A thriving kitchen garden is something to be proud of. A place to grow your own – whether you’re vegetable gardening in raised beds, pots, from seed, or not, there is nothing better than using the freshest ingredients for the kitchen table, straight from your own backyard.
Homegrown produce is not only tastier and healthier but, when your’e vegetable plot is well and truly thriving, it could even cut down on your grocery bills. In fact, growing your own in a kitchen garden is becoming so popular these days that sales of vegetable seeds are overtaking those of flowers…
There are many ways to grow your own vegetables. You could plant them in cute containers, mix them in among the flower beds, grow them in a dedicated vegetable garden, or on a smaller scale in patio containers.
START YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN AT THE RIGHT TIME
Early spring is an ideal time to start vegetable gardening, but you can of course, start planning well ahead. Decide on the size of the plot you would like. Make sure you keep to a size you can manage. A large vegetable garden with room to grow everything will take a lot of work, both preparation and maintenance. A smaller plot with dwarf varieties, or produce mixed in among flower beds, or planting in containers would work better if you don’t have much time for gardening
CHOOSE THE BEST POSITION FOR YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN
The amount of space and light levels of your chosen growing spot will be the determining factor in what you grow, and you need to understand how much room you can offer each plant to grow in a raised bed or pot, before you get started. You need to treat plants a little like royalty, as if they feel cramped, then you can’t guarantee that they will produce as well as they may have done! To understand how much space each vegetable or fruit plant will need, check the seed packet and then select your pots and containers accordingly because this will make your life a heck of a lot easier. To achieve the best results when growing fruit and vegetables you need:
An open, sunny spot: -Preferably one that gets the morning sun, and around six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. To grow quickly and well, vegetables need as much light as possible, so track the sun throughout the day to see where shadows fall. If you don’t have these conditions, there are some crops that tolerate shade, such as cherries, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb and blackcurrants.
Wind protection: A permeable barrier, such as a picket fence, hedge or windbreak can filter its effect.
Fertile soil: Soil enriched with compost.
KNOW AND PREPARE THE SOIL FOR YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN
The right type of soil is very important as the nutrients decide the growth of the plant. The right mix of soil requires Regular soil, compost coir peat (coco peat) and vermicompost in equal quantities. “
Vermiculite is essentially rock dust crushed up, it provides a lot of minerals for your plants, but it’s main function is to act like a sponge for water. Be sure not to get confused with perlite, it’s not the same.
Coco peat-The last part of the soil mix. This fluffs up the soil, allows for good oxygen infiltration and also acts like a sponge to hold in moisture until plants need it.
Weeding and working the soil
First thing to do is to clear all the weeds or plants or turf (the latter can be stashed somewhere with the grass face down; after a while it will become a great top soil that you can put back on the bed for next season).
Dig over the soil, then cover the vegetable patch with clear plastic sheeting for a couple of weeks to dry out and warm up the soil (if you’re starting off in spring, which is ideal). This will also help any dormant weeds emerge so that you can whip them out before you start planting.
Improving your soil
The next thing to do is improve the soil – and it never hurts to. You can do this by digging in organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost.
Soils are generally on a spectrum from clay to sand and can vary from place to place within your garden. All soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter to retain moisture and nutrients.
Clay soil needs breaking up and takes longer to warm up so suits later crops. Light soils are good for early vegetables but need large quantities of manure and compost to avoid water draining away too rapidly. The ideal soil is loose, crumbly loam, which absorbs and holds water and nutrients, is well aerated and drains freely.
GROW A KITCHEN GARDEN IN RAISED BEDS
Raised beds, filled with a loamy soil from a local garden centre, are ideal for growing small plots of vegetable. They are a good option if the soil in your garden is not good quality. They provide good drainage, increase soil temperature, prevent soil compaction. The sides of the bed prevent soil washing away in heavy rain and act as a barrier to pests, such as snails and slugs, as well as pathway weeds.
Watering a vegetable garden
Vegetable crops are thirsty: you will need to water them thoroughly, aiming to moisten at least 30 centimetres of the soil. This means a good, long soak about once a week, rather than quick and shallow daily watering. Almost all vegetable crops have this requirement, including tomatoes, salad leaves and lettuce, and root vegetables. If your soil has poor water retention (loam soil for example), mix in some sand to improve it. Mulching vegetable beds with leaves, manure, or compost will also improve water retention, but avoid the mulch touching the actual plants. If you are growing vegetables in containers, they will need more frequent watering, as the water evaporates very quickly from pots.
Weeding a vegetable garden
A decent layer of mulch will prevent weeds from spreading, so once you’ve planted up your seedlings, add a couple of inches of it over the soil in between the rows. This will give your veggies the best possible chance to grow unhindered, and will cut down on the amount of weeding work (boring) that you have to do.
Pick and destroy the larvae found on fruits and vegetables and then spray
Avoid spraying of toxic chemicals.
Organic method of plant protection
Neem seed kernel extract
Here is a calendar of jobs by month to ensure you get the best crop and enjoyment out of your kitchen garden. Follow our advice to reduce pests and protect your veg.
Order seeds and get supplies while sales are on
Clean pots ready for sowing
Harvest final sprouts, cabbages and leeks
Start to chit potatoes
Complete your digging
Inside, sow seeds such as onions, tomatoes, peppers and celery
Cover rhubarb plants with forcing pots
Plant fruit trees when the soil is not frozen
Cover soil to warm for sowing
The main month for sowing many crops, including brassicas, leeks, parsnips, peas, spinach
Plant out the first potatoes, onion sets, garlic, shallots and artichokes
Fertilize fruit and vegetables
Use organic controls as the first pests appear
Continue sowing seeds as the soil is warmer
Plant herbs in ground or pots
Keep on top of weeds
Sow tender vegetables under cover, such as zucchini/courgettes, marrows and beans
Plant leeks, brassicas, celery
Continue succession sowings of salads and herbs
Sow French beans
Harden off plants started off in the greenhouse
Plant out tender veg seedlings
Put straw around strawberries and net from birds
Remove side shoots of tomatoes and feed weekly
Mulch and feed asparagus
Thin out apples, pears, plums
Cut back foliage and remove runners from strawberries once they’ve finished cropping
Net soft fruit
Cut down early peas and broad beans after harvesting
Lift and harvest new potatoes
Continue sowing salads
Prune blackcurrants after they have been harvested
Mulch squash and water well
Sow Oriental pak choi and Chinese cabbage
Remove finished crops and replace with quick- growing salads
Sow overwintering onions
Prune summer fruit
Continue sowing Oriental veg, herbs and salad
Sow winter lamb’s lettuce, cress and endive
Pinch out top of tomato plants
Harvest squash and sweetcorn
Begin harvesting apples and pears
Dig up potatoes when they finish flowering
Stake or earth up sprouts and brassicas to help them stand during winter
heritage carrots grown in a kitchen garden
Try growing different varieties of heritage carrots
Harvest squash before frost
Lift and store potatoes
Dig over soil
Plant garlic and broad beans
Cut back artichokes and remove sweetcorn plants
Clear the soil
Harvest leeks, artichokes, celery, parsnips and the last carrots and beetroot
Dig over bare soil incorporating compost
Prune grapes and fruit trees
EASY VEGETABLE GARDEN PLANTS :
Salad leaves – and lettuces
These are easy to grow from seed in the ground or containers, and give a high yield. Cut-and-come-again salads give a succession of leaves, from five to eight weeks after sowing – an economic alternative to expensive salad bags in shops and much fresher and tastier. They like fertile, moisture-retentive soil. Sow more every four to six weeks for a continuous supply.
are easy to raise from seed from March on a warm windowsill with plenty of light, or buy plants from your garden centre in May. They need nutrient-dense soil. Sun-ripened tomatoes from your garden will beat the taste of any you can buy. ‘Bush’ tomatoes are the easiest as they don’t need to be staked or trained and grow happily outside in pots, hanging baskets or grow bags.
– are good yielders and use the vertical space rather than taking up ground level space. Easy to grow from seed, water them well and harvest regularly – the more you pick, the more the plant will produce. Broad beans can be sown direct into the ground in March or April. Sow French, borlotti and runner beans at the end of May/early June, for a harvest 12-14 weeks later.
–The humble runner bean does very well in patio containers, provided you water the plants often. Like other edible plants, runner beans prefer a sunny, sheltered spot; they will give you a continuous harvest from July onwards, if you pick them regularly. Plant container runner beans between February to April, where they are to grow. Only put the container outside in your kitchen garden when it’s really warm, ideally from late May onwards. An added bonus with scarlet runner beans is that the vibrant flowers are also edible.
– Sow early carrots under cloches in February, or wait until March or April in the open. For sweet, small carrots, sow every few weeks from early spring to late summer for a successional harvest from June to November. They like light soil, with plenty of organic matter dug in with full sun for early varieties, or some shade for main crop varieties. Carrots can also be grown in containers and raised beds; thin out the seedlings in the evenings, firming down the soil to help prevent carrot fly. Water when the weather is dry.
Plant chitted seed potatoes in the ground or containers – early varieties in late March and main crops in April, ready to harvest in 10 to 13 weeks. They grow best in fertile, slightly acidic loose soil, and need regular watering.
Beetroot – is easy to grow from seed, in the ground or a pot. Sow directly into the soil in April to July, in medium to light, neutral to slightly alkaline soil that has not been recently manured. Keep well watered and weeded. Round varieties will be ready to harvest from 11 weeks. Golf ball size are tender and delicious and the leaves can be used as an alternative to spinach or in salads.
Chard/silverbeet – Easy to grow, sow chard in spring, keep well watered and add liquid feed regularly. It often grows over a number of years as a perennial. Rainbow varieties add the wow factor whether in neat rows on the plot or mixed among garden flowers. Try ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Rainbow’ or ‘Ruby’. A great addition to stir-fries.
Bare-root fruit trees can be planted from November to March. Self-fertile trees will produce fruit without the need of another tree to pollinate it. Soak roots, then plant in a sheltered, sunny position, ideally in well-drained sandy loam soil. In a small space, train them against a wall or fence as an espalier. You can also buy espaliered trees in pots at garden centres throughout the year. Water well for the first few years and expect to harvest in a couple of years, depending on the variety. Even small gardens can have apples as step-overs, espaliered, on arches, or columns in containers.
Easy to grow, there are many gooseberry varieties. Autumn is an ideal time to plant bare-rooted bushes in a sunny sheltered spot. Prepare the soil by forking over and adding compost or rotted manure and fertiliser to the planting hole. Mulch and water well until they are established. Thin out in late May/early June,and use these first fruits for cooking. The second harvest, a few weeks later, will be sweeter. Net bushes or grow in a fruit cage.
Bare-rooted white, red and black currants are available for planting between October and March. Easy to look after, once established they will remain productive for about 15 years. Plant in well-drained soil, with added well-rotted manure. A sunny, slightly sheltered spot is best, but they will grow in part shade. They will fruit from the second summer, but need training, pruning and feeding for best crops.
For a tasty and decorative treat, grow some strawberries in a hanging basket. Plant in April for a summer harvest. Place five or six plants in a basket, and water daily during the growing seasons. Feed from flowering to harvest time with a product high in potassium.
Calendula – These quick-growing hardy annuals work well en masse or to edge productive beds as a companion plant to attract beneficial insects. Easy to grow in most soils they will do their best in rich, loose soil in full sun. If grown organically, add the tangy flower petals to salads.
Herbs – Herbs are the easiest edible plants to grow and deserve a spot in any container garden. You can grow thyme, basil, chives, mint, sage, parsley, cilantro, oregano and rosemary outdoors. Choose herbs that you love to cook with and then keep them near the back door so you can maximum use out of them.
It is one such plant that truly takes over the garden with its aroma. this herb plays a virtuous role as a medicinal plant. Basil has the power to treat stomach ulcers, insect bites, malaria, and nausea among other health issues.
This herb with an earthy flavor is much in demand in the French cooking style. You can use it to create delicious seafood, vegetables, soups .Moreover, this herb is an active ingredient in many pesticides. Thyme is a good component in essential oil for medicinal purposes and a disinfectant as well. This herb is efficient in treating stomach pain, cough, diarrhea, and skin issues too. Thyme contains good vitamins such as A and C, which can help you recover.
Everybody is aware of oregano as an excellent culinary ingredient that leads to savory tomato or olive oil-based dishes. But are you aware of how easy it is to care for and grow in your garden under direct sunlight? Apart from it’s cooking benefits, it acts as a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial plant. Most importantly, oregano is wonderful for improving gut and heart health, reduce cough, strengthen the immunity system and boost energy. It’s essential oil also helps to treat yeast infections. Lastly, it is a wonderful natural painkiller as well.
Freshly cut peppermint is widely known for its cooling properties. Peppermint leaves are infused in teas, as the awareness expands of its benefits. This plant helps in relieving stress, lose weight, improves your sleep cycle, freshens up your breath, and soothes down sinus congestion. Additionally, if you suffer from low energy levels, peppermint tea is the way out for you to reduce that fatigue. Peppermint oil is one such underrated gem that comes with its own set of merits. It can help you destroy foodborne bacteria, tone down itching levels and muscle pain, treat nausea and migraines too. Therefore, it is among those Kitchen Garden Herbs which are extremely good!
– Perfect for adding a kick to your cooking, chilli plants grow best under glass, which means they’ll thrive just as well on your windowsill as they will in a greenhouse. They can also survive outdoors if you have a south-facing garden and sheltered spot for them. Interesting fact: the warmer the conditions, the spicier the chilli. Sow your chilli seeds indoors and then, if you need to, move outdoors from May onwards.
Radish – Peppery radishes are great in salads and a good vegetable for newbies to grow. They’re easy to look after and ready to harvest in as little as a month, so you’ll see quick results. As with lettuce, you’ll need a wide, shallow pot with drainage holes, and you need to invest in some rich compost. Sow seeds about 1cm deep and at least 2.5cm apart between March and August. Harvest after about a month before they become woody.
Spring onion – Spring or salad onions are a great crop for containers because they don’t need deep soil. They are also really easy to grow and are ready in just eight weeks. You can grow them outdoors in a sunny spot or even on a windowsill. Spring onion plants need to be watered in dry weather, but other than that you can leave them to it. Sow about 1.5cm deep into containers every couple of weeks from March onwards for a lasting supply.
Peppers – Peppers happily grow in containers or even deep troughs – all they really need is plenty of heat, sunlight, and water, so always choose the sunniest spot your can find for them. If your garden or patio isn’t south-facing, you can still grow peppers in containers, but you’ll need to choose a thinner variety such as the banana pepper, which won’t need as much sun to fully develop.Plant seeds in seedling tray from February to April; transplant into containers where they are to mature when the shoots are about three inches tall, and only put them outside from mid-May onwards.
– Cucumbers will grow well in deep containers at least 25 centimetres deep, in a frost-free area such as a greenhouse or against a sunny wall during the summer. Cucumbers are climbers and will need supports, and if you’re growing them in a conservatory or greenhouse, you’ll need to pick the right variety. Start in March if growing indoors, and late May onwards if you’re planting them outside or transplanting seedlings into bigger pots on your patio.
Onions – One of the easiest edible plants to grow if you’re a beginner, onions are also a fun gardening project to do with the kids. Onions do very well in large containers and are harvested in the fall. Plant container onions between February and April in seedling trays. Keep well watered and transplant when shoots are about three inches taller.