What We Planted in the Kitchen Garden

Projects

This is the first year we’ll be growing produce in our newly built raised bed kitchen garden. If I’ve learned anything through my research it’s that gardening isn’t an exact science and each year will teach you something new. Sure, there are some rules that tend to benefit your garden and production if followed, but there is plenty to learn through trial and error. I’m more of a “throw it in the ground and see what happens” kind of gal!

Year one is all about getting to know our space. We chose to follow an intensive planting method inspired by Gardenary. This means we pack plants in more tightly than the plant tags recommend. It’s a method that works well to grow a lot of produce in a small space, but does require regular maintenance so things don’t get out of hand. If you’re a more systematic person or you prefer a lower maintenance garden, this may not work for you!

Plant planning

The first thing we did before buying or planting any plants was make a spreadsheet of every plant we would ever be interested in growing. We also noted growing requirements like sun exposure, when to plant and whether it needed support. This has become our North Star. It’s SO easy to go overboard buying plants, only to realize you bought things you won’t even eat. Staying true to this list means that everything we grow in our garden is something we’ll happily throw into a meal.

We’re growing in Zone 5b, so we’ve accounted for that to ensure what we want to grow can actually be grown in our area.

What we planted

When I say I like to just throw things in the ground, I mean it. There was no intentional companion planting or spacing or fertilizer this time around. We’ll figure that out as we go! Here’s what we’re experimenting with this year:

  • Tomatoes & Tomatillos – We received some home grown starts from my sister and our friend, Max, and bought some at a local garden sale and our local garden center. You can never have too many tomatoes!
  • Cucumbers, Zucchini & Eggplant – We love cucumbers for salads, m/cocktails and pickles! Zucchini and eggplant are lovely on the grill, baked on a sheet pan or thrown into a stir fry.
  • Squash – We’re growing some of our favorite varieties: Acorn, Spaghetti and Delicata
  • Leafy Greens – Collard greens are one the most underrated sides IMO, so that was a no brainer. We also bought a lettuce mix. All of these were started from seed.
  • Radishes & Carrots – These we bought as seeds. Radishes grow super quickly, make for an early harvest and can be planted successively for multiple harvests all season long.
  • Herbs – These are some of my favorite things to grow. They’re fragrant and fill in nicely, plus there are so many ways to use them! Basil, oregano, thyme, sage, chives, mint, rosemary, lavender and parsley are staples for us.
  • Onions – We bought starts of yellow and red onions, and planted green bunching onions from seed.
  • Peppers – Shishito, jalapeño and bell peppers are varieties we regularly reach for, so it only made sense to grow them ourselves.
  • Beans – I wanted to experiment with something that would vine over an arch (a structure we’ll add in the coming weeks). Green beans fill in nicely, so they’ll be edible and create a beautiful focal point.

Outside the raised beds

To extend our growing space, we planted some larger starts in a few old garden beds the previous homeowners built. We also cleared some dying bushes from our front garden and used that area for potatoes (until we decide what flowers to plant in there next year.)

  • Pumpkin & Gourds – Both of these were starts from my sister. How wonderful it would be to pull our fall decor right out of the garden!
  • Flowers – My sister gifted us seeds from her flower garden last year. Strawflower, Hollyhock, Sunflower, Day Lily, and Calendula just to name a few!
  • Corn – We received painted corn starts from my sister, and purchased sweet corn and popcorn starts from a local garden center.
  • Potatoes – I am probably most excited about these! I picked up some organic fingerling potatoes from the grocery store, put them in a cabinet to let the eyes start to grow, diced the potatoes up so there was at least one eye per slice and planted the pieces (eyes up!)

Rain has been awfully frequent this year, so the irrigation system hasn’t been used much. So far the plants seem happy, but only time will tell. We’ll share an update toward the end of the summer on how things have grown and what changes we might make for the 2024 season. Plus, a glimpse into our fall planting plans!

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