kitchen gardens are beginning to crop up everywhere- in the backyard, on the patio, and even along the side of the garage. Whether you have a lot of space or a little bit of space, you can incorporate a number of terrific kitchen garden tips along with easy space-saving strategies to create the best little plot in the neighborhood.

1. Lengthen Your Growing Season

Lengthening your growing season is an excellent strategy for getting the most out of your kitchen garden giving you fresh produce all year round. You can have a more successful growing season using one or more of the following garden tips.

Plant Cool Season Crops

One of the easiest ways to do this is to plant a variety of early spring crops such as lettuce, peas, spinach, broccoli, kale, and radishes and follow them up with fall and winter crops such as carrots, beets, leeks, brussel sprouts, garlic, turnips, and parsnips. This strategy gives you fresh produce throughout a major portion of the year.

Starting Seeds Early

If you want a head start in your garden, you should start your seeds early. Of course, this means that you should plant your seeds indoors tending to them until it is time to transplant them outside. Even if you live in a mild-climate region, starting your seeds early means that you can give them a better start once all danger of frost has passed. Make sure that you harden your plants off properly before transplanting them.

Use Low Tunnels

You can use low tunnels to lengthen your growing season. Low tunnels protect your crops from early insects and frost and allow you to overwinter hardy crops. It is relatively easy to create low tunnels using row covers and wire hoops. An alternative to low tunnels is to simply use floating row covers that also protect your crops from early garden pests such as flea beetles and root maggots.

Plant in Warm Soil

Planting your garden on a south-facing slope is an excellent way to tap into some extra sunshine. You can always create a slight slope using extra soil. At any rate, the placement of your kitchen garden needs to take advantage of as much sun as possible.

Use Coldframes

Cold frames can lengthen your growing season considerably. A cold frame is made by creating a bottomless box that has a glass lid. It does need to have some type of ventilation worked into it so that your plants do not become overheated.

Use Mulch to Protect Plants

You can protect fall and winter crops by mulching them with straw or hay. While you can’t do this with all of your crops, certain crops such as baby beets, carrots, and turnips respond well to this practice.

2. Plan Garden Space Wisely

For the best results when planting your kitchen garden, you should focus on strategies that use the space wisely. For example, vertical gardening, square-foot gardening, raised beds, and incorporating planters and containers into your garden plan can all be used to take advantage of the space that you do have available.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening adds height to your garden while giving your plants the benefit of added exposure to sunshine and reduced exposure to ground pests. It also facilitates your ability to prune, remove insects, and harvest your crops.

Sqaure Foot Gardening

Square-foot gardening, a practice that involves the use of 4-ft. by 4-ft. garden plots that have been subdivided into 1-ft. squares, conserves garden space by limiting how much you can grow due to space restrictions. It is an organized and systematized method of gardening that simplifies decision-making while limiting crop selection to those varieties that are most desired and therefore, most useful to the gardener.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised beds are useful in gardens that do not offer the best possible soil conditions. They are also useful in separating your plants from harmful ground pests.

Container Gardening

Incorporating planters and containers into your garden plan is a perfect solution for kitchen gardens that offer little by way of ground or soil. Containers and planters can be placed on patios, concrete driveways, and rocky soil allowing you to create a kitchen garden despite the fact that you might not have optimal growing conditions.

3. Use Compost in the Kitchen Garden

Composting your garden is like having a magic trick to make it grow better. Compost is full of rich, organic matter that supplies essential nutrients to your growing plants. It is created through the decomposition of organic matter. You can till compost directly into your garden soil prior to planting or add it in carefully afterward.

Adding compost to your garden soil improves its structure, increasing permeability aiding your plants in their growth. This is especially important for dense soil structures such as that found with clay. Compost adds important microorganisms that aid in binding the soil particles together, helping to prevent erosion. Plus, it attracts earthworms, which are beneficial insects, to your garden.

4. Organic Pest Control

Organic pest control is the healthiest strategy to use in your kitchen garden. Harsh chemicals can be toxic so you should never use them around your plants once they are in bloom or producing. Organic pest treatments typically break down rather quickly so little or no residue remains once it is time to begin picking your produce. You should always pick organic pest control around food over chemical treatments.

Natural pest control is another healthy alternative both for your garden plants and for yourself. Beneficial insects that feed on garden pests can reduce harmful insect populations tremendously. Introduce populations of ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial nematodes into your kitchen garden to help keep pest populations down.

Companion Planting

Small kitchen gardens are ideal for companion planting, which is the practice of planting your crops close to each other. The premise behind companion planting is that certain crops can benefit each other in their growth while also repelling common garden pests.

This practice helps to eliminate a reliance on chemical pesticides while also reducing the need to weed. To attract beneficial insects, use plants that are native to your area. In particular, plants with cup-shaped flowers can be used to attract pollinators. Two excellent strategies for companion planting include creating borders with plants that naturally repel insects or interplanting varieties known to perform well together. For example, plant flowers that attract pollinators next to those crops that require insect pollination.

Certain types of plants such as squash and cucumbers provide terrific ground cover reducing the growth of weeds. Plus, the close proximity of each of your plants keeps down the growth of weeds. If your garden space is limited, companion planting is an excellent option when considering your garden layout since it reduces your work while enhancing your crop output.

Use Beneficial Gardening Insects

Kitchen gardens also offer an ideal opportunity to attract beneficial insects with flowers as their hosts. Not only do you get an added bit of color to your garden, but you can keep pest population down naturally without resorting to chemical pesticides that can harm beneficial insects or taint your produce.

5. Create a Community Kitchen Garden

In some cases, all you have is a small backyard with little ground to it or a patio at the back of your home. How can you grow a garden there? How can you attract pollinators with such little space?

Well, one of the best options you have is to team up with your neighbors to create a community kitchen garden that all of you can participate in. You have two main options here to set this plan into place. First, you can plant in between your homes or in your small backyard using every imaginable space-saving technique available. Second, the neighborhood can find a small piece of ground that can be rented for gardening purposes. Not all neighborhoods have this as a viable option, but you can always check with your local community government.

You can grow a wider variety of crops this way without the need to rely solely on the space that you have available in your own yard. Everyone involved in the project shares in the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of the crops.

One of the other advantages of teaming up with neighbors for a community kitchen garden is the ability to learn from the more experienced gardeners in the group. Chances are that someone in the group has some experience planting one of those vegetables or herbs that you have never gotten around to just yet or perhaps they have gardening tips that you can use to attract pollinators or manage pest control.

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