Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2009
Regional Report

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This lovely kitchen garden beckons you for a walk.

Isn't Every Garden a Kitchen Garden?

We hear a lot these days about saving money by growing our own vegetables. This is a great thing to become involved in, and the best part is that you needn't plant five acres to have a garden. Kitchen gardens are rising in popularity and don't take hours and hours to maintain.

So, exactly what is a kitchen garden? Basically it is just about any kind of garden that contains vegetables, herbs and fruits. In reality, all gardens are kitchen gardens, but the concept is generally to plan a beautiful garden as well as a useful one. In most cases, kitchen gardens grow food for immediate use in the kitchen rather than for large-scale production, canning, or putting away for the winter.

It can range from a small hanging basket of oregano and lettuce to a full-blown backyard garden with roses, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, edible flowers and herbs. Kitchen gardens have been around for hundreds of years, with some of the original types being the French potager garden ("potage" means soup) and the traditional British cottage garden.

Beautiful and Utilitarian
Beyond that, it can be whatever you want it to be -- you are only limited by your imagination. Best of all, it takes a bit of a mind set change to realize that edible plants don't have to come only from the orchard or utilitarian vegetable garden. We can combine edible plants with ornamental plants to create a beautiful yard and garden that pleases the eye and palate.

The Freshest of Vegetables
Kitchen gardens give us options when the freshest vegetables may not be available at the market. You can't always find arugula, radicchio, mesclun, or butterhead lettuce in the produce section, but you can easily grow them in your own garden. And they will be as fresh as possible.

Planning is Key
Successful gardens kitchen gardens start with planning, and now is the time to start. The garden need not be large or spectacular. You just have to make some choices of edibles to grow that are worth your time and effort. Take the time to think about how many hours and dollars you want to spend gardening. Consider your space limitations -- corn takes a lot more space than lettuce, and good corn is usually available at the farmers' market.

Choose Your Site Wisely
Choose a site that will have plenty of sun, good drainage, and reasonable soil. Also consider the appearance. If the garden is to enhance your landscape, you will want to have a variety of flowers in with your vegetables and fruits. You will want to choose a spot that has easy access to water and one in which you can get equipment like a garden cart into easily.

So, start thinking about the garden and possible sites and then you can begin to look at the wide variety of plants you can grow in not very much space.

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