Seven steps to a kitchen garden

Seven steps to a kitchen garden

Seven steps to a kitchen garden

If you have plans to have some green space in your kitchen, you need to follow a few basic rules. This’ll bring in some extra kitchen supplies and make the process fun, says Natasha Menezes.

So you want to create your very own kitchen garden at home. Perfect, for there is no better time than now! Gardening is a great stress buster and is often quite relaxing. But it’s important to design your kitchen garden in such a way that you get the maximum utility out of it. The space and time you have at hand will dictate what and how much you can grow. Also, here are the top seven things to consider while planning your kitchen garden:

Place them well

“Location is definitely the starting point for planning a kitchen garden at home.
Often, it is also the most neglected aspect. While it may seem tempting to place edible plants at every empty space around the house, remember the saying, ‘Out of sight is out of mind.’ Your garden must be within easy reach and sight,” says noted interior designer Parul Amla of Antrik Design Studio, New Delhi. For instance, you could line pots outside your kitchen window or design a raised bed next to your barbecue. This will remind you to water, deweed and harvest them regularly.

You can also easily go out and pick something when you’re cooking. But if you have a dedicated front yard, plan your edible garden at least two feet away from the foundation of your home since it may leak from time to time. This could affect the pH balance of the soil, ultimately affecting the health of your produce. Build a solid passage for walking across the garden without damaging the crops or dirtying your shoes.

Some sunshine

While location is the starting point of planning your kitchen garden, you must also take into account natural sunlight. Vegetables are sunlight-loving. They yield best with six to eight hours of direct sunlight.

Fruit-bearing plants like tomatoes and squash grow well with eight hours or more, but leafy greens can do well with just four hours or less. Plants like lettuce that prefer cool weather, need to be in the shade of tall plants and can grow through the summer months. All said and done, choose a location that has full sunlight.

Climate controls

Vegetables grow best in an open space that receives about six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. But within this, you must create micro climates to suit different sunlight needs of your crops. Fences, walls and hedges can create these micro climates by keeping your plants protected from the harsh light when needed, as well as ensuring that it does not block out the sunlight completely.

To minimise the shade, line your garden rows from north to south. If you don’t have a place at home that receives six hours of sun, then consider growing vegetables that need moderate amounts of shade like beetroot, broccoli, garlic, lettuce, mint, parsley, radish or spinach.

The soil beneath

Soil is one of the prime drivers of the health of your vegetables. Not only does rich soil  improve the overall health of the plant, it also wards of diseases and pests. Have your soil tested before planning your new garden. The test results will help you understand adjustments in soil quality and also its pH balance. Consider soil which is rich in organic matter.

The other route, which is safe and effective to maintain health of your plants, is to create raised beds. Raised beds mean soil that grows six or more inches above the ground. It allows full control over the soil, is free from damage by stepping over, drains well and warms up quickly so you can plant early. Be cautious of drainages and leakages. Vegetables don’t produce well in wet soil. Also, the nutrients you add should not leak out.

You will need to build run-off barriers if your site isn’t levelled. In a similar way, if your site isn’t levelled, you would have water from your driveway flowing into your kitchen garden. But if you don’t have a front yard, use a container garden filled with potting mix for ease and mobilisation.

Draw boundaries

Fencing is crucial since you’re not the only one that loves vegetables. Famished critters can dash out your planting efforts sooner than you can notice. It may be a bit of a hassle, but nevertheless, your plants need that protection. You may require fencing both, above and below, your garden, but it doesn’t have to be fancy.

Choose wisely

Don’t let the excitement of planning your first kitchen garden let you make unrul decisions about planting beyond your needs. Choose your crops wisely. Grow only what you see yourself eating. Think of all the vegetables you like and how often you use them in your recipes.

From this bundle, grow those that taste better when harvested organically. Also consider availability of these plants in the market, their cost, space requirements and the attention they need.

For example, tomatoes are most popular for an edible garden since they taste better, are expensive outside, use little space, are easy to grow and can be used in almost every cuisine. Similarly, if you host a lot of barbecue parties, it would be best to grow vegetables that taste good when grilled, like corn and zucchini, or plants that you can use in cocktails.

You can also grow peppers, beans and eggplant as they produce continuously. If space permits, you can grow broccoli, cabbage or okra. Potatoes and sweet potatoes take up a lot of space and can only be harvested one time. Corn and asparagus grow tall, so plant them in a place where they don’t block sunlight from reaching other smaller crops.

Maintenance

Lastly, gardens need a lot of effort to maintain. So ensure you plan your week in such a way that you also take into account watering, weeding, pruning, fertilising and harvesting. Kitchen gardening can be divided into two stages - garden preparation and garden maintenance.

In the first stage, while preparing your garden, you will be turning around the soil a lot. The primary tools required for these are a shovel, fork, trowel and tiller. Once your crops are growing, you will need another set of tools. This will include a hoe, hose, an irrigation system or a nozzle, stakes, twine and pruners.

So, stop overthinking, strap on your tools and get to work in your kitchen!

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