Have you noticed more vegetable gardens in backyards lately? I have. Rough economic times combined with concerns over the industrialized food system have lead more people to grow food themselves. While a large family garden is a wonderful way to grow and preserve, a small kitchen garden right outside the door is great for those fresh ingredients that get harvested as needed. For me that includes things like kale, lettuce, parsley, basil, and chives. Instead of harvesting them regularly, I just run out and grab a handful when I need them. Now that’s fresh food! I can guarantee that I will be running out to the kitchen garden barefoot at least once on Thanksgiving day.
At my fall gardening class, I covered the basic method of lasagna gardening. This is a no-till method of gardening that builds the soil and slowly adds nutrients and involves layering paper, natural brown materials (like dry leaves), and green materials (like fallen leaves and grass clippings). I have heard that power tilling is like creating an earthquake, hurricane and tornado all at once in the soil environment. This destruction breaks down important bonds and destroys microbes that break down nutrients so they are able to be absorbed by our plants. The secret to healthy plants and nutrient dense produce starts with building and sustaining a healthy soil environment. Even if none of that matters to you, consider using this method because it doesn’t require the purchase or physical effort of a power tiller.
Starting a small kitchen garden is very simple.
1. Lay one layer of cardboard, 5 layers of newspaper, or 2 layers of paper bags on your desired garden spot.
2. Top with layers of brown and green materials. This includes wood chips, grass clippings, pine needles, straw, or leaves to sit over the winter undisturbed.
3. Water the area well.
4. For spring planting, dig through the layers, do not remove them. Add more mulch as needed.
5. In spring, add soil amendments as needed according to your soil test.
By March you should have a nice patch of aerated, moist garden soil in which to plant those “dash and harvest” herbs and veggies. This method can be used any time of year to create new beds, expand old beds, or recover overgrown or neglected garden areas.