Getting a Small Kitchen Garden Started

Start with what you or your family love to eat.  Think about what is important to you.  Why waste precious space growing something you won’t eat, or grow flowers if you like herbs!

 

Shallots are the lead actor in this pot of yummy edibles. Filled with herbs, edible flowers & salad greens, this is a ‘Pick and Pluck’ salad garden.

This is one of my edible salad gardens in a pot – filled to the brim with tasty herbs like parsley, chives and spring onions, edible flowers, baby spinach, tatsoi and rocket. I rotate this by planting seasonal greens and herbs.

 

Keep it simple and you can fit at least some gardening into your life.  Having an idea of what you want is a good starting point.

Clever design tips will help make the most of the space you have.  Lots of plants including vegetables require very little effort but reward you extremely well for a minimal outlay.  There are lots of clever ways to design your space for maximum production, design out problems like weather or nosy neighbours and add beauty, colour, fragrance and structure as well as encouraging children to get their hands dirty.

 

“This is a universal idea – to connect the garden with the kitchen and with the table and back to the garden again.” – Alice Waters, Chef & Author “In the Green Kitchen”

So where do you begin?  Here are some ideas for starting a small kitchen garden

 

Growing sprouts in a jar

Growing sprouts in a jar on the kitchen bench is quick and easy.

  • Microgreens indoors or out for nutrient-dense ‘fast food’.
Sweet basil microgreens in a punnet ready for harvest

Sweet basil microgreens in a punnet ready for harvest

  • A small pot growing fragrant culinary herbs.

 

Small vegetable garden in pots

Simple pots of fragrant culinary herbs are a great starting point for your kitchen garden.

 

 

Window sill salad and herbs

Salad greens and herbs grown on the windowsill with lots of natural light.

 

  • One or more large containers on your balcony or veranda with vegetables.

 

Productive tiered pots maximising vertical space.

Lettuces and fresh herbs growing in just a small space.

 

  • A hanging basket of colourful flowers, strawberries or herbs.

 

Basket of strawberries

Home grown strawberries do well in both pots and hanging baskets.

 

  • A pot with your favourite dwarf fruit tree.

 

Dwarf fruit trees

Dwarf fruit trees in pots can be highly productive in small gardens.

 

  • A no dig raised garden bed in your yard with Asian greens or salad vegetables.

 

Raised kitchen garden bed in a narrow space.

This raised-bed kitchen garden makes great use of a narrow space that was formerly used as a dog enclosure.

 

  • Try a mushroom growing kit – these can be grown indoors or out and will provide you with several flushes of mushrooms.

 

Oyster mushrooms grown from a kit

I grew these delicious oyster mushrooms from a kit and it was so easy!

 

So whatever you choose to start growing, you’ll get plenty of help right here.  Feel free to ask questions if you need to know more.

If you are ready to get started growing in a pot, make sure you choose the right container and consider these three key factors before you spend any money!  Then check out What to Plant When so you get the timing right for the zone you live in.

You might also enjoy How to Harvest HerbsHow to Grow Sprouts on your Benchtop, Gardens for Kids, and Grow Your Own Herb Tea Garden.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

17 Comments

  1. Maree June 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    Hi,
    I’m a student Journalist and am researching gardening in small spaces with particular regard to fruit trees and food products.

    I’d love to hear from someone who either distributes dwarf plants, or who has grown a balcony garden or dwarf fruit tree in a small space.

    If you can help out, or give me any further information, please feel free to email me on mareesorbello@gmail.com

    Thank you,

    Maree.

    • The Micro Gardener June 3, 2011 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Hi Maree

      Here are a few resources that may assist in your research – I will email you separately to find out more and answer in detail.

      Green Harvest have a great article on growing Fruit Trees in Small Gardens and a free catalogue with helpful information.

      Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery have a wealth of information on dwarf and most fruit trees and a great blog with videos and more. You can buy direct and no doubt find some helpful tips there including from other gardeners growing in different regions and spaces.

      Check out the Espalier technique for growing fruit trees in small spaces too in this Vertical Gardens article.

      Let me know where you are located and I’ll try to help you further if I have local resources or contacts – I keep a list of suppliers for when I do workshops to help people find out where to source their edibles.

      Hope this helps.
      Cheers, Anne

  2. The Micro Gardener April 28, 2011 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Hi Tuan

    Thanks for sharing a little more about your climate and garden. I now live in the sub-tropics but lived in the tropics in Vanuatu in the Pacific for 2 years and can appreciate the climate and weather you are dealing with. All is not lost! My first tip is to WORK WITH NATURE! Accept you have a hot wet climate and grow plants that love it! You will have less pest problems if you grow plants suited to the location they live in. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in gardening.

    Some tropical vegies that do well in hot wet summers and climates here are Amaranth, Angled luffa (eat when young), Bitter Melon, Ceylon/Malabar Spinach, Egyptian Spinach, Jicama/Climbing Yam Bean, Kangkong, New Guinea Bean, Perilla ‘Purple’ and ‘Green’, ‘Purple Flowered’ Choy and Shungiku. Some of these may not be suited to a high rise apartment but see if you can find some of these where you live and choose what you have space to grow. Ask your garden or nursery supplier for advice on your local growing conditions.

    If you have a balcony space, you can use vertical space wisely such as with trellises, wall brackets and hanging baskets so you make the most of the walls, balcony railing and ceiling. If not, then use your kitchen and any other sunny windowsill to grow edibles – some tolerate shade more than others (see my eBook on Small Gardens under ‘Shady Characters.’)

    A quick comment on the ‘pests’ you mention. Dragonflies love water and are actually beneficial insects that I welcome to my garden. They may hover nearby if there is water because they lay their young in it but also consume insects that can cause you problems so attracting them to your micro garden is a good thing to do! Butterflies perform a pollinating role (helping flowers to become fruit so you get to enjoy your crops) however, part of their life cycle is the caterpillar stage so you may need to keep an eye out for those mamas who lay eggs on your edible leaves. They are very considerate mothers, only laying on varieties they know their babies will love to eat so they just hatch out and open their mouths wide! Just rub your finger gently over any tiny eggs laid on the underside of the leaves to remove them. Plant diseases occur in unhealthy soils so if you work on your soil health, you will generally have healthy disease resistant plants.

    Now for your bean sprout project! Click on the link on this page above the photo of the sprouts and it will take you to the instructions for growing sprouts successfully.

    Oyster Mushroom kits are available here in Australia from http://www.fungi.net.au – I have grown one of these quite successfully in my bathroom! You get two flushes of mushrooms generally. They like a moist humid environment but come with instructions. Try contacting the Mushroom Association Malaysia to find out where to buy a kit locally at http://mushroomassociationmalaysia.blogspot.com/.

    Hope this all helps. Happy growing Tuan.
    Anne

  3. Tuan Zubaidah April 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne

    Thank you for your quick response.

    Your project sounds so interesting especially when you are reaping the harvests from your very own pot on the trolley. I can picture you having your meals with instant and healthy salad made of freshly picked baby spinach, lettuce leaves and baby tomatoes. I must say that beautiful climate and weather is a vital factor to the success of every gardener. You are lucky to have 4 seasons in your country.

    The problem here in Malaysia is the hot, rainy and humid climate almost all the year round which makes small kitchen gardening very challenging and especially when it is high up in the air. Then one has to cope with pests like worms, dragon flies, butterflies and plant disease. I wish I can overcome all these problems.

    Meanwhile, I will not lose hope and would like to start with bean sprouts this week-end. Perhaps you could give me some tips on that . What about oyster mushrooms? How do I start that?

    Warm Regards,
    Tuan

  4. Tuan Zubaidah April 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    These ideas are breathtaking! I live in a condominium and think all these while that it is impossible to have a small kitchen garden on the 18th Floor.

    Now I am so excited about this. I am going to start it right here very soon. In about 2 years from now I will move to my new cottage home with a small plot of land at the back of the kitchen.

    I bet your ideas and the experience I will have will make my dream come true.

    TZ

    • The Micro Gardener April 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Tuan

      So glad you have found a little inspiration here! Tiny spaces mean less work and are very productive! Just tonight I have harvested rocket, baby spinach and lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes and some herbs from one pot (I call it my Meals on Wheels as it is a pot on a trolley!) for a yummy organic salad.

      Please feel free to ask for help if you need it. Gardeners love sharing the journey with others. My advice is “Start Small, but have Big Dreams!” You are already visualising where you will be and that’s great but make the most of your small space now with some simple but good design principles that help you make the most of the space you have. There are lots of ideas on the blog to help you do this. You will also find lots of other helpful and frugal gardening tips in the free eBook if you send your email online. I am sure this would be a big help to get you started with your first project. I share my recipes for making your own potting mix and fertilisers in it too.

      Please stay in touch and let me know how you progress!

      Happy gardening,
      Anne

  5. Merry Gardener March 21, 2011 at 10:04 am - Reply

    I LOVE these ideas! You make very good use of limited space. Your thrifty use of tiny spaces (i.e. the dog enclosure) inspires me to take a good look around my yard for lost opportunities to plant.
    Thank You for the ideas

    Merry Gardener 🙂

    • The Micro Gardener March 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Merry

      Thanks for the positive feedback and glad the ideas gave you some inspiration! Great to see you are growing a kitchen garden in New York! It will be great to share ideas.

      There are so many options for growing edibles, colour and ornamentals even in the tiniest spaces. Implementing good design principles and with a little creative thinking and recycling, it’s amazing just how beautiful and productive gardens can be. I make good use of every vertical space I have at my own place. Sometimes that means using a trellis, tepee, fence or side wall of a building or structure but these would otherwise be wasted space. I’d rather have a productive edible garden or colourful flowering vine adorning these spaces. Some other good ways to use vertical space well are tiered planters and hanging baskets – you can see some great pictures on the Inspirational Small Gardens Ideas page.

      Hope you come back to visit again soon.

      Happy planting!
      Anne

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