All About Kitchen Gardens

Kitchen gardens have deep historical roots, although as people have become more and more concentrated in city centers their popularity has waned.  According to the Mann Library at Cornell University, the kitchen garden has classically been defined as "a field of cultivated land yielding a reliable supply of food for the family."  In the United States, kitchen gardens surged during WWI & WWII, as Americans dug up plots of land and raised their own vegetables and herbs.   In 1944, Americans were growing 40% of all vegetables produced in the US, right in their own gardens.  In the United Kingdom, the "Dig for Victory" campaign during WWII resulted in 1.4 million allotments by the end of WWII.  Even royalty pitched in, turning their rose gardens in to onion patches.    

More recently, there's been an increasing amount of interest in becoming better-connected with our food supply chain, particularly vegetables.  Many of us live in urban or suburban areas where home owners' associations or local zoning restrictions prevent us from raising our own livestock...but vegetables are quiet, don't get smelly, and never run away from home!  This makes them ideal companions for all of us would-be farmers.  

A common theme among would-be gardeners is: "Well, I'd love to garden but I don't have a yard..." This can be a (sort of) legitimate reason to shy away from growing your own produce.  For example, a few years back we lived in a north-facing 700 square foot apartment with exactly two windows and no balcony.   There literally wasn't enough light to grow plants with (which raises the question: if plants can't live there, should people??).  What green space there was in the development was dedicated either to scrubby bushes or doggie potty areas.  So we did a lot of shopping at the farmer's markets around town.  Buying local, however, is still far better than eating produce that's been shipped from hundreds of miles away.  

IF you have a balcony, or a tiny bit of lawn, or even a sunny landing or rooftop, THEN you can absolutely garden.  Herbs take off like you wouldn't believe, are extremely bug-proof, and enrich your life, not to mention your cooking!  A kitchen garden does not have to be big, or fancy, or expensive. The very best ones are gardens you can create with whatever time or money you happen to have at the moment.  Container gardens are perfectly fine. If all you can manage is a pot with some herbs: it's a kitchen garden.  If you have multiple garden beds overflowing with tomatoes and squash: it's a kitchen garden.  Basically don't be intimidated by worries that you don't have enough time/experience/money/space.  Gardening is incredibly forgiving and you really will learn as you go!  

The gardening we'll be writing about in this segment is specific to drought-prone areas: for us, that means getting less than 30 inches of rain per year, with summer daytime temperatures consistently reaching into the 90s and 100s (degrees F).  Additionally, Texas has lots of pesty bugs (how do they survive so well in this climate?) so we'll be dealing with those as well, organically of course.  Keep local factors of weather, climate and pests in mind as you plan your own kitchen garden.

Best of luck to you, and your kitchen garden!