Returning to Our Roots // What To Plant in your Kitchen Garden

Hi, friends! I've been thinking a bit about our kitchen garden recently and also not thinking about it because I know there is a lot to learn. Like, a lot. I've been picking up books here and there at the library, purchasing some when I'm at the hardware store, trying to wrap my mind around, "Okay. What else do I need to do other than cut out beds and put some seeds in them?" Right? Gardening sounds so simple, and in some ways, I think it is because the average person can manage to grow some healthy tomatoes and peppers, yes? If you've been following our kitchen garden journey, you know that most of our ideas so far are just talk. We plan to have a full kitchen garden, greenhouse, and small chicken coop equipped with 3-4 chickens. It's the dream that we plan to make a reality! With that comes lots of research and careful planning, which we are not experts in, and I will never claim to be, at least not yet. 
With this idea sitting in your mind, we want this journey to be one that others can follow along to and learn with us. This way you can experience our failures and essentially be a better gardener all around! So when I sat down two weeks ago and began reading and wondering what the hell do I even plant? and where? and how?! I started to get a little nervous because all I could see in my various gardening books was nitrogen, potassium, succession planting, crop rotation, plant families, etc. It was overwhelming! And I am still currently overwhelmed on the process of making your soil rich in nutrients by using fertilizers and potassium and nitrogen because... well, we didn't do that yet. We also did even cut our plot yet. And I am curious if that will hurt us for the upcoming growing season, or if our soil is already fairly rich all on its own. From what we've seen, it's doing alright, and that's part of the experience. 

Before you start planting, it's good to find yourself a planting calendar and journal. This will be your friend all year long while you plan where and when to plant your crops as well as tracking their days until maturity. A planting calendar will keep track of the dates of the final frost in spring and the first frost in fall for your area. These dates can be found in an almanac, your county's extension service, or on the internet. I am hoping to receive The Freckled Hen Farmhouse's Planting Calendar this year for Christmas! Hint, hint! A planting calendar can also tell you the best days to plant specific crops, which would be really helpful to someone like me! When you keep your own calendar + journal, make sure to mark the dates when you plant a crop and when it reaches maturity. This is also a great space to track down heavy rainfall and other significant events like extreme weather.

The next thing to learn is your season. Again, learn when your last frost and first frost dates are. The space between these two dates is your growing season and will determine when to plant long-season crops like pumpkins or winter squash. Or maybe you want to squeeze in a late planting and garden through the fall! When you know your season, you should learn the amount of days to maturity of your plants. This is the amount of days until your plant can produce something harvestable. If you plant too soon, it will take longer for the crop to bear fruit. While if you plant too late in the season, your crop will mature too quickly. 

So now you know when to plant your crops, but the next questions are what and where. We have a general idea of the plot of our kitchen garden. We will have ten beds, which can equal out to a lot of room for crops. When discussing what kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs we want growing in our garden we all have lots of ideas! The possibilities are endless, but we also know that we should start small. It might become overwhelming if we plant every single vegetable we can think of in our first garden. So that moved me to the question of where can I plant certain vegetables

When it comes to crop rotation and interplanting, there is much to learn. Rotating crops every year, which is planting certain vegetables in a different bed in the next growing season, can minimize bug problems and maximize soil fertility. Some vegetables, like legumes, release more nutrients into the soil than they take, which makes them a great crop to rotate and set up the soil for leafy crops in the next year. There are four types of crops: leafy crops, fruit crops, root crops, and legumes. A great rotation program is leaf/fruit/root/legume. This is a perfect four year plan that leaves room for soil nutrition and less thinking for the gardener. Every year, rotate these plantings.

Another great thing to learn when it comes to rotation + interplanting (mixing families) is plant families. Most gardeners rotate their plants based on plant relationships. Some plants should not be planted together, while other do well sharing a bed. If you plant fast-growing crops amidst slower ones and smaller crops among larger ones, you will have a happy garden. Cabbages and broccoli can be surround by onions and spring greens. Onions are smaller and grow quickly, leaving more room for the broccoli and cabbage to grow, as they mature more slowly. Or you could grow lettuce close to the tomatoes, as when the tomatoes get large, it's generally time to cut the lettuce. This is a great way to practice succession gardening! When you harvest a mature head of lettuce, you can transplant a lettuce seedling to its place. Click here to read more on plant families!

That was a lot of planting information! And now that I've written it all out for a second time, I am feeling a bit more confident in my knowledge on what, when, and how to plant our vegetables in this upcoming growing season. I am so excited to begin caring for seedlings in our greenhouse! It will be so fun to watch our garden grow from start to finish and eat the delicious benefits. I hope this helped inspire you try your hand at your own garden! You can do it!

xoxo Kayla