Starting a Kitchen Garden

Starting a Kitchen GardenWe’re chugging along through 2010, trying to meet our goals for the year. Since we’ve automated much of our finances, we’ve had some extra time to pursue other goals. Something that I’m particularly proud of is our small garden out front. We have a kitchen garden, meaning everything that we’re growing is meant to be used as food.

I’ve noticed that other personal finance bloggers have started container and square foot gardens. For example, Matt has a vegetable garden. In fact, he’s taken it to the next level by composting and using rain barrels.

What’s amazing to me is that neither my husband nor I have a green thumb, yet we’ve had decent success with our garden. I have a history of having plants die on me, including (believe it or not) a cactus!

This isn’t to say that our gardening has been 100% successful. In fact, plants sometimes die on us, and we’ve been known to have minuscule harvests. With all this fuss, some people may wonder why even bother with gardening.

Why have a kitchen garden?

I think everyone has their own reasons for starting a garden. While we’d like to think that we’re doing it all for the good of the environment, there are usually some other factors involved, as well.

  • Save money: One of our goals is to cut our grocery expenses by growing our own food. Learning from last year and earlier this season, I think we should be able to meet that goal.
  • Productive use of space: We have a small yard and you really can’t do much with it. We could try to cram in a table, chairs, and grill, but it would look ridiculous, and we wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of it.
  • Sustainable living: We think it’s kind of interesting to grow an organic garden and learn a bit about sustainable living. It feels good to do something that’s not only beneficial to us, but also friendly to the environment.
  • Extra income: This wasn’t one of our reasons, but having a side job can motivate some. If you find that you’re good at gardening and you really enjoy it, you may earn a small side income by helping others create their own garden, or by selling what you grow.

As we started working on this project, another benefit presented itself. I believe that everyone needs a hobby to blow off steam and to get creative. As I noted above, I don’t have a green thumb by any means, but I found that tending to our little garden is relaxing. It’s nice to see progress with the plants and appreciate a little bit of nature.

Our garden: costs of starting up

How do you decide what to grow? We’ve selected vegetables and herbs that we enjoy. For example, while I’m not crazy about tomatoes in my salad, I do love salsa and spaghetti sauce, so we’re growing tomatoes.

Here’s a list of the plants we’re currently growing:

  • Icebox watermelon
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Bell pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Basil
  • Thyme

More recently, I found this list of the best plants to grow yourself. I wish I had read it sooner because I would’ve changed up our selections and included lettuce instead of the watermelon.

Besides plants (or at least seeds), you also have to buy a few other supplies to get started.

  • Pots – Be sure to buy pots big enough to handle your plants when it’s time to harvest them.
  • Potting mix – If you’ll be using containers, having a good potting mix makes growing good plants much easier.
  • Garden trowel – You’ll need this both for planting and for digging in compost.
  • Garden gloves – Buy yourself a decent pair of gloves to protect your hands when working in the garden.

As you can see, you don’t need too much. In fact, if unchecked, you may end up buying too much. Plan ahead and have your list ready before you pick up your garden supplies.

Last year, when we were living in our apartment, we had a much smaller garden. We had rosemary, tomatoes, and peppers. Seeing some success from last year motivated us to do it again.

Unfortunately the move to the townhouse contributed to the rosemary’s demise along with that of our peppers. We had to start with a new batch of plants this year.

Tips on managing a kitchen garden

I’m not an expert by any means, but when you work out in the garden you can learn some things from personal experience and friends.

  • Google is your friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched for information about either specific plants or gardening in general. Just punch it into Google and all your questions will be answered!
  • Have plenty of sunlight. I’ve been told that morning sunlight is better than afternoon, so place your plants accordingly.
  • Water before 10am if possible. I personally like to water early in the day, especially with the heatwave we’ve been having this year. According to Arizona’s guide to container gardening, you should water until it starts coming out the drainage holes. And by watering early in the day, you minimize evaporation.
  • Start small for the first year. It’s very easy to go overboard when you’re picking out plants for your garden. My advice is to slow down and improve your chances of success by focusing on three or four types of plants. You may be able to get away with more if you have a lot of herbs.

Your garden stories

Having a garden takes time, but I think it’s worth it. I’m curious to hear what you guys are growing in your gardens – if you have a garden, please leave a comment. And please also be sure to share any tips that you might have.

5 Responses to “Starting a Kitchen Garden”

  1. Anonymous

    I tried using my roof ad grew some coriander , tomatoes, lettuce and chilies . Coriander turned out to be splendid . And the rest are growing fine !I water normally after 5 pm

  2. Anonymous

    Several years ago I decided to have some herbs and vegetables on my mobile home plot. Not a lot of room. Well, first 5gal buckets then next year I bought an Earth Box, and built some replicas, next year a 4×4 Squarefoot Garden, this year a 5×15 Lasagna Garden. All with varied success. I also started a worm bin, for castings, planted comfrey, and built a 5′ round 4′ deep compost pile. These are my sources for fertilizer and potting soil. Also, I decided I no longer wanted to cut grass, so what space that is not used for veggies is planted with native wildflowers and groundcover, stuff that people with lawns call weeds. My wife enjoys the flowers and overall is glad I have some activity to keep me going in between hospital and doctor visits.

  3. Anonymous

    It’s important to remember not to get too discouraged when you are just a beginner gardener. Even long time gardeners have set backs with regards to bugs, critters, disease, weather, etc. You’ll find that some plants do better one year and the next you will have no luck with them. My gardens grow and evolve every year and I have a tonne of fun and enjoyment regardless of the failures. This year my cucumbers are producing like crazy but the zucchinis have been hit by white powdery mildew. Last year it was the reverse. Go figure.

  4. Anonymous

    momcents: We’ve had rabbits come and try to snack. Otherwise, though, we’ve been fortunate with critters. I’m really excited to see that you’ll have limes and grapes in your yard to harvest later.

    I wish you the best on your garden project!

  5. Anonymous

    I just started a small square-foot garden this year. The snails ate my chard and I messed up the timing of harvesting my sugar snap peas, but the carrots turned out splendid.

    We’re dealing with all kinds of urban wild life in our yard – stray cats, snails, gophers and wasps. We constructed a barrier underground and a cage above our garden to deal with gophers and cats. We finally located the wasps nest and once we safely dispose of it, I’ll turn my attention to the snails.

    We also planted a lime tree and grape vines this year. It’ll take a couple of years for them to really dig in and start producing but I’m very excited about it.

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