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Home Beekeeping

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Garden Chickens

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Kitchen Garden Store

Learn to preserve the produce you grow in your home kitchen garden. This home canning starter kit includes everything you need to can your first batch using the boiling water bath method for high-acid foods. Find it and other canning supplies at the Home Kitchen Garden Store.

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raised bed gardening

raspberry brambles in a home kitchen garden

Here’s a great idea for any home kitchen garden: Plant a line of brambles along one side of your driveway. It’s so satisfying to pick handfuls of fresh raspberries for your breakfast cereal, yogurt, or cottage cheese… or to add to a fruit salad at dinner.

Continuing a discussion about designing your home kitchen garden, I finally get to share the story of a visit I made to photograph a garden that was full of surprises. Nearly every week I drive past a property on which a collection of raised garden beds sits back just a few feet from the road. Last season I saw weekly changes in those beds as trellises appeared in some, then seedlings, and eventually mature vegetable plants.

One Saturday in mid summer, I stopped at the house there and knocked on the door. A suspicious woman came to the door, and after an awkward moment I explained that I write about gardening and had been enjoying her raised bed project. I asked whether I could photograph her vegetable garden and tell about it in my blog.

The Home Kitchen Garden Tour

I must have been sincere enough because this woman graciously broke away from a tomato-processing project in her kitchen and took me for a rather mind-boggling tour.

First, we went around the house to a large area planted with fruit trees and shrubs. These were relatively new plantings, and she was still coaxing them along without significant harvest. It showed great promise for coming seasons.

raised beds in a home kitchen garden

I visited the farmhouse because I’d admired these raised planting beds along the road. The winter squash (top-left) was a volunteer that grew on a sand pile next to the boxed beds. While the raised beds themselves were a bit weedy, they held dozens of ripe tomatoes, eggplants, summer squash, and sweet potato plants.

We went back around the house, and where the entrance walk met the driveway we passed a thick stand of raspberry plants. From there, we walked down the driveway and I admired the variety of crops that grew in a series of raised beds. The woman was self-conscious about weeds (prominent in at least one photo here), but there were plenty of tomatoes, winter squash, zucchini, and other food crops—certainly enough for a couple whose kids had grown and moved away.

After I shot a few photos, I was thanking my new gardening friend and preparing to leave when she asked, “Do you want to see the rest of it?” Instant intrigue.

Of course I followed my host past the last raised bed and up the hill alongside a barn. About 50 yards from the last raised bed, we came upon a kitchen garden bed that covered at least an acre!

giant home kitchen garden bed

I thought I’d finished taking photos when my gracious host invited me to “see the rest of her kitchen garden.” Around behind the barn was a planting bed of at least an acre! There were squashes, tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables; I didn’t take inventory because I was too busy being awed.

A Humongous Home Kitchen Garden

chickens benefitting from a home kitchen garden

On the way back toward the house, we passed a pen of chickens who were lucky to receive two large summer squashes broken open so they could peck out the seeds and the soft centers. The chickens were obviously very happy with this treat. OK… I threw in this photo for my online gardening buddies who also raise chickens.

My new gardening friend explained that her husband loves to plant stuff. She gets to deal with the resultant produce. Most of the kitchen gardeners I visited last summer had lost patience with garden maintenance, and weeds were prominent. Goodness! When you’re dealing with an acre or more of crops, you’d be weeding for hours every day to keep them under control! No matter: as long as your crops grow taller than your weeds, you’ll have a decent harvest.

While this enormous planting bed held corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and vegetables I didn’t identify, that wasn’t the end of it! We walked past the chicken yard attached to the barn, and through an ornamental garden next to the house. There, up against a tree line, was another kitchen garden, this one decked out with various flowers for cutting.

My kitchen gardener friend explained that her goal is to stay out of grocery stores and farmers’ markets; if she preserves a quarter of the food she grows, I imagine she never buys produce from any other grower.

enough of a home kitchen garden for most of us

Amazingly, despite the raised beds and the acre-sized plot, there was also a small kitchen garden up near the house. This was, perhaps, as large as my vegetable garden, and it sported many tomato plants and ornamental flowers as well as squash, eggplant, and other goodies. I imagine this garden would have fed a family of five throughout a growing season.

 

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Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 1

From the back patio of a creek-side home, a hill slopes steeply down to a less severe lawn. From a bridge over the creek, I’d seen new landscaping on the hillside, so I stopped to ask the owners about the project.

Early spring should find you out in your home kitchen garden setting fruit plants and cold weather vegetables. For those who are adding to their gardens—or just taking up kitchen gardening, early spring is a time for laying out a plan: building raised beds, cutting sod, or otherwise terraforming your yard.

Many wonder: what is a good vegetable garden layout? I maintain that there is no single answer. Much depends on the terrain in your yard.. If you have a flat, open lawn, you can have a traditional garden, a square foot garden, a raised bed garden, a vertical garden… you have enormous latitude for your vegetable garden layout.

If your yard features a steep hillside, or dense rock piles, or soggy depressions, or concrete or asphalt walks and patios, you might need to exercise your imagination to come up with a workable vegetable garden layout. Raised planting beds, containers, sloped or stepped beds… plants really don’t care how you lay things out; given sunlight, moisture, some warmth, and some nutritious soil, they will do their darndest to grow up and produce food for you.

Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 2

The owners built two stairways from the original patio down to a flagstone path. The path passes an open fire pit with bench seating, and a hot tub that blends well with other rock features. Rocks help retain soil and define planting areas. As well, logs that comprise the seat back of the bench retain soil in which plants can live happily.

Your Vegetable Garden Layout

Last summer and fall, I photographed more than a dozen kitchen gardens in central Pennsylvania. Actually… not all of them were kitchen gardens, but when they inspired thoughts of interesting ways to grow food in challenging landscaping, I took photographs.

This and several upcoming posts will present the kitchen gardens I photographed last year. I’ll include comments to provide encouragement in case you face similar challenges when planning your own vegetable garden layout.

Landscaped Home Kitchen Garden - 3

In the first year after landscaping the hillside, the owners had planted some accent ornamentals on the bank and in strategic pockets among the rocks. I’d take a different approach: blueberry bushes and raspberry brambles for large spaces, strawberry plants for ground cover, and reserved pockets for annual vegetables such as squash, climbing beans, greens, herbs, and bush beans. I might also include a grape arbor and some dwarf fruit trees within easy reach of the stairways and flagstone path. That gently sloping lawn near the creek? Sure: I’d add some vegetable beds there as well. I’d cut into the sod rather than build raised beds; the creek floods often and I wouldn’t want to have my raised beds washed away during a particularly wet spring.

 

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