Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Kitchen Garden

A snowy, cold Sunday in January may not seem like the time to talk about a kitchen garden, but it is actually one of the best times. Now is when the serious gardeners do their planning for the upcoming year.

I would not call myself a serious gardener, but as a Renaissance Mom, a kitchen garden of some sort is a must have. Homegrown food is cheaper and fresher than anything you get in the grocery store. You know what chemicals, if any, have been used growing it too. It is also good exercise and can be fun.

 I started off a couple of years ago all gung-ho and put in a raised bed for vegetables (I still have the wood for the 2nd bed I had planned). Raised beds are the way to go, I think, for a number of reasons. The first is that it is less work. Where I live, the ground is almost solid rock, so digging out a garden is hard labor. The second reason is that you know you are starting with good soil which will give your kitchen garden a good start. That first year, I planted tomatoes (lots of tomatoes), cucumbers, and peppers. It seemed reasonable at the time, but as it turned out, my bed was a little more demanding than I had time for. The tomatoes flourished to the point that many were wasted because I didn’t pick them in time. We never picked the peppers at all and I got only a few cucumbers out of the deal because the vines managed to grow over the edge of the bed and were annihilated by the lawn mower. 

The second year, I decided to plant herbs instead. They are perennials, so don’t have to be replanted every year. They also didn’t seem to need as much attention. To my surprise, some of the tomatoes from the year before decided to reseed themselves. When I found those little plants at the edge of the bed, I just staked them up. As it turns out, I got a more appropriate amount of tomatoes for my household and my grandkids loved to help me pick them. Lesson learned. The herbs grew nicely, and smelled great, but I have to admit, I did not take cuttings from them and use them in my cooking as much as I could have, nor did I cut any to dry to use over winter. Another lesson learned there.

So, for 2010, I plan to plant tomatoes again, but fewer plants than year one. I also will hoe up my soil really well before planting anything. I want to try the peppers again, but I vow to watch them more closely. The herbs will continue to grow, so I’m fairly pleased with that part. I just need to be more aggressive about using them when I cook. I also think I’ll plant some onion sets in a few empty spaces in my flower garden. The other thing I’m considering is getting a big tub and planting potatoes in it. My friends Tracy and Kevin had success with potatoes that way and it doesn’t sound too hard for me.

Now, if you have a big garden, and time to spend in it, I would suggest looking through the seed catalogs and planning out your plot. If you are going to put in a small garden like my raised bed, I suggest the square foot method which can put a lot of plants into a smaller space. It really does help cut down on the weeds too. I planted nasturtiums last year to give it some color (and they’re edible so they look pretty in a salad if you want to do that). Some people plant marigolds in and around the vegetables because they are supposed to repel creatures or something. I don’t know if that’s true, but they look pretty. If even that is too much, I would suggest considering a window garden. You could even start with one tiny pot, planted with the seeds of your favorite herb.

Anything is something…and for Renaissance living….nothing tastes better than fresh food grown from your own yard.

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