Basil will grow happily for you during winter in a pot in your house. When you plant any herbs or vegetables from seed indoors, use commercial potting soil. Bringing soil inside from your yard or garden risks introducing pests that may attack established house plants.
If you have a home kitchen garden in the norther hemisphere, you may be putting it to bed for the winter. At least those of us who live in hardiness zones 8, 7, 6, 5, and lower are dealing with (or have already dealt with) this unhappy truth. But winter is no reason to suspend gardening altogether. Rather, winter provides opportunity to manage simple gardening projects with relatively large returns.
If you don’t yet have a home kitchen garden, don’t put it off until spring. Start now and within four-to-six weeks, you can start harvesting tasty homegrown herbs and vegetables that will help keep you pumped for spring planting.
A Home Kitchen Garden Indoors
There are plenty of herbs and small vegetables that are happy to grow indoors. I poked around for a bit, looking for a good instructional video explaining how to set up an indoor planter. Sadly, most of the videos I could find on the subject started with established potted plants. At this time of year, you’re more likely to be working with seeds.
With that in mind, if you’d like step-by-step instructions for planting herbs in a flower pot, please check out the article, A Very Small Kitchen Garden: Basil that I wrote in August of 2008. My intent with that article was to provide enough detail that even someone who had never before planted anything would be able to muddle through.
While searching for the perfect instructional video, I came across a thinly-veiled advertorial for a seed company in Maine. This company packages seeds sandwiched between sheets of biodegradable paper. You toss the seed sandwich into a flower pot with soil, water it, and you’ll soon have a small home kitchen garden.
At first, I thought, “silly.” Then I thought it was a good idea for less experienced gardeners who want minimal bother… but it would probably be crazy more expensive than buying seed packs and planting them more traditionally.
So, I hopped over to the web site mentioned in the video and found the seed packs aren’t unbearably overpriced. True, you’d get more seeds for the same money if you bought traditional packets, but that’s no bargain if you use them to plant a single flower pot during the winter. What’s more, this seed company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, offers a special deal: six “seed disks” (that’s six varieties of seeds), six flower pots, and six saucers for $10.95… a very good price for a sizeable indoor herb garden. Here’s the rub: these sets are back-ordered through late November!
Have a look at the video. It’s a simple idea that certainly has a place for beginning home kitchen gardeners. And, if you happen to buy anything from Johnny, please let them know you heard about them from http://www.homekitchengarden.com. Thanks!
Bad economy = reason to create a home kitchen garden. My last post, Pickles from Your Home Kitchen Garden, explained how I came to make pickles–actually, pickled mixed vegetables–and calculated my savings over buying similar pickles at the local farmers’ market. Here’s an authoritative video on the growing trend toward managing home kitchen gardens as hedges against economic problems:
Here are links to other articles that help make the argument. You oughta create your own home kithcen garden and reduce your cost of living:
A late planting of lettuce and dill are all that remain viable in my home kitchen garden after two frosts. This bouqet of dill contributed to my first batch of pickled vegetables.
If you’re in hardiness zone 5, 6, or 7, your home kitchen garden is running out of time. Mine, in hardiness zone 5b (or 6a or b depending on whose map you consult), has seen two nights of frost nearly two weeks apart. It hasn’t been enough to kill of the cool weather plants, but their days are numbered.
The most dramatic crop left in my home kitchen garden is a two-foot row of dill weed that I planted from seed in August; it’s now more than knee high, and is as beautifully wispy green as anything I’ve ever grown.
My wife has always wanted fresh dill to make potato salad, but for five years my home kitchen garden hasn’t obliged (see box: Dill Weed Wonder). Finally, I have a gorgeous profusion of the stuff, and she’s no longer in charge of the kitchen; I’m the resident cook, and I don’t use dill in my potato salad.
So, given this awesome patch of fresh dill standing stalwart against the frost, what was I going to do? Make pickles!
Home Kitchen Garden Pickle Planning
I’ve never made pickles, but I’m pretty confident when it comes to cooking and food-preservation. I can a lot of jams, jellies, and tomato sauce, and have canned pears, peaches, and fruit salad. Oh, and I’ve made and canned ketchup and chili sauce (mom had a recipe for chili sauce that I **need** when I make meatloaf). So, while I’ve never made pickles, I figured I could handle the job if I tried.
I Googled pickle recipes. Not surprisingly, the words pickle and recipes appear together on more than 300,000 web pages. I must have speed-read three dozen of those pages, and it became clear: there’s no right way to make pickles.
The most bizarre page I read offered instructions for Pickling Cukes in a Jiffy. Step 1 of the procedure was to soak cucumbers in salt water for 12 hours. Had all other pickling recipes demanded 48 hours of soaking, 12 hours would have been a jiffy. But many recipes simply instructed me to put pickles in jars, cover them with brine, and can them in a boiling water bath.
How I Made Pickles
I had a giant head of cauliflower, a more modest head of broccoli, a pile of carrots, a few cucumbers, a quart of small hot peppers, and a very large onion that I wanted to pickle. I buy such a mix of pickled vegetables about once a month when I make sweet-and-sour meatballs; I get the sweet from canned pineapple, and the sour from the pickled vegetables. By pickling the vegetables myself, I figured to reduce the cost of making sweet-and-sour meatballs.
Here’s the basic procedure:
I peeled three very large carrots as well as one very large onion. I cut the stems off the peppers, cut the peppers into thirds (making two rings and a thimble), and scraped as many seeds as I could from each section. Then I cut the carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, and onion into bite-sized pieces.
Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and onions cut into bite-sized pieces made up the mix of vegetables I pickled to use later when I make sweet-and-sour meatballs.
I heated five quart-sized canning jars and three pint-sized jars in a boiling-water-bath canning pot.
I mixed brine using the following proportions:
Because I didn’t know how many jars I’d fill or how much brine each jar would require, I wanted a simple formula that would scale easily should I need to mix a second batch. The first pot of brine contained 1/2 cup of canning salt, 2 cups of white vinegar, and 4 cups of water. I heated the brine to boiling, then cut the heat but kept the cover on the pot.
I put a teaspoon of pickling spice in each jar, and then two sprigs of dill.
I filled each (hot) jar with mixed vegetables to about ¾ inch of the top… fitting chunks closely to fill as much of the space as I could.
A jar of freshly pickled vegetables catches the morning sun on my dining room table.
I poured enough (hot) brine into each jar to cover the vegetables—to about ½ inch of the top of the jar. I ran out of brine before I ran out of vegetables, so I mixed and heated a second batch; the same amount as the first batch.
I covered each jar with a canning lid and band, and boiled the jars—20 minutes for the quarts, and 15 minutes for the pints.
The Pickle Verdict
Some pickling instructions say to wait four or more weeks before opening a jar. Some say the pickles are ready when the jars are cool. I’m not always patient, so I opened a jar after it cooled.
I’m pleased. The pickles are a little saltier than I’d like, but that’ll work OK when I cook them in the sweet-and-sour sauce. Also, the pickling spice imparted a delightful flavor that I associate more with sweet pickles than with dills… but it’s a nice touch and if it holds up in the sweet-and-sour sauce it should complement the other flavors there.
Economy of my Home Kitchen Garden
I added up my costs of pickling vegetables using prices from my grocery store and the local farmers’ market:
I already had canning jars, but if you have to buy them, you’ll pay about $10. They’ll come with lids, so for the cost analysis, we’ll say they cost $8.
The grand total, then, was just over $20. For that, I canned 16 pints of pickled vegetables. The same pickles would cost at least $76 at the farmers’ market (I’m pretty sure it’s more; I’m always taken aback when the pickle dude tells me how much he charges). So, making my own year’s supply of pickles has saved close to $56, and it has provided a fine adventure to share.
I’ll prepare a more detailed, illustrated, step-by-step guide to making pickled vegetables for an upcoming post. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more, please consider the following articles:
Pickle Recipes – Last week Meadowlark asked for some recipes in this post. I’m not feeling up to writing up a whole ton of recipes so I cut and pasted some pickle recipes I sent to Erikka in August. Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles 17ish pounds Cucumbers …
Spicy Pickle Recipe – Carrot Pickle Recipe – Carrot pickle recipe ingredients:. 2 kilograms carrots, shredded; 100 grams chili peppers, chopped; 1 big garlic bulb, cleaned and minced; 400 ml oil; 2 tablespoons salt; 1 tablespoon sugar; 2 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped …
Pickle recipes :: Indian Pickle recipes – Amla Pickle Beetroot Pickle Cabbage Pickle Capsicum Pickle Carrot Pickle Cauliflower Pickle Garlic Pickle Lemon Pickle Lime Pickle Mango Pickle Tindora Pickle.
CSA Newsletter: Week 21- October 6, 2008 – Both of these pickle recipes are delicious with plain while rice. Dried Dill. Divide your bunch into 2 or 3 smaller bunches and hang inside of a small paper bag. Use a rubber band to cinch the dill stems at the opening of the paper bag. …
Pickling How-To – These days, almost all store bought pickles and contemporary pickle recipes are vinegar-based. Lacto-fermented pickles contain no vinegar at all. In lacto-fermentation, salt is added to vegetables, either by covering them in salty water …
If your home kitchen garden is in a temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, your growing season is truly coming to a close. If your home kitchen garden is in a southern hemisphere temperate zone, you’ve probably already planted your cool-weather spring vegetables. Please refer to the box, Southern Spring Vegetables, for some thoughts especially for spring planting.
For you winter-bound northerners, I have an important recommendation: map your garden as you put it to bed for the winter.
Map Your Home Kitchen Garden?
An early map of my home kitchen garden back when I tried to cram as much as possible into a small space. Back then I allowed only 18 inches between rows.
By keeping track of where you’ve grown things this year, you’ll be prepared next season to plant the same vegetables in different locations.
Crop Rotation for Nutritional Balance
Farmers and long-time gardeners understand that it is crucial to rotate crops in any garden. For example, it’s standard practice to plant corn one season, and soy beans the next in the same field. The reason is simple: corn plants devour nitrogen; soy bean plants “fix” nitrogen into the soil. Each crop is happy to follow the other.
All plants you grow in your home kitchen garden have their own nutritional needs. Potatoes, for example, prefer acidic soil (low PH), but they don’t require a lot of humus (decayed plant matter). Tomatoes, on the other hand, enjoy acidic soil, and will grow pretty well on a compost heap—or even in soil containing 50% raw manure.
Crop Rotation Beats Disease and Pests
There is a disturbing number of diseases, insects, and other pests that want a part of your home kitchen garden. One simple and effective way to reduce the damage is to confuse the bugs by moving their favorite foods out from under them.
Consider: if your tomatoes contract blight one season, planting more in the same place next season increases the chance that the new year’s crop will also get blight. By planting at the opposite end of the garden, you put a buffer between where the blight was, and where it would do the most damage.
Your Home Kitchen Garden Map
Mapping your home kitchen garden needn’t be a big chore. A rough sketch with labels or symbols marking the various crops is enough. In a fit of zealousness one year, I drew a map of my 15 foot by 15 foot raised bed garden on my computer. Each season, I printed the map and then wrote in the names of items I’d planted. I’ve scanned one of those early maps and included it in this post.
It’s crazy simple. The vertical lines in my map mark off one foot increments. You can see that I planted tomatoes that year six inches from the wood that holds in the soil of my raised bed… and a second row of tomatoes just two feet to the east of the first row.
I planted lettuce and spinach in the corner of the garden, figuring it’d be gone by the time my squash plants needed the space—and the squash row was right next to the lettuce and spinach. I also planted peas in a space convenient to the squash plants; peas are usually finished by early summer when squash is just getting going.
Anyway, the layout and rationale for one of my home kitchen garden plantings isn’t so important as it is that you map your own garden. Then, tuck that map where you’ll be able to find it when the ground starts to thaw. I kept mine on a clipboard that I stored under my workbench. Over the years, I never threw out a map; just added the new year’s map onto the stack. I’d have done just as well to store my garden maps in a folder in my filing cabinet.
Whatever you do, make sure you’ll know one year’s map from another’s. Looking at the one I posted here, it bothers me that I didn’t at least write the calendar year on it. Oh, well. You’ll do better.
Here are other articles with thoughts that may prove useful as you plan next year’s home kitchen garden:
Vegetable Garden Layout – Sprawling acres of land or just a deck or patio or containers, you can fulfill vegetable gardening desires. Here is comprehensive information for making a successful vegetable garden.
vegetable gardening – Ill briefly cover the basics of vegetable garden design, but you might also want to get some gardening books. Planning your garden is one of the most important parts of vegetable gardening, and its quite simple. …
Vegetable Garden Design Hinges On Chosen Crops – Image via Wikipedia Getting ready to put in a garden can be an exciting time in the spring and determining the vegetable garden design can be part of the process of planning what vegetables to plant where in the garden. …
Design The Perfect Vegetable Garden To Suit Your Dinner Table – When creating your vegetable garden design, you want to make sure that each seed is placed at least six inches apart. Any less than that and you risk overcrowding, which means that your vegetable garden may not produce as much as you …
Do you have a home kitchen garden? Do you grow your own vegetables, fruit, and nuts? If not, then this web site can help you get started. If you do grow your own produce, Your Home Kitchen Garden aims to help improve your production. We’ll explore a variety of approaches to designing gardens, preparing soil, planting, harvesting, preserving, storing, and even cooking with the produce you grow.
Stop making excuses! Managing a home kitchen garden can be far easier than it may seem. Yes, some folks get very involved with gardening, learning best practices and working at it religiously. Others do the bare minimum necessary to make things grow. The important thing is to do something. There are several compelling reasons you should have your own home kitchen garden:
A Home Kitchen Garden…
…produces better produce than you can buy in a grocery store
…produces food at a far lower cost than what you pay in a grocery store
…provides an opportunity to create something unique and personal
…can be “green,” thus helping to reduce your carbon footprint
…can be attractive—adding an appealing accent, or centerpiece to your yard
…offers a means of escape from whatever annoyances you face in your job or personal life
…broadens your potential social outlets as you join gardening groups and on-line forums
…gives you a reason to have a compost pile, reducing your cost of disposing of garbage
You can start very simply with one or two types of plants. When you experience the satisfaction, you might feel compelled to extend your reach; your garden may get bigger each year, and one day you’ll realize you’ve become a skilled gardener without even trying.
But Where Will It Fit?
For many, the question of where to put a home kitchen garden is daunting: when you live in an apartment or a small house in a city, there aren’t many options. But there are still things you can grow to eat. In fact, if you have a place where you can grow a houseplant, that houseplant could be vegetables, herbs, or fruit. A balcony can serve as a small kitchen garden—windowsill planters, flower pots, and even hanging plant bags can dress up a balcony and provide harvests throughout the summer.
If you’re lucky enough to have a yard—even a very small yard—your options increase: you might be able to plant directly in the soil, you may need to build raised beds to create viable planting areas, or you may need to rely on flower pots and large buckets to contain your crops… still, one–or several–of these gardening strategies will fit in nearly any yard. The most ambitious gardeners may invest in a lawn tractor with a plow attachment to create and manage a huge garden plot—or they may erect greenhouses so they can grow produce year-round, even in temperate or down-right cold climates. Your Home Kitchen Garden blog is about all of these kitchen gardens.
Gardening Skills Needed
Here is, perhaps, the greatest obstacle for starting a home kitchen garden: If you’ve never planted and grown anything, you may not feel qualified to grow food. And, sadly, most of the instructional material available is very thin. Articles abound that tell you what to do, but fail to explain how to do it: Remove the sod, and turn over the soil underneath, mixing in sand and humus, if needed to break up the clay. If you’ve never held a shovel or worked soil, is this really enough information to get started?
So, while Your Home Kitchen Garden will present information and ideas for all gardeners of every skill level, we’ll regularly include articles, videos, and links specifically for beginning gardeners. We’ll go step-by-step, and explain why we’re making the recommendations we make. Please join us: Visit Your Home Kitchen Garden often, and ask questions! If you have information you’d like to share—even if you want to contradict our suggestions—we welcome the input.