The concept of a “kitchen garden” is not new but, rather, an old style of veggie gardening that seems to be enjoying a new surge of interest from the White House on down the gardening ladder. There are several new books on the topic that incorporate garden planning, culture, and recipes for the harvest. Many of the celebrity chefs on the Food Channel are taking the television viewer into their kitchen gardens as they harvest fresh veggies and herbs for that day’s culinary adventure, so the pressure is on for backyard gardeners to have a similar set-up.
A kitchen garden is a combination of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that is conveniently located to the food preparation area, i.e., the kitchen.  It should have six to eight hours of sun daily and access to water. A kitchen garden has several individual beds for seasonal vegetables, thus making rotation of crops easier to accomplish. There also are areas designated for perennial crops, such as rhubarb, asparagus, and small fruits. A selection of herbs is a must as this is a garden for the cook. The scale of the garden can be large or small, depending on available land and the ambition of the gardener. A kitchen garden is basically a more sustainable form of vegetable gardening that is getting a second look in our era of growing greener.
The roots of the kitchen garden reach back in time to Europe, as well as other cultures. The Greeks and Romans had a garden room as part of the house but with an open roof to let in sunlight and rain. Common in many European households is the summer kitchen located in the basement of the house with easy access to the garden. The cooler temperatures of the lower level make the hours of water bath canning in the heat of August a bit more bearable. The summer kitchen has close access to the root cellar where much of the garden bounty is stored.
Modern American homes have no such set up but many do have air conditioning to ease canners through this chore if so inclined. Pantry storage space may be a harder fit but many homes have basements that can be equipped with storage shelves to hold the canned jars of garden delights. Today’s homes are usually too well insulated and too warm to have root cellars unless specified in the building plans, so while long-term storage of onions and potatoes is difficult, freezing makes sense for the surplus.
As we plan our gardening with an eye to a smaller carbon footprint, look to your backyard to provide your family with home-grown produce throughout the year.  Consider the kitchen garden concept to better utilize garden space to grow your favorite fruits, herbs, and veggies to eat seasonally or to preserve and enjoy between the growing seasons.
American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, Michelle Obama.  Crown Publishers.
Cornell Cooperative Extension – a resource for gardeners and for cooks who want to learn about canning, freezing and drying garden produce.
The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, Jennifer R. Bartley. Timber Press
The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow, and Cook Together, Karen Liebrich, Jutta Wagner, and Annette Wendland.  Timber Press

Susan Pezzolla, Master Gardener Coordinator, Horticulture Educator. Cornell University Cooperative Extension. 24 Martin Road, Voorheesville, NY.


May 16 • 9am – 1pm
Garden Education Day and super plant sale sponsored by the Master Gardener Volunteers for Albany County — 24 Martin Road in Voorheesville. Featuring perennials, annuals, herbs, and vegetable transplants in heirloom varieties, as well as newer hybrids with disease resistance. A trash to treasure area, along with home baked goodies, will open at 8:30am. You will find unique gardening tools and supplies, hanging baskets and potted gardens in a basket. The Master Gardeners will be there to assist and advise so mark your calendar and join in the fun!


Click here to view this years Capital District Flower & Garden show from March 27-29, 2015 atHudson Valley Community College, Troy


Comments are closed.