Starting your own Kitchen Garden

Food is healthier, tastier and more satisfying when picked from your own farm or grown in your own garden.  You get to eat food at freshest and choose the ones you exactly like too.  Imagine growing some of your vegetables and sharing these with family or friends.  The best reward is the pleasure of knowing they were grown in rich soil without chemicals or pesticides. But since not everyone can have the luxury of having their own little farm, here are some tips on starting your own Edible Garden.

1.  Decide where you want to grow your vegetables. Whether you live in the lowlands or highlands will determine the kind of vegetables you can grow.

2.  Ideally, a kitchen garden would be the best.  It should be close to your kitchen door so it’s easy to just get what you need when you need it.  If you don’t have enough space, you can grow your vegetables or herbs in between gaps in your flower beds or plant them in containers and grow them in bags.  You can even use hanging baskets.

3.  You need a plot that is not a slope so you won’t have a problem of soil erosion.  Find a sunny spot that gets enough sun (8-10 hours of sun a day.)  While it is in open spaces, you also need to make sure it is sheltered enough so it is protected from wind drafts.  You might also want to make sure it’s close to a water source.
4.  Start small and aim to grow more as you get more confidence.   What will your family eat?  How much time do you have to spend in it?  A bed that is 60-90 cm wide with paths of 30 cm is a good size.
5,  Your soil should be fertile, healthy soil.  If you already have healthy plants growing on your soil, it should be good enough.  Dig the soil, get rid of weeds and enrich it with compost before you start planting.  Your soil should have rich organic matter (compost.)  Our best tip is that before you plant, build your soil fertility by applying  Biodynamic Preparation 500 to your soil.  (We make our own but we can help you source them as well, just let us know.)  The preparations bring back balance to the soil and make the soil a rich place for micro organisms.
6.  Make your beds square or rectangular. This allows for easier planting and weeding.   Make sure you can reach the center from either side.  Also make sure your taller plants will not shade your smaller plants.
We suggest you use raised beds. Raised beds are filled with clean topsoil and then compost, and then mulched. The only disadvantage is they drain fast so you would have to water your plants often.
6.  Mulch the vegetable bed. This will improve your soil carbon, soil structure, help you conserve water and reduce the amount of weeding you need.  You do this by placing dried plant material like leaves, clippings, twigs, or barks on top of the soil and around the base of the vegetable plants.

Mulching Materials like Dry Leaves, Bark, Cuttings and Twigs

7.  You can get seeds from a garden store or from friends who have seeds. The seed packets would usually have a description.  Take note of what plants are good for small spaces, disease resistant, have good yields, are tolerant.  But your best resource will always be yourself after you have started planting, and gardening.

8. In the beginning, it would be good to plant several varieties of vegetables. Keep a journal and plan what seeds/plants go where.  Note down what plants were resistant to pests, grew well with minimum organic fertilizer, or other aspects like taste, and storage. Take note of what worked so you know what varieties are best for you.

Lowland Vegetables you can plant (easy to take care of): Malunggay, squash, pechay, papaya, string beans, kangkong, camote tops, okra and leaf type lettuce,

Highland Vegetables you can plant (easy to take care of): cauliflower, mustard, brocolli, salad greens, chinese cabbage, radish, carrot, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and the like.

9. Some vegetables can be bought from a garden center, already started.  For example, you can buy herbs in pots.

10. Practice multiple cropping so you do not exhaust your soil.  Multiple cropping allows for different plants with different needs to use the soil.  Some plants may house beneficial insects, which the other plant needs to control pest.  Multiple cropping also produces higher yields than monoculture.

Some combinations:

Beans grow well with cucumber, early potato, lettuce and carrots.

Carrot grows well with peas, leaf lettuce, and chives. Sage, rosemary, onion and wormwood repel carrot fly.

Cucumbers grow well with corn, lettuce and celery. Radish and tansy repel cucumber beetle.

Lettuce grows well with carrots.

Peas grow well with radish, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, turnips and lettuce.

Potatoes grow well with beans and peas.  You can repel potato bugs by putting a border of malunggay.  Garlic and marigold also helps prevent blight in potatoes.

Tomatoes like basil and parsley. Garlic can combat tomato blight. Fava beans repel tomato wilt causing organisms.

11. Practice crop rotation.  This means that you do not plant the same crop in the same area between two planting cycles. For example, you can start with Chinese Cabbage, Carrots and Baguio Beans. The next planting, rotate where you planted them.  Note that leaf vegetables usually do well after a legume crop.  Fruit vegetables often perform well after a leafy crop. Root vegetables grow well after a fruit crop.

12. Water when the top inch of soil is dry. For in ground crops you might have to water once or twice a week. Raised beds are faster and may require watering every day. Just make sure you don’t water too much so that the soil is lumpy when you hold it.

13. Remove weeds when you have them with a hoe or a fork to lightly stir the top inch of soil.  Mulching is also good.

14. Fertilizing your crops through composting is best. (See How to Make Biodynamic Compost.)  You do this every cropping cycle.  We also hasten the decomposition of our compost by applying Biodynamic Preparation to the compost pit.

Compost Pit

14. Harvest your produce when they are ready.  Leaf lettuce can be picked as young as you like; snip some leaves and it will continue to grow and produce. The general rule: if it looks good enough to eat, it probably is. Give it a try. With some vegetables, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

15.  Now, EAT.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by thewingedpalate on August 12, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Hi, great tip for Kitchen garden. I was wondering if its possible to grow small garden in a condo? what plants would you suggest.
    Thank you.

    Reply

    • You can grow vegetables out of containers. If you have very little space, the best would be to grow herbs in pots, as these are fairly easy and you could have a lot of use for the herbs. Just make sure your plants get at least 6-8 hours of sun a day. If you have a balcony or a small garden, you can grow in larger containers vegetables that are local and endemic to us, like okra, eggplant, alugbati, string beans, and sayote. You can even grow some salad greens. Just try some varieties at a time and determine what would work for you.

      Reply

  2. […] greens picked straight from your garden.  (Here’s an article I wrote for our Farm Blog: Starting your own Kitchen Garden.) But living right by the farm or a having an edible kitchen is still a dream.  And maybe one day […]

    Reply

  3. This is such a great resource, Thank you. Been wanting to start one so long but so difficult because my mind is limiting me, saying over and over…”you don’t have a green thumb!!! mamamatay ‘yan lahat!!! Grrrrr

    Reply

    • Exactly what I tell myself too. I’m just lucky I have hubby to the rescue. But you should start! You have a lovely house and a garden. I’m not blessed with the space. And you’re more blessed with that good elevation, so the vegetables should really thrive. Go!

      Reply

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