By Shon Cameron, SGG Head Gardener
This month for my Staff Pick, I am going to step off the “garden path” of writing about a single type of plant and instead focus on the resurgence in interest in kitchen gardening. Once a mainstay of many home landscapes, it had fallen out of favor, but now it is the must do/have gardening rage again. I say again, because it is a wonderful idea that has been re-discovered after years of dormancy. How wonderful that something old is born anew . . .
History of the Kitchen Garden
The idea of the kitchen garden dates back to medieval times. Monks and nuns would plant gardens within the protected walls of an abbey or convent to provide food. Multi-use, it provided vegetables for eating, herbs for medicinal purposes, and flowers for Church services.
The French type is called a Potager garden and pronounced Puh ta zhay which means soup or vegetable broth. This style of gardening hit the civilian landscape in the 16th century and was popular with all groups of people from the Chateau crowd to the simple farm yard. In the French method, the beds are geometric in configuration with the plants installed in symmetrical patterns.
On another spectrum of design, the English country garden style is more carefree, with all types of plants, planted and stuffed everywhere in the garden so no space is wasted. Sort of “blowsy and overblown” according to one observer.
During WWII just about every family in the US had a kitchen garden and those plots were known as Victory Gardens. Promoted during that conflict to help ease the strain on our national resources during the war, those same gardens are better known today as edible landscapes. So this burgeoning interest is really a hybrid, modernized design of our grandparent’s simple Victory Garden.
Why you want a Kitchen Garden
Former traditional vegetable garden resembled a scaled down version of row crop agriculture and incorporated lots of wasted space. Today’s kitchen gardens are better positioned up close to the house for easy access during meal preparation or for brightening a room with a bunch of fresh cut flowers. Today we are fortunate to have a broader range of options in terms of both methods and varieties of plants that can be utilized. This allows for planting arrangements that best suit individual situations and environments.
With large amounts of gardening space, beds can be developed that are three to four feet wide with corresponding long rows. This method allows for dense planting. However, if space is limited raised planters may be built to conform to almost any space and configuration available. Even with the confines of a patio or deck, half whiskey barrels, pots, or shipping pallets can be used as homes for those coveted vegetables and flowers. Such methods allow for individual artistic expressions while bringing variety and a sense of satisfaction to one’s garden space.
Of course, plants define a garden. So, utilize lots of different colors, textures, sizes and smells of plants in your garden. Break out the seed catalogs and see what unusual combinations you can create. However, remember the most important rule of gardening. Enjoy! Have fun and never plant anything you really don’t want in your garden. Time is too valuable to waste on plants, vegetables or herbs that won’t be eaten or ones that you simply don’t like.
Next time you are at Smith-Gilbert, stop by to see me and allow me to show you some of the possibilities we have growing in our garden. Here we employ many of the techniques and strategies mentioned above. As I always say, “there is never a bad day to be in the garden!”Tags: Kitchen Garden, Shon Cameron, Staff Pick