If you have limited grounds, or even no ground, you can plant a garden. A kitchen garden for food or a window box garden for flowers, depending on your living situation.
A kitchen garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs need not be right outside the kitchen door, but the closer the better, because you’ll harvest goodies for healthy meals just steps away from the table.
To start a kitchen garden, choose a spot that gets direct sunlight all day, or at least for six hours a day, and good drainage is vital.
From the beginning, it’s possible to grow much of your produce needs. With proper soil and climate conditions, motivated gardeners with good plans can produce more food in less space, but production is not the only benefit.
If starting your kitchen garden on a patch of lawn, you can build up from the ground with raised beds, or plant directly into the soil. Raised beds are a good idea if soil is poor or doesn’t drain well, and you can use stair-step containers made of wood, stone or corrugated metal. This requires potting soil, and that plus materials make this method more expensive, and requires more initial work than direct planting. But it utilizes space, can be very attractive, and requires less weeding, etc.
If you plant on lawn, the sod can be removed and composed or planted elsewhere. For a small or medium-sized garden, use a sharp spade and a little muscle to remove sod in strips. For a larger area, consider renting a sod cutter.
Start with what you like to eat. One of the easiest is a simple salad garden. Lettuces and other greens don’t require much space or attention, grow quickly, and can produce multiple harvests. With a “cut-and-come-again” salad mix, you can grow five to 10 different salad varieties in a single row. Nothing beats flavor-enhancing herbs like parsley, chives, sage, basil, tarragon, mint, rosemary and thyme — plant the ones you use the most.
Sketch a plan of what to plant where, when and how. Get to know the edible crops you like, check for space required, needs for water, soil fertility and temperatures, the best times to plant and whether to start with seeds or transplants. Planting seed means lower costs, greater selection, and the satisfaction of seeing a plant go from seed to table. Transplanting ups chances of success, especially with crops that require a long growing season.
Mulch deters weeds, retains moisture and enriches soil. If rain is scarce, watering is vital.
Space planting out over the course of several weeks by using short rows. Every time you harvest or pull out a row, try to plant a new one.
If you love flowers, but have no place for a flower bed, window boxes attached to the house are easy to plant, and add beauty and color to the home decor, including the kitchen table. Select a window box that matches your house. Treated softwood or hardwood boxes are easy to paint or stain. Plastic, metal, terra-cotta, or concrete boxes are harder work with. A window box looks best if its length is within a couple of inches of the size of the window. Plants need room to grow and soil that doesn’t dry out too fast — boxes should be at least eight inches and eight inches deep.
Go for a sunny exposure, although this makes for more watering. If the box is sheltered from rain, check regularly for dryness. However, many great plants do well in partial or full shade.
Planting options: plant directly in potting soil in the container; drop in potted plants and fill around them with moss, bark, or another lightweight material; or put plants in a plastic or metal liner that fits inside the box. In any container, fill with soil mixture, and firm soil around plants, leaving an inch at the top for watering. Water regularly, use liquid fertilizer, and remove faded flowers and leaves.
The top plants, both annual and perennial, to get started are sweet alyssum, lobelia, pansies, petunias, dianthus, geraniums, dwarf bulbs (daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinth, cyclamen), all types of ivy, and miniature roses (dozens from which to choose).
Good information and tips on all gardening plans and types are available from the Farmer’s Almanac and from the gardening center where you buy your seeks or transplants.
The time is now, so get busy and good gardening.