Grow A Kitchen Garden

Grow an old-fashioned kitchen garden complete with everything you need to cook meals, including herbs.

In the olden days, kitchen gardens were all the rage. Everyone had a garden, and for good reason. Vegetables and herbs were hard to come by; there wasn't a grocery store or vegetable vendor on every corner like there are today.

Back then, when it was time to prepare the meal, the lady of the house would visit her garden-usually grown in close proximity to the kitchen-and pick what she needed. The popularity of these gardens died out when the convenience and accessibility of vegetables and herbs grown in the southern states and/or in climate controlled nurseries became a reality.

Being able to purchase the needed items without actually spending large quantities of time maintaining the garden, and preserving the produce, was a dream come true. Ease in preparing meals meant more time left over to tackle other urgent household chores.

Today, as pesticides and technology become more prevalent, the old-fashioned kitchen garden is making a comeback. Health conscience cooks want to know the food they prepare is free of pesticides. At the same time, many are uncomfortable with the processed, pureed and freeze-dried produce available on the market. What that boils down to is: anything not coated in pesticides, filled with preservatives, or sliced and diced and stuffed between one sheet of Styrofoam and one sheet of plastic, has become the new rage.

In order to get what they consider the best for their families, many are eager to grow their own old-fashioned kitchen garden. And no wonder: it's easy, relaxing, and the rewards to the palate are unmatched.

Anyone can grow an old-fashioned kitchen garden, regardless of where they reside. Don't be discouraged by anything. Even if the vegetables must be grown in pots along the back patio or along a windowsill, it can easily be done.

When you choose a spot, ask yourself a few questions. Is the spot close enough to your kitchen for ease? Is the spot large enough for what you have in mind? Is it out of reach of Fido, or your children? A small fence around the garden would keep unwelcome guests from trampling your goods. Garden fences can be very quaint and charming, even in the city.

Maybe the garden should be in raised beds? Raised beds are fun and easy. Develop a pattern with fieldstones or make a wooden foundation about 15x3 feet and fill in the squares with soil, then plant accordingly. Good, rich, compost is preferred, or treated soil. If these items are not available, use what's handy.

What vegetables will work best for your needs? Some favorites are salad fixings-romaine and leaf lettuce, endive, green onion, tomato, green pepper, cucumber, Cheyenne pepper, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, and sweet snap peas. (Climbers can be sowed along the perimeters of the fence, or on a trellis.)

Herbs require little attention, and will grow in just about any soil type. Common herbs used for cooking include: chives, thyme, dill, basil, sage, coriander, and parsley. Helpful hints: Rosemary, also an aromatic, versatile herb, must be dug up each year and taken indoors, unless the garden is in a very warm climate; sage will look dead in the spring, but as soon as the old, dead foliage is removed, the plant will perk up; and parsley will return, but will be more tough the second and third years. Sometimes it's best to plant a new crop from seed each year. Chives should be deflowered each year by removing the entire flower stalk. This promotes new growth. Each flower will be filled with seed if left to its own devices and will reseed itself everywhere giving the gardener plenty of new plants to share.

The best way to maintain an old-fashioned kitchen garden is to keep it free of pesticides (pick bugs by hand, or spray plants with a mixture of water and a dab of dish soap), weeded, and watered. To maintain moisture, keep the garden free of weeds and mulched with a thick layer of grass clippings.

If the garden will be small in nature, it's advisable to keep the walking paths very narrow. By doing this, more vegetables can be planted. It's also good advice to till with a Roto-tiller early in the spring before planting, but once the planting is finished and mulch had been laid, weeds should be at a minimum and the tiller put up until next spring.

The biggest thing to remember is that it's your garden. Whatever vegetables and herbs-or possibly fruits-you desire, can and should be included.

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