The Difference Between a Kitchen Garden & a Vegetable Garden
When you picture a garden, you may see row after row of corn, dozens of tomato plants, and probably a ton of back-breaking work.
And while that is a garden, that's not really representative of a kitchen garden. Not the rows and rows, not the digging and endless work. That's more of what I call a vegetable garden, a veggie patch, or a row garden.
Those types of gardens are great, but for many of us, they're just too much. Too much work. Too much land required. Too much of one food to even think of eating!
So, if that's what you're picturing when you hear the word garden, it could be what's holding you back from taking the first step to call yourself "gardener." You've been mislead to believe you're either a farmer clad in overalls with a hoe permanently in hand, or you're a plant killer.
The good news is, there is a garden setup for people in between who want to grow some (but not all) of their own food. Enter the kitchen garden.
What is the importance of a kitchen garden?
The kitchen garden is a small-scale version of the vegetable garden that enables you to experience the magic of growing and enjoying some of your own homegrown herbs, greens, and vegetables, but that gives you the convenience of requiring just a few minutes or hours of your time each week.
The kitchen garden allows you to garden in order to live a better life; not garden to live or even necessarily live to garden. It's more than possible to fit a kitchen garden into an already busy lifestyle and make gardening an ordinary part of your daily or weekly routine.
The four components that, when considered together, define a kitchen garden are:
A kitchen garden is relatively small, ranging from 25 to 250 square feet, while a vegetable garden could be huge and sprawling, with thousands of square feet of growing space.
Because you'll be harvesting from the kitchen garden often—just before meals, as you pack lunches in the early morning, or while making an herb topping for dinner—you'll want the kitchen garden close by. In fact, right outside your backdoor is ideal.
Because you're picking from it regularly, you're also tending it too. The kitchen garden is designed to be lightly tended on a daily or weekly basis. This isn't heavy lifting, just a little pruning here, a little planting there, again and again throughout the growing season.
The kitchen garden exists to feed you, to help you relax, and to give you a constant source of discovery. Think of it as an extension of your living room, your gym, or your yoga mat. It's a place to go to unwind from the day and awaken all your senses. You'll hear bees buzzing and birds flying overhead; you'll feel the wind, the soft leaves, and the tender flowers; you'll smell the sweet marigolds and peppery arugula and summery basil. And of course, you'll taste the incomparable flavor of just-harvested greens and tomatoes and all things vegetable, and you'll never be able to look at produce from the grocery store the same again.
What is grown in a kitchen garden?
A kitchen garden is a space to grow herbs, leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit for everyday use inside the kitchen, plus some beautiful (and oftentimes edible flowers for the pollinators). Rather than grow a lot of one thing, I like to grow many different types of leaves and veggies in my raised bed kitchen garden so that there's always something to harvest, to take inside and enjoy right away.
Here are some of my favorite herbs to grow in my kitchen garden:
Here are some of my favorite leafy greens to grow in my kitchen garden:
Explore our list of top 10 salad greens to grow in the garden.
Fruits and vegetables
Here are some of my favorite vegetables (and fruits used like vegetables) to grow in my kitchen garden:
Here are some of my favorite flowers to grow in my kitchen garden:
(Learn how to grow each of these and other members of their plant families inside the Kitchen Garden Academy.)
what are the kitchen garden essentials?
There are four main structures of a kitchen garden that I discuss in Kitchen Garden Revival.
the four structures of a kitchen garden
one - raised beds
Raised beds allow you to provide the most ideal growing conditions for your plants without having to spend years amending the soil where you live. Read more why raised beds are better for gardening. This ebook walks you through building your own Gardenary-style raised beds step by step. Before you get started, check out these mistakes to avoid when building your raised beds.
two - trellises
When you have climbing vines growing, trellises provide essential support, and when your garden is covered in snow in the winter, trellises provide vertical interest. Explore different types of trellises and the benefits of each for your outdoor space.
three - borders
Borders help to make your kitchen garden a distinct area of your outdoor space, in addition to deterring weeds.
four - pathways
Pathways ensure you can easily walk around your garden. You don't want to go outside to harvest some basil, only to step in mud, right?
In addition to these structures, you'll need good soil, four to six hours of sunlight, a watering method, and of course, your plants. (You can find more information for all of these essential garden elements, plus in-depth how-to's, in our Kitchen Garden Academy.)
what are the different types of kitchen gardens?
I describe five tried-and-true designs for kitchen gardens that my company Rooted Garden uses again and again in Kitchen Garden Revival. Your space and gardening goals will determine which layout is best for you.
The five classic garden layouts are:
This fits into any space. Explore more elegant border gardens we installed for Rooted Garden.
Twin gardens appeal to our love of symmetry and allow you to maximize your growing space.
There's the rule of three in interior design for a reason, right?
This design is perfect for large spaces that are square or nearly so.
A formal potager is like the Rolls Royce of kitchen gardens. Discover more about this beautiful layout here.
Because a kitchen garden doesn't have to be huge or require intensive tending, I'm convinced there's a way for just about everyone to have some form of a kitchen garden—growing a little of their own food for the experience and joy of adding small harvests to their everyday meals.
A kitchen garden, to me, is representative of many of the small pleasures in life. Come to think of it, my kitchen garden is my favorite part of my home. It makes cooking so much more fun and gives me a spot to "get away" in my own backyard.
With four kids and my own business, I don't have the energy or time to tend a vegetable garden at this stage in my life. The kitchen garden affords me all the benefits of gardening without the back-breaking work or hassle.
If you're on the fence about starting a garden, I hope this distinction gives you insight and encouragement that you don't have to live like a farmer in order to have a garden. The kitchen garden really is possible for all of us, and I'm excited to grow with you in your own gardening journey this year.
ready to get started with your own kitchen garden?
No matter your lifestyle, your outdoor space, or your gardening ability, there's a kitchen garden that works for you. Here at Gardenary, we've got all the resources you need to design, build, plan, plant, and tend your own kitchen garden. You can:
read more about kitchen gardens
Learn three essential things to consider before building your raised beds for a kitchen garden.
grab my books for detailed step by steps
contact a garden consultant to help you
Search our business directory to find the garden coach nearest to you. This person will be an expert in kitchen gardening in your particular area, which makes them an invaluable resource for beginner and intermediate gardeners.
work with a virtual kitchen garden designer
We have designers who can view your space over video and design a garden for you based on your location, outdoor layout, and gardening goals. In addition to the design, you'll get garden bed dimensions and materials needed to complete your new kitchen garden, a shopping list, installation details, information about your growing seasons and plant recommendations for each season, and garden tending tips.
enroll in the Kitchen Garden Academy
Learn all the details of kitchen garden set up, planting, tending, and harvesting for every season of the year inside our online course, Kitchen Garden Academy. You'll receive eight modules of garden instruction and access to a private community for support and encouragement as you grow your knowledge.
Whether you're ready for a small container herb garden or a full kitchen garden with four raised beds, don't grow alone. We're here to help you make gardening an ordinary part of your daily or weekly routine.
Thanks so much for growing with me!
Kitchen Garden Academy
Want a Step by Step Guide for Your Raised Bed Vegetable Garden from a Garden Designer Who Knows Just What You Need? Then you're going to love Kitchen Garden Academy, an Online Video Course that teaches new(ish) gardeners how to design and create beautiful raised bed kitchen gardens and grow the most productive organic plants.