Eating farm-to-table is simply a few steps away when you grow a kitchen garden.
You don’t need a large backyard to grow your own produce. While it’s true okra and corn belong in the traditional vegetable garden, smaller plants, like lettuces and herbs, are quite adaptable to kitchen gardens. Most plants need a good dose of daily sunshine, so be sure you have the right spot to put your pots before you go to the trouble of buying seeds, soil, and containers. With a lot of sun and a little luck, in no time at all you will be harvesting your own carrots and herbs for your fresh salads and making fabulous pesto with all the basil.
You will need a packet of carrot seeds and a pot or window box that is about 18” deep and wide. Leaving an inch space at the top, fill the container with a good quality potting soil and water the soil before planting seeds. Place seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other, press the seeds into the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Water again and place the container in an area that receives a lot of light. Keep the soil moist until germination, which takes about two weeks. Carrots are ready for harvest when they have grown to about ¾ of an inch across the top Brush aside some soil from around the stem so you can see the top of the carrot and size it up. To pick a carrot, grab it at the root wiggle the carrot around a bit and pull it straight up. Brush off any excess dirt and let them dry before storing them in the fridge.
Purchase a variety of seeds, such as radishes, basil, kale, and beets. Fill a shallow tray or pot with potting mix, and moisten the soil with water (just dampen, don’t drench). Sprinkle the seeds over the soil – they can be close, but not touching. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and mist with water. Place the tray in a sunny spot in a room that will stay warm, and mist the soil daily. The seeds will germinate in about three to five days. At this point, keep the soil moist at the roots, avoid getting the tiny leaves wet, and make sure the seedlings get as much sunlight as possible. Microgreens can be harvested once the seedlings have grown to one or two inches in height and have a couple of sets leaves. Use a pair of small scissors to cut off the leaves and, to guarantee multiple harvests, be careful not to damage the roots. Store the microgreens in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you purchase starter plants, fill a planter box with potting soil and plant according to the container instructions. If you are using seeds, push seeds down into the soil using your finger and pat the soil back over the seeds to cover them, and water the soil. When seedlings appear from the seeds, weed out the smallest weakest sprouts. Keep the soil moist to the touch. To harvest mixed greens, simply pull off the outer leaves, as much as you need at the time. This allows the plants to keep growing. Be careful and don’t disturb the roots.
Whether you use a starter plant or start from seeds, choose a container that is at least four inches wide. Basil loves warm temperatures and lots of sunlight. Don’t let the soil dry out – depending on how warm your kitchen gets and how much sun the plant is exposed to, you may need to water once a day. When the top leaves reach about six inches in height, start pruning the plant, and continue to prune so the plant grows out, not just up. Pinch off any flowers that appear. Snip off a few leaves as needed for your cooking, but make sure you never remove all of the leaves from one single stalk.
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To begin growing chives indoors, fill a 6-inch clay pot with a quality potting soil that has been pre-moistened. Sprinkle seeds over the soil and cover with a fine layer of soil. Keep chives in a sunny location and keep moist until germination, which usually occurs in two weeks. Chives enjoy low humidity, so mist the growing plants with water on a regular basis. When you are ready to harvest, cut the leaves, or “scapes,” down to 1 or 2 inches above the soil. Fresh chives can be dried or frozen for later use.