Kitchen Gardens


The French have been combining flowers and vegetables in their gardens since medieval days. The kitchen garden or "potager" continues to be popular in France as evidenced by a recent government survey which revealed that almost a fourth of the fruit and vegetables consumed by the French were home-grown.

 

Americans seem to be following suit, because in the last few years kitchen gardening has really taken off. Benefits of kitchen gardens include:

 

·          The freshest vegetables and herbs, prepared moments after picking.

 

·          Locally grown—right in your own backyard!

 

·          Costs up to 80% less than store-bought

 

. ·          Save on fuel. No trips to the grocery store, just walk to your garden.

 

Simply put, a kitchen garden is a place to grow things that you bring into the kitchen—vegetables, fruits and berries, herbs, edible flowers and cut flowers. You can harvest garden-fresh vegetables and just picked herbs right from your own backyard garden. It is a place of beauty and bounty, a place that stimulates and delights all the senses. The perfect blend of aesthetics and utility, the kitchen garden is a paradise where you can not just look, touch, and smell, but also taste. The beauty of the kitchen garden—it is a vegetable gardening with style!

 

Even if you don't grow gourmet or "designer" vegetables, or antique fruits or flowers, or chic varieties of herbs, the kitchen garden can reflect your personal taste and the flavor of your particular region of the country. There are no rules: The kitchen garden can look like a perennial border, or an English cottage garden, or even an Oriental garden.

 

When choosing the location for your garden, keep in mind that most vegetables and herbs need as much sun as possible to do their best. Good drainage is also a must, so avoid low-lying areas where water collects. Another consideration is the distance from your garden to the kitchen. If you are a spontaneous cook, you may want to have your herbs and veggies right outside the kitchen door within easy picking distance. If proximity isn't a major concern, decide where you will spend the most time and site it for maximum viewing. Do you spend a lot of time relaxing on your deck or patio or would your rather see your garden framed by the picture window in your favorite room?

 

When you've chosen the best site, prepare the area just as you would for a new perennial bed. You will need some stakes and string to lay out your chosen design. To form a rectangle, position the stakes at the four corners, with the string running between them. Triangles may be marked off on the diagonal, and diamonds created by positioning a center stake midway between each corner stake. To create a circle, measure a length of string equivalent to the radius of the finished bed and attach the string to a stake anchored at the circle's center. With the end of the string in your hand, walk the circle's circumference, etching its outside edge as you go.

 

Once you have the "bones" of the garden--it is time to plant your family's favorite herbs, fruits and vegetables. For season-long color, add bright edible flowers in groups in the front and around the border as edging plants.

 

Edible Flowers

 

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) perennial

 

Bee Balm (Monarda spp. ) perennial

 

Begonia, tuberous (Begonia x tuberhybrida) annual

 

Borage (Borage officinalis) annual

 

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) perennial

 

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) annual

 

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) perennial

 

English Daisy (Bellis perennis) annual/biennial

 

Geranium, scented (Pelargonium spp.) annual

 

Gladiola (Gladious spp.) annual

 

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) biennial

 

Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor) annual

 

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) perennial reliably hardy only to Zone 5

 

Lemon Marigold (Tagetes tenufolia 'Lemon Gem') annual

 

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp.) annual

 

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) hardy annual

 

Petunia (Petunia x hybrida) annual

 

Pinks (Dianthus spp.) annual

 

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) hardy annual

 

Rose (Rosa spp.) perennial

 

Sunflower (Helianthus annua) annual

 

Violet (Viola cornuta) perennial

 

  If you like things in order, you can plant your kitchen garden in traditional rows, with sturdy bamboo tepees and trellises for climbing vegetables. Or you can take a more casual approach, making a garden that is a tumble of flowers interspersed with greens, colorful peppers, eggplants, squash blossoms, and cooking herbs. There are so many attractive ways to use vegetables and herbs that the modern kitchen garden invites creativity. Edge a flower bed with curly parsley, or pair your tomato plants with pot marigolds, or grow fluffy green clumps of lettuce around the bases of red cabbages.

 

Whatever you choose to do, don't leave any bare spots. Every space should be used, every inch devoted to food and flowers. And when one thing is harvested, put another in. The kitchen garden is a place of activity, season after season. There should always be something growing, something being harvested, something blooming, something sprouting. The rewards will be many, and not all tangible. The kitchen garden, after all, is a place to feed both body and soul.

 

Fast Fillers for the Kitchen Garden

 

• Alyssum, sweet (Lobularia maritima)

 

• Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

 

• Chervil (Anthriscus cereifolium)

 

• Beans, bush (Phaseolus vulgaris)

 

• Cress (Lepidium sativum)

 

• Mustard (Brassica spp.)

 

• Parsley, curly (Petroselinum crispum)

 

• Phacelia (Phacelia spp.)

 

• Savory, summer (Satureja hortensis)

 

Plants for Edging Beds and Paths

 

• Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

 

• Beans, bush (Phaseolus vulgaris)

 

• Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

 

• Broccoli (Brassica oleracea)

 

• Cabbage, red (Brassica oleracea)

 

• Catnip, low-growing (Nepeta racemosa or N. x faassenii for edging)

 

• Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea)

 

• Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

 

• Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)

 

• Dahlias, dwarf (Dahlia spp.)

 

• Geraniums, fragrant (Pelargonium spp.)

 

• Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys)

 

• Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.)

 

• Hebe (shrubby veronicas), dwarf (Hebe spp.)

 

• Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

 

• Irises, dwarf (Iris spp.)

 

• Lamb's ears (Stachys lanata)

 

• Lavender, dwarf (Lavandula spp.)

 

• Lettuce (Lactuca spp.)

 

• Mallow (Lavatera), annual varieties

 

• Marigolds, dwarf (Tagetes spp.)

 

• Nasturtium, dwarf (Tropaeolum majus)—perhaps mixed with beets

 

• Parsley, curly (Petroselinum crispum)

 

• Peppers, sweet, hot (Capsicum spp.)

 

• Pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis)

 

• Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

 

• Rue (Ruta graveolens)

 

• Sage (Salvia officinalis)

 

• Santolina (Santolina spp.)

 

• Savory, summer (Satureja hortensis)

 

• Savory, winter (Satureja montana)

 

• Sedum (Sedum spectabile or Hylotelephium spectabile)

 

• Strawberries (Fragaria spp.)

 

• Swiss chard (Betula vulgaris var. flavescens—white-, red-, or yellow-ribbed)

 

• Thyme, bush (Thymus spp.)

 

• Violets (Viola spp.)

 

Self-Sowers for the Kitchen Garden

 

• Bellflowers, annual (Campanula spp.)

 

• Blanket flower (Gaillardia spp.)

 

• Chervil (Anthriscus cereifolium)

 

• Columbines (Aquilegia spp.)

 

• Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)

 

• Corn cockle (Agrostemma githago)

 

• Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)

 

• Evening primrose (Oenothera spp.)

 

• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

 

• Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium, formerly Chrysanthemum parthenium)

 

• Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)

 

• Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

 

• Globe thistle (Echinops ritro)

 

• Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)

 

• Honesty (Lunaria annua)

 

• Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)

 

• Lettuces (Lactuca spp.)

 

• Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

 

• Mallow (Lavatera spp.)

 

• Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)

 

• Mullein (Verbascum spp.)

 

• Mustard (Brassica juncea)

 

• Narcissi (Narcissus spp.)

 

• Orach (Atriplex hortensis)

 

• Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

 

• Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

 

• Phlomis (Phlomis spp.)

 

• Poppy, California (Eschscholzia californica)

 

• Spurge, snow-in-summer (Euphorbia characias)

 

• Speedwell (Veronica spp.)

 

• Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

 

• Toadflax (Linaria spp.)

 

• Tobaccos, flowering (Nicotiana spp.)

 

• Tulips (Tulipa spp.) and other spring bulbs

 

• Valerian, false (Centranthus ruber)

 

• Violets (Viola spp.)

 

Wallflower (Erysimum cheiri)