At our house we keep more than one kitchen garden to grow food for our large family.
What Is a Kitchen Garden?
According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a kitchen garden is “land appropriated to the raising of culinary herbs and roots for domestic use.” These days, a kitchen garden can be any home area where you grow your own vegetables, fruit, or herbs.
Starting Your Own Kitchen Garden
The great thing about growing for home use is that you do not need a lot of land and a tractor to have a great garden. In fact, your garden can be just a pot or two on the patio!
Many kitchen garden methods, such as square-foot gardening and vertical gardening, take very little space and produce a surprising amount of produce. My family is pretty big, so we need a little more land for our plants — but still less than half an acre.
What Should You Plant to Get Started?
If you are just starting your kitchen garden, I recommend growing hybrid varieties. They will give you larger, more consistent, and generally more disease-resistant plants than non-hybrids.
With hybrid plants, you will more easily produce giant, symmetric beefsteak tomatoes; your watermelon will have fewer seeds; and your corn will have consistently sized ears.
My Advice: Steer Clear of GMO Seeds
Watch out, however, for GMO (genetically modified) produce, such as many corn hybrids. GMO plants have genes from other organisms infused in their own plant genome to make them insect or chemical (pesticide) resistant.
More than 85% of the corn in the US is now GM. This author and numerous others do not think these mutated plants are healthy.
The Case for Heirloom Seeds
Many people grow heirlooms for the deeper flavor they bring. Your heirloom tomato may not be quite as big as one of the hybrids and may look rather lopsided. However, what it lacks in size and consistency, it will make up in flavor and texture.
Your watermelon may have seeds, but it will be a lot sweeter. And your corn may have erratic ears, but you know (as with all heirlooms) you will have its seeds for next year. You also will be sure you are staying clear of the growing GMO trend.
Aside from the flavor of heirlooms, it is humbling to know that your ancestors grew their own vegetables from year to year, developing their own strains best suited for their climate and soil (or preserving the varieties made generations earlier), and finally passing the “heirlooms” down to you. Heirloom seeds gather history with every harvest.
The crookneck squash you have in the garden, for example, grew on this soil well before this nation was founded. We have a vegetable, Bonnie’s Best Tomato, which was developed generations ago right down the road.
The Kitchen Garden: A Little Time and Effort with Great Rewards
As with anything, it takes a little time at your kitchen garden to keep it growing, but the results are well worth it. You save economically and are eating much healthier food. Plus the fresh, crisp flavors you get from your garden — whether hybrid or heirloom — cannot be bought at any super market!