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Home Beekeeping

Few gardening-related hobbies are as fascinating and satisfying as raising honey bees. Contribute to the health of your area's honey bee population. Buy this guide to learning bee culture and start your own bee hives.

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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.



an Amish Home Kitchen Garden

Near the farm stand and looking back toward the main road, you see a home kitchen garden of staggering proportions. A single Amish family plants and maintains this garden to feed itself and to stock the farm stand. I’m sure they spend an enormous amount of time cold-storing, canning, drying, and pickling produce to keep it through Pennsylvania’s cold winters.

My home kitchen garden is off to a horrible start this season on account of endless rain we experienced until mid May. I wasn’t able to plant anything because my garden soil was saturated. Seedlings I’d started indoors became leggy and weak, and I ended up planting lettuce on my deck rather than in my garden. Of course, just when the lettuce leafed-up, the rain stopped and temperatures soared into the 90s (Fahrenheit).

So, with my lettuce bitter and bolting, my brassicas failing, and my tomatoes and chili peppers still getting used to being in a garden rather than in seed-starting planters, strawberry season is upon us.

My Strawberry Panic

I grow enough strawberries for a bowl of cereal. So, I rely on local farmers to grow strawberries for me. As in every year, when the first local strawberries appeared at the farmers’ market, I cooked up strawberry shortcake and we had only that for dinner one night. Then life got in the way.

furrows in an Amish Home Kitchen Garden

You might be able to see slight depressions in the soil rows between the plant rows. This furrow reflects the action of horse-powered tilling. A horse can walk these soil rows, pulling tools that turn the soil and prevent weeds from getting established.

For two weeks, I had no time to process produce, and I feared strawberry season was slipping away. In fact, produce vendors at the local flea market had no local strawberries last Sunday, so by Monday I had worked up a lather about having missed out. I went in search of a farmer (with a farm stand) selling strawberries.

Believe it or Don’t

Where would you go if you hoped to find a farm stand with fresh berries? My thought: Amish Road. I’m not kidding (my son thought I was kidding); we live within about five miles of Amish Road. And… Amish Road runs through an area where several Amish families have farms.

The first farm stand I found was one road over from Amish Road, and it had strawberries. But strawberries quickly became a secondary issue for me. The farm stand sat behind a roadside home kitchen garden that would make most kitchen gardeners green with envy. Of course, an Amish family may grow enough produce to eliminate their reliance on grocery stores… and this family grows enough to feed themselves and to sell to passersby.

the house sits behind the home kitchen garden

That house at the far end of the kitchen garden isn’t the Amish family’s house. The white building on the left edge of this photo is where the Amish family lives. The farm stand is across the driveway from the front door of the house—I suspect so the family can work inside and emerge quickly when a car drives up to the stand.

The woman running the farm stand pleasantly told about hassles the rains had caused for them, and graciously gave me permission to photograph the garden plot. I couldn’t do the kitchen garden justice! It was at least 200 yards from one end of the garden to the other, and about 75 yards from side-to-side.

Simple Strategies for a Large Kitchen Garden

My photos reveal that the vegetable-to-weed ratio in an Amish home kitchen garden favors the vegetables. The reasons are simple:

  • Rows between vegetables are wide and a horse can easily walk there without stepping on the plants. So, periodically, the farmer hooks a horse up to a cultivator and the horse drags the cultivator along the rows.
  • Rows are very long. This lets a horse get up some speed while dragging its cultivator and it doesn’t have to make a whole bunch of quick turns. There’s poetic simplicity in being able to weed a year’s worth of peas in a single pass.
  • Mulch keeps the weeds down with almost no effort. In this case, the farmer laid down a long sheet of plastic and poked holes through it for onion sets. The onions have grown up through the holes while the plastic has smothered whatever weeds might have taken root.
bringing in hay

While I was shopping for strawberries, the Amish farmer was harvesting hay. It was an awesome load, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.

I love this kitchen garden and I admire the energy and intensity its Amish owners must have to plant it and maintain it each year.


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