Outdoor Rooms: Kitchen Gardens

A wonderful idea for an outdoor room is what is known as a “kitchen garden.” Filled with yummy herbs and vegetables for cooking, this outdoor room is typically located outside of a kitchen for easy access. I myself only have a very TINY courtyard outside of our kitchen, barely big enough for our barbeque. But, I could probably manage a small tomato plant or some basil. The rest would have to go in the backyard.

I love the idea of a large kitchen garden filled to the brim with great stuff for cooking. I’m not even much of a chef, but having access to all of that organic and healthy fixings just outside more door sounds just delightful. Because I don’t love to cook and I have never had a real vegetable garden (yes, it is true), I’m going to turn the discussion over to YOU dear readers.

Do you have a vegetable or herb garden? What do you grow? What is EASY to grow in most climates? What would be the best things to grow yourself in a vegetable or herb kitchen garden? What would be a good way to start a small kitchen garden? Pots, in the ground, special planters? Any special tips for growing or maintaining your own kitchen garden?

My biggest objection to a kitchen garden right now is that we have raccoons that sometimes wander through our yard. How can you keep critters like that from munching on your lettuce?

If you have any kitchen garden tips, feel free to share! I’m completely a novice yet am always fascinated to hear from those who grow their own vegetables! Especially these days when so many are suffering financially and every dollar counts, it seems to make sense to grow your own herbs and vegetables if you can! Not to mention the nutritional value of eating healthy organic foods straight from our own garden. Eating healthy foods is so important to our well being! I’d love to grow some lettuce for salad, and top it with tomatoes and veggies I grew myself.

Speaking of eating healthy foods, you’ll think this is funny, but my 16 year old daughter asked for a juicer for Christmas. I kid you not. She is the same kid who was happy to receive a new toilet seat for her birthday. I love that girl! And now that she has a juicer, I need to start getting serious about using it. Two of my BBFF (best blogging friends forever), Shelbi and Julia, have been a great inspiration to me to get going with the juicer.

Ok, so on the topic of kitchen gardens and growing healthy foods, bestow on me your knowledge, dear readers! I’m all ears (oops, I made a corn pun, LOL!).

Southern Accents, photo Roger Foley, designer Donna Hackman

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Comments

  1. Sounds lovely to have. Somewhere along the way this garden raised farm girl lost her desire to cook and veggie garden. About all I do anymore is a couple tomato plants and and a zucchini vine. The rest I get at the farmers market down the road.

    I sure do admire those who have the big lot and someday I might just join them again :-) Rosie

  2. the Farmer's Wife says:

    Kitchen gardens are a wonderful way to put fresh herbs and vegetables at your fingertips. You can actually create a kitchen garden in pots on your deck.

    I do not have a kitchen garden though, because I’m married to the CFO and General Manager of a large U.S. fresh and organic herb operation! Having fresh basil available means that there’s always some pesto in the fridge. Anyway, all the critters eat anything I try to grow.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  3. Excellent post, Melissa.
    We’ve always kept a small vegetable garden in our back yard. In the big storm of October 1987 in the SE of England the wind lifted off the entire glass green house. My (late) grand father was devastated that year; he lost all his southern veggies!
    We currently live in an apartment. But I love having fresh produce around. I particularly like growing tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions and courgettes.
    As we are currently on the move, I now grow fresh parsley, basil and rosemary.
    But I hope and pray that I’ll get to full scale gardening in our tiny backyard. Pots always.
    ***
    Yes, go ahead with the juicer! I love juicing, though I am only one who does and I usually fall behind. But it is an excellent habit.
    ***
    Happy Week to you!

  4. An herb garden is a wonderful way to begin and it adds flavor beyond measure. Peppermint has a mind of it’s own and can take over, so plant that in a pot. Some herbs that I planted right outside my kitchen;
    basil
    chives
    dill
    majoram
    parsley
    rosemary
    sage
    thyme
    Love Beans and have them as a border. I started them inside
    and then recently planted outside. They are so much fun for the kids to pick and healthy! Tomato’s too!

  5. If I keep reading your blog I’m never going to want the ugly, aluminum porch put in in my backyard. How depressing!

  6. I keep a good size above-ground garden. and a seperate herb garden. I like to plant carrots, beets, beans,tomatoes and pepper and eggplants, leeks, onions and fennel. My goal is to grow 50% of our food for the summer if not more and preserve the other %50 for winter. I also companion plant which is using other plants to deter pests instead of using pestides.There’s a great book out called “carrots love tomatoes”. If you want to start out, Putting tomatoes in the same container as basil is good. They are companions and go as well together in the ground as on the plate ;) Chives are easy to grow and are green beans (except for the rabbits) in a pot too. It’s god to start small and once the gardening bug bites, go bigger;) Jen R

  7. Great topic! I’m also not a big cook, but wish I could be better at it. I bought several books on growing gardens in pots…since I live in an apartment and all I have is a porch (no grass). If you are hesitant about starting a large garden, you could try container gardening with herbs first…see if is something you can maintain. I’m waiting till I move to start my garden…hopefully! I’m also afraid about maintenance and possible bugs…I’m afraid of all bugs!

  8. Vee~A Haven for Vee says:

    Yes, I have a kitchen garden grown in a pot on the deck and handy for just popping out there to grab what I need. I did plant my chives in the ground and now have a hardy, substantial patch. Love chives! It’s not pretty like this, but it functions.

  9. We do not have a kitchen garden, either, but I think they are the ultimate. We do have a few things growing in pots on our deck.

    I do love to cook, and I love having fresh produce. We can drive to our State Farmer’s Market in about thirty minutes, and we try to go as often as possible. Other than that, I work with some great gardeners that are always sharing their crops.

  10. Thank you for this post, and thanks to the person who left the comment about companion planting. I have always dreamed of having my own kitchen garden and I am currently in the process of creating one. So far I have cleared the space of debris and previous plantings, added organic compost, loosened the soil and gave the ground a good deep watering.

    Next will come the plantings… definitely some lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, and peppers. I think herbs are the easiest too and save me a ton of money. Try starting out with planting in pots, you could even do a large pot with a trellis to train a climbing veggie.

    I love your wonderful blog, and will be looking forward to the post that first got me hooked, the Drive By.

  11. Wow, I just typed a comment and it disappeared. Guess I should pay attention to what keys I press, huh? Anyway, I grow a tomato plant in a pot on my sunny deck. Also basil,cilantro, parsley and rosemary. I grow catnip for the kitties in a planter on the side of the house, away from curious cats. This year I planted oregano and lavender in the ground.

    I love to cook and love having all the fresh herbs to add to simple dishes.

    Janet@Housepeepers

  12. Well, a couple of summers ago I had a great garden (I’ll post later on that) – but it was quite the job – so I don’t have one this year – but I have lotz of friends that do – and one just gave me a ton of fresh Rosemary – I dried it and put it in a baggie – everytime I open that bag – the aroma is breathtaking!! I would love to start some herbs in containers on my back patio – hmmmmm, a feel a new project coming on!!
    thanks
    Donna

  13. I love the picture you posted. I am currently figuring out how to create a salad garden. It never fails, I buy veggies for a salad and before you know it the lettuce is slimy. Gross. So I saw in a magazine a long time ago where you can use old wash tubs as the containers for planting such things. (make sure you put drain holes in the bottoms) Especially if you don’t have the space or the good soil. You can plant a variety of lettuce such as romaine, red and curly, even plant them in a pretty pattern. I also saw where one person used a arch way arbor and planted tomatoes to grow up and over it. He could walk under it and pick his tomatoes. Brilliant. About the raccoon situation. It would be wise it you trap the little guy in a humane trap and re-locate him. Raccoons can carry rabies and believe me that is the last thing you want to deal with.

  14. Love that garden picture! I have herbs in my garden…I even have my kids enjoying going outside and picking for me… if I’m to busy creating in the kitchen!

    Thanks for sharing:)
    KayEllen

  15. I enjoyed the post and the comments! I’m fairly new to gardening, since we’ve been apartment-dwellers for years. There, I managed to do tomatoes and some herbs in pots, but I’m looking forward to trying growing stuff in the ground. I am also worried about the rabbits. So far my flowering plants have been ok, but the vegetables might be more tempting. I’m hoping to find some kind of a deterrent system before I put the veggies in the ground. I’m planning to do herbs in planter by my front door (which is on a colorless deck up from the street), and maybe some other containers. I look forward to seeing more – your blog is so inspiring!

    Jennifer

  16. You guys are inspiring me! Such great ideas! THANK YOU!

    PS. We have trapped a bunch of raccoons over the past few years and kindly relocated them. But new ones return! I think we had a neighbor who treated them like pets and fed them. NICE!

    We don’t see them nearly as much as when we first moved in however, so I hope that we won’t have as much trouble going forward.

  17. Oh Melissa!!! You’ve shown us so much lovely things lately but this picture of the garden is absolutely my favorite. I would love to have it like this but my DH must have a “driveway” through our garden so that he can get this and that LOL.
    Hope you’re having a great week.
    Love Elzie

  18. All the photos you show are so inspiring. I just want to get outside and make my yard look as inviting. But it all takes time…among other things.
    I have a kitchen garden. I just planted most of it over the weekend and have quite a sunburn to show for it. I started tomato plants in the house and moved them outside yesterday. Peas were started awhile ago since they like cold weather, and spinach as well.
    I don’t have just one plot for a garden – but several smaller ones and I’m not averse to tucking in a trellis for the pole beans to climb in the middle of my flower garden. I’ll stick a tomato plant wherever there’s space.
    I do have a section for herbs – kind of a rocky area that they seem to thrive on. Rosemary, sage, thyme, mint grow there, the first three year-round in our area. The mint dies down but it always comes back (with a vengeance!). I have parsley, basil, chives and cilantro in pots and in the ground as well, but in a spot where they get more water.
    We also have a strawberry patch and a row of raspberries, oh and a few blueberry bushes. I love growing things to eat. And we don’t have a large yard, just regular city/suburban size. I’ll try to get some photos onto my blog.

    Keep up with the great inspirations and have a blessed week.

    Lorrie

  19. Sweet Cottage Dreams says:

    If I had an area like this, I would certainly be motivated to cook more. We grow tomatoes, zuchinni, crook neck squash and bell peppers in our garden. All grow pretty well in any garden, however do like a direct patch of sunshine. Herbs are fun to grow in pots. Basil and thyme are easy as is rosemary. Haven’t had much luck with cilantro. It wilts easy. Oh – if you like fresh mint, it will grow in abundance and is quite hearty in any climate. Just have to keep it under control, otherwise you will have tons.

    Try out a few pots and see how you do. You still may be able to plant the tomatoes up where you are. Have fun! Nothing is better than to watch the veggies grow. Very rewarding and very economical, too.

    xo
    Becky

  20. Hi Melissa,
    This is a pretty garden you share above.
    Yes, to growing herbs, but have never grown any veggies. It always blows my mind when a friend brings us lettuce!!
    Can’t wait for your drive by!
    Happy Monday!
    xox
    Constance

  21. I love that photo!

    We don’t have a kitchen garden here. We had one at the farm. We had leaf lettuce, scallions, radishes, sweet corn, dill, mint, parsley, sage, green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. It wasn’t a large garden, but sufficient.

    I wish we had a community garden in our subdivision. I’ve seen these in other subdivisions. People tend different plots in a dedicated area of the subdivision. Everyone shares in the work and the harvest.

    Pat

  22. Dianne Wood says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I enjoyed reading this post however I cannot offer ANY help when it comes to gardens and growing something….LOL
    I just did a post showing off my NOT SO REAL FLOWERS…!!!

    I’m sure you will find just what you need for all the talented readers you have.

    Hugs to you,
    Dianne

  23. Oh Melissa – you sure know how to get a girl wishing she could get outside and plant – if only it could all look like the picture above – instantly!!
    I love herbs – and we cook with them often – an Italian husband will do that to you!! Being that we live smack dab in the city – herbs, tomatoes, peppers – all kinds – are what do well here (not much sunshine spots). This year I’m trying pole beans and lots of leaf lettuce – we’ll see how fat the bunnies get (this is where I’ll be looking for advice)! Two years ago we had some really lovely eggplant – but before I could pick it, something used it for supper!!
    Have a great day!
    Karla

  24. I just found your blog and love it! It seems we have so many things in common. I’ll be sure to stop by again soon!

  25. Melissa,

    I love your blog and your sense of creativity. Thank you for all the work that goes into producing something so visually and contextually fulfilling!!! I read your offerings every week and direct friends to your site.

    As a 30+ year student and practitioner of organic methods, I can say that a kitchen garden is a wonderful thing, but must be done organically or one defeats the purpose of fresh, wholesome produce. It is always about the soil. If your soil is healthy…full of compost, some alfalfa, and other nourishing ingredients, all plants will thrive. This absolutely means no chemicals, not even synthetic nitrogen which takes petroleum (natural gas) to produce and is hugely polluting (contributes to acid rain.)

    Also, in purchasing produce from the grocer, buy organic as much as is possible to enjoy truly healthful and nutritious food. Slimy lettuce is probably that which has been treated with chemicals for “freshness.” Ugh! What an oxymoron. Sadly, many consumers do not realize how polluted conventionally grown vegetables and fruits are. There are listings available online designating less toxic produce to buy if you do not have access to USDA organic choices.

    As far as raccoons and other creatures are concerned, in 30 years I have never had one invade my gardens. Certainly they will go after bird food, but humans have made that too available. (I just put enough seed out for everyone!) I know they are pesky, but due to suburban and urban encroachment, they are left with little other choices for food. Until humankind understands and embraces the ideal of equality among humans and creatures, we will always view our neighbor creatures as invaders rather than companion dwellers on this planet Earth. As Rachel Carson said (more or less) “We must work with Nature, not against her.”

    Many thanks, gloria

  26. It’s a little crazy, but we garden (or I should say my husband does) in a wooden box on an old coffee table near our back door. Our darling dog is a little naughty (okay, a lot naughty) and wants to dig whenever we do, so this has turned out to be a good solution for us. We grow tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs, and even collards that way. I’ll let you know how it goes. There are pictures posted on my blog if you’re interested. Just look in the archives…
    Fun post!
    Becky

  27. Drooling here. This garden is spectacular. Just a beautiful, peaceful looking retreat!

    You always find the best.

  28. I’ve not yet had my own garden either, Melissa! But I hope to one day soon (once we embark on leveling our back yard – yikes!)…but one idea I’d like to try this summer is planting different herbs in all the openings of a strawberry pot. I saw this somewhere – maybe in a magazine? – and it looked like a fun and convenient way to have a container garden.

  29. What a great idea for a post!! Your posts are always awesome and it is such a pleasure to visit!

    We are putting in out first vegetable garden this year (crossing my fingers we get a good crop!). But I have had mint plants for a few years know that I make tea and mint juleps with. It’s an awesome plant – utterly unkillable for even the novice gardener. It can spread quickly though so it’s best to keep it in a tub or barrel.

  30. Just stopping in to say hello, as you may remember that I am not much of a cook and rarely dine at home, and as such, do not have much advice about outdoor kitchen gardens, although the idea sounds so lovely! An instant supply of herbs and homegrown vegetables must be wonderful . . .

    Hope your week is off to a fantastic start!

  31. That is one thing I’m hoping to start this year… even if it is just a small little section of a few herbs! I love the idea of having fresh herbs at my fingertips! Great post!
    Trina

  32. I grew up in a home with a kitchen garden. It was beautiful and we ate extraordinary meals, prepared with love by my mother. Plus, there was plenty of work for the four of us children to keep us busy! The garden had beautiful trellises loaded with sweet peas, lots of vegetables, raspberries, and in the autumn, glorious pumpkins. My mother lit it with candles on summer nights. Truly, it was magical. In fact, my wedding reception was there, as were those of many of the girls in the neighborhood. I would love to create such a place. Lots are so much smaller now, but I think that the real reason that gardens are so rare, is that we all are too busy for such “folly”… what a shame. I LOVE that picture, and promptly subscribed to Southern Accents just to see more of the same. Beautiful post… it took me back!

  33. Christi from Charm & Grace says:

    Sweet Melissa, I could hardly get past that gorgeous picture to read the text… but I am glad I did. For the past few years we have grown various tomatoes, peppers, green beans, & squash with minimal success ( last year mostly due to severe drought.) We were threatened with fines and sanctions for watering. So we didn’t plant anything this year, but someday hope to really have a substantial garden… even one that really feeds us especially during the summer.

    What I do love is my herb garden. I keep them in pots on my deck on an iron baker’s rack. This year I have fresh basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, two types of mint, & dill. It is very rewarding to be able to walk out there and cut some for whatever dish I am preparing.

    Blessings,
    Christi

  34. Lovely, Lovely photos! If my husband was handy, maybe we could do some of this, haha! I love the homes that have such a “cottage feel”.

    Take care!
    Amy

  35. We do Square Foot Gardening at our house. There’s a book about it written by the guy that developed it, Mel Bartholomew, probably at the library. He also has a website that is almost as instructive as the book. (I think I still have the link on my blog.) We have loved it and he even has suggestions on how to make a sort of cage to keep animals out. It’s an idea to consider. After the first initial cost, it’s pretty economic. We’ll never go back to “traditional” gardening.

  36. How did I get so far behing again on your posts? I am days late in answering this.

    I do have a kitchen garden. It is in my front courtyard. It is the only area of our property that is not forest and gets sun. Right now I have basil, parsley, lemon thyme, thyme, mint, chives, rosemary and tomatos. Of course the tomatos are just small plants at this point. I will email you a picture :-)
    Hugs,
    Penny

  37. I love all these gates…and all the english style houses…every house we have had is a stepping stone…and I can’t wait til I get to have a house with that much potential for an “english country house”…great job with all the pictures

  38. Man, this is open-ended! Someone might write a book. Actually, there are so many books available, you might start by tracking down some that are well-regarded and get ideas from them.

    I have a small kitchen garden that borders on large–nothing like the kitchen gardens of nearby Amish and Mennonites, so I think of it as small. Over the years, I’ve grown lettuce, spinach, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, pumpkins, rhubarb, tomatoes, asparagus, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and about as many herbs. I’ve also grown raspberries, peaches, pears, and apples.

    Over the years, I’ve also grown lazy. So, I’ve settled on certain crops that are easy and that I’d miss: lettuce, spinach, peas, herbs, and tomatoes. The pear, peach, and apple trees are still there, and I’ve gone so far as to graft from a tree that makes really yummy apples to one that makes horrible apples…

    My overwhelming suggestion: grow what you most like to eat, but only if it’s not too much work. I can’t get enough garden fresh peas. Grow a variety that makes long vines, and put them near a fence… or make a trellis along a wall of the house…

    I also advocate getting rid of any plants that don’t produce food, but we’re really getting on about laziness here: why put in the energy if you’re not going to eat it some day?

    Please check out Your Small Kitchen Garden, a blog I write for people who want to grow produce in limited space.

  39. Helen Victoria says:

    I just started growing oregano, chilli, thyme, parsley, chives, mint and sage. I have them along a narrow strip along my driveway, and I am amazed at how often I pop outside and pick herbs. All of these are resilient and taste good in anything. I use them fresh and I dry them. And now, I have just planted chinese spinach which grows all year round. Next step, small veg. patch. Herbs are the best way to start, and start small, maybe one or two plants at a time.

  40. I am a huge fan of kitchen gardens. The other night while thinking of dinner, we found bacon and bread in the house, then outside pulled a fresh tomato and arugula from the garden for yummy blts.

    My recommendation for any kitchen garden:
    – plant where you will see it and remember to use your harvest
    – The larger the container or in the ground is best. The plants have a larger space to grow and will not get root-bound.
    – Plant what you use. Every year I plant chili peppers thinking I will make salsa and I never do. That is wasted space I could use for other veggies we do eat.

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