Imagine harvesting a basket of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables from your own backyard this fall… Potatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce, blueberries… As more and more people focus on their food miles and food heritage, having a kitchen garden is becoming fashionable once more. Not only is it cheaper and more convenient than a trip to the grocery store, but “growing your own” produces fresh food that is free from artificial hormones or pesticides and more nutritious than the store-bought alternative.
After an initial investment of time and materials you can create a kitchen garden that will feed you and your family for years to come. It may seem like a daunting task, but it’s much simpler than you may think. Here are my top tips for a successful kitchen garden in your backyard.
If your space is limited and a kitchen garden would take up too much valuable play space then you need a creative alternative. Raised planters or repurposed containers filled with herbs and vegetables. Raised bed gardens are well-suited to urban areas where outdoor space is tight and are easier to control than large garden plots. Tomatoes grow really well in large sunny containers, but how about lettuce in a hanging planter? Salads always taste best when they are fresh from the garden and you’ll have no excuse with a beautiful planter hanging from your patio pergola filled with gorgeous frilled and colourful leaves. Multipurpose planters can then be repurposed in the fall and winter as storage for cosy blankets or outdoor lighting. If your carpentry skills aren’t up to scratch consult with a professional carpenter to design something custom to suit your backyard space. For renters or condo dwellers this is a great way of individualising an outside space with something portable. If you have to move house you can take it with you.
It’s really important to choose the right type of material to grow food in. When building raised planters, avoid those tar covered railroad ties and other types of wood that use harmful toxins. Up until recently, the most common material for a raised bed vegetable garden was western redwood cedar, known for its natural rot-resistant properties but new products like MicroPro Sienna, a pressure-treated wood, is both environmentally friendly and durable making it perfect for outdoor projects. It’s also about half the price of traditional cedar. Sienna is the only treated wood product to be certified as an Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP), among several other environmental designations, so it’s an eco-friendly alternative that won’t leech toxins into the soil, resulting in delicious and nutritious produce. It’s rot resistant, so it can stand up to thirsty plants, and its beautiful warm brown colour means no initial staining! What you want to avoid is chemically treated products like green or brown pressure treated lumber that can potentially leach harmful elements into your food.
If it’s your first attempt, try planting herbs only, such as basil, sage and chives that will give any dish a flavourful boost. Tomato, bean and lettuce plants are very resilient and good choices for first-time gardeners. Also, a pro tip is planting a few annuals alongside your vegetables to drive pollination – there’s no reason why your kitchen garden shouldn’t be pleasing to the eye as well as nutritious!
It’s important to choose a good quality garden soil, rich in nutrients and organic materials. It will lay the foundation for an abundant harvest. When it comes to gardens you really do get out what you put in. Try to control and maximise growth by following the spacing recommendations and give larger fruits and vegetables that grow from vines a dedicated area so they can spread without choking off neighbouring plants. You can even use a glass lid overnight to keep warmth in and pests out. Water will evaporate more quickly from a raised planter so make sure you don’t go longer than three days without watering during a dry spell. Lining your planter with a coconut hair mat can also help retain moisture. Regular misting will help to deter pests.
Space to gather
Finally, you will need somewhere to gather and enjoy all your homegrown produce. Create a natural gathering space in your backyard by investing in a deck this summer. Most people want spaces that are easy to maintain, and they want to maximize their opportunity for outdoor living. A beautiful deck, with planters and stylish furniture is also a solid way to add value to your home. My checklist for a great deck: healthy plants, night lighting and multi-use furniture that will see you through the seasons.
Nothing beats the satisfaction of eating food you grew yourself, knowing that your food is safe because you planted it. It’s also a fantastic family activity and learning experience for younger children. Enjoy your harvest!
Often billed as Canada’s Favourite Handyman, Chris Palmer has quickly become a household name through his thoughtful and creative DIYs. With a strong focus on handcrafted woodwork, Chris has turned his passion into a career – creating custom projects through his company “Handcrafted by Chris Palmer”. He made his national debut on the hit HGTV show Canada’s Handyman Challenge, and is now a regular guest expert on the Global Morning Show in Toronto.