Last fall I attended the Des Moines Botanical Gardens Fall Symposium and had the pleasure of listening to Ellen Ecker Ogden talk about Kitchen Gardens. Ellen is the co-founder of Cooks Garden seed catalog, has extensive gardening experience and has written several books, her most recent book is The Complete Kitchen Garden . When I left the symposium I was totally inspired to redesign my existing vegetable garden.
So you might be asking what is the difference between a kitchen garden and a regular vegetable garden? There are a couple of things. First, kitchen gardens are designed to be closer to the kitchen or home so that it is easy to step right into your garden and harvest what you need while cooking. Second, kitchen gardens are designed to produce vegetables, fruit and flowers in one garden. Third, when selecting what plants to grow in a kitchen garden- plants and seeds are selected not only for their taste but for their beauty. The thought is that our food should be as beautiful as it tastes and add beauty to our surrounding gardens. Finally, kitchen gardens add an element of design or style to the garden. For example vegetable rows might be planted in curved lines or angled rows or groupings. You might consider designing your pathways into different patterns and using materials such as stone, bricks or gravel to create an element of design. Arbors or trellises add an element of style to a garden as well but can also be functional to grow beans and cucumbers. Finally don’t forget to add some art and a bench or chairs so you have a space to sit and relax and enjoy the garden you have created.
Here are the tools I’ve used to recreate and redesign my garden this year.
Tool #1 – The Complete Kitchen Garden, I’ve spent the winter dreaming of what I will grow, how I will plant it and how beautiful I want my garden to be this year. This book was a wonderful tool as it has a ton of garden layouts, recommended plant choices, inspiring pictures and recipes for the food you will grow! I promise this book will inspire you to recreate your garden as well and give you a ton of practical and inspirational ideas.
Tool #2 Inspirational Photos – I am a visual person and before I can begin any project whether home or garden I need pictures to help inspire me. Check out my Pinterest page here for pictures on my Kitchen Gardens board for over 100 inspirational photographs. Here are a few more website worth checking out for some inspiration: Indeed Decor and The Creative Vegetable Gardener
Tool #3 Seed Catalogs
Some of my favorite seed catalogs are Seed Savers in Decorah Iowa, Kitchen Garden Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, and Jung Seeds. There are many others that I peruse and often order a packet or two of seeds but the bulk of my seeds come from these companies. After ordering way too many seeds year over year and planting more than our family can eat, I swear that this year will finally be different and I will only order what I can really plant and use (ok, well for the most part anyhow).
Tool #4 Create a Garden Plan
While putting your plan on paper is not a requirement I find that it is very helpful for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to have measurements of your garden and realistically see how much you can plant in the space you have available. Second, it allows you to have a record of the seeds you plant, types, varieties and locations. It makes it easier when planting your garden to have a plan of where things go and also to have records in case you want to plant the same varieties again in the future.
There are several tools out there to create garden plans but my favorite is one called Veg Grow Planner. It is a great tool and very easy to use even for someone that is not that tech savvy. It allows you to create a customer garden that is the actual size of your garden and you can add pathways, structures, fences and other hard goods for your garden. It has a huge list of plants to put into your garden and you can also create custom items as well. It allows you to record varieties, planting dates and more. To boot it has a 30 day free trial and is a very reasonable $25 a year after that.
Here is my garden plan for 2016.
Stay tuned as my garden for this year takes place. Drop me a note and let me know what you plan to do in your garden this year.