By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
In years past when families depended on a garden for their survival, the gardens were sometimes large and not convenient to the house. Many people also had a small kitchen garden that was just outside the back door, also called a Potager Garden. Small quantities of fruit, vegetables and herbs that were used often in the kitchen were grown there. Some people added flowers which could be cut and used in the house.
To begin your own kitchen garden, pick a site close to your kitchen with well-drained soil and full sun. Of course, you will need water available too. Start small. Pick a few of your family’s favorites. Once you have success you will probably want to expand next year.
I started out with a simple “salad garden” in a 4’ x 4’ bed just outside my back door. I planted a tomato plant, lettuce, swiss chard, and about 15 onions. Some of the greens will produce 20-30 days after planting. By mid-summer I was able to pick what I needed for a salad and everything continued to produce until the first freeze. Often times I didn’t need the whole onion so I just cut a few tops off, leaving the onion for a later salad or stew.
The next year I added another 4’ x 4’ bed containing my favorite herbs. Dill, Basil, Cilantro and my all time favorite, Salad Burnet. Salad Burnet is a wonderful herb which grows well in West Texas and tastes just like fresh cucumber. I also have a free standing pot with mint. Master Gardener Warning: Mint is very invasive and should be kept in a pot or otherwise contained.
This garden also planted the seed of a great idea. Since I was tripping over the hose used to water my kitchen garden, I started keeping a one gallon ice cream bucket by my sink. Whenever I wash vegetables, rinse dishes or have to wash an egg from my chickens, I let the gray water drain into the bucket. When it is full, I simply step out the back door and water my little garden. Not only did I not send the plastic bucket to the landfill but I am recycling water to produce food. It’s a win-win situation.
Remember, the easier it is to access, the more tempted you will be to step out and pick something healthy for your table.
Please contact the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.