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.
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.
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!
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.
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 …