Nothing compares to the taste of freshly made salsa, pasta sauce, soup or a beautiful salad from your very own garden!
With nothing more than a tiny plot of backyard space or a sunny patio – you can easily create and grow your own personal chef’s simple garden to enjoy all of those healthy dishes.
With the right selection and combination of veggie plants, a small raised bed for salad crops, and a few select potted herbs – you can be whipping up fresh salsa, serving your own homemade pasta sauce, creating incredible soups and serving up beautiful salads all summer long!
Creating a simple garden is not only a perfect way to get into gardening on a manageable scale – but a great way to supply your family with fresh, great tasting, home-grown produce!
The best part – you can create a low maintenance garden without a lot of cash or hassle – and we have all the information below to get you ready to roll! Here’s how:
Creating A Simple Garden Fit For A Chef!
Choose The Right Location:
Whether growing directly in the soil or on a patio in containers – to you need to choose a sunny location for your garden. Plants such as tomatoes and peppers need at least 8 hours of sun a day to grow to reach peak size and flavor.
Choose The Right Plants:
The key to creating a low maintenance simple garden is to plant varieties of tomatoes and peppers that are compact in size, produce high yields – and burst with flavor! We have highlighted some of the best plants below that fit the bill!
Productive, compact and meaty paste varieties work extremely well in a simple garden – and ultimately – the kitchen! Our favorites for salsa and sauce are paste varieties such as Roma, Amish Paste, and San Marzano. It just so happens that they are also incredible for salads and soups! They produce heavily – so two to three plants give good yields all summer long.
In addition to the paste styles, add a cherry salad tomato into the mix. They are prolific producers,, so one good plant can provide plenty – they are also the perfect choice to add in with sauces and pasta sauce for a little juice and flavor. Our favorite is the Chocolate Cherry heirloom variety – it’s rich blend provides tons of flavor and color to any dish!
While you’re at it – throw in a low acid tomato such as the Orange Valencia or Yellow Taxi for color and balance. These are a good blending tomato to balance flavor in all of the above dishes — not to mention add great color to salads!
Again, selection is the key when it comes to peppers. Choose plants that have multiple uses. A jalapeno is great for heat and flavor, and a sweet mini variety like lunchbox or mini belles are perfect for adding a little sweetness and flash to salsa and sauce. Add in a sweet-heat variety like Cajun Belle or Cherry Bomb – and you have all of your bases covered. As an added bonus – all of the varieties above are perfect for fresh eating, or for stuffing for appetizers with everything from cream cheese to rice and meat.
We are always asked where we purchase seeds – some of our favorites for all of the varieties listed in the article are Seed Savers, Baker Creek Seeds, Johnny’s and Patriot Supply.
A Basic Raised Bed For Salad Crops
A small raised bed is the perfect choice for crops that require planting and harvesting salad crops like lettuce, carrots, radishes, spring onions, spinach and kale.
For plants such as these – there is no need for a deep soil base. A regular 2 x 6 framing board is more than enough to create a growing medium deep enough to grow all season long – and the raised beds keep plants tidy and weeding to a minimum.
It takes just two 2 x 6 x 8′ boards (around $5 each) and a few bags of potting soil to create two raised beds that are 4′ long x 18″ wide – more than enough to keep you in salads all spring summer and fall. (See : Creating Simple Raised Beds)
Salad crops can continue to be sown in new rows as one is used to keep an ongoing supply all summer!
Our favorites for lettuce are Paris Island, Black Simpson and Mini Butter Crunch.
A Few Pots For Kitchen Herbs
To round out your chef’s garden and to add spice and depth to your salsa, sauces and soups – you need to add a few herbs to your growing scheme. Herbs such as oregano, cilantro, basil and parsley can easily be grown in pots – and are a cinch to take care of. Oregano can even be brought inside and kept as a perennial from year to year. We like growing herbs in pots because they take up little space, are easy to maintain – and can be placed on a patio or porch for the perfect aromatic decoration See : All About Growing Herbs
Setting Up A Chef’s Simple Garden – Traditional or Patio Style
The good news is that whether you decide to grow your chef’s garden in containers or a more traditional garden setting – all of the above varieties are perfect matches!
We have provided two small garden layouts – one for patio containers and the other for a more traditional garden space. Both can fit in a space as little as 10 x 10′ – and can provide for a family of four.
Traditional Garden Row Method
With a basic raised row garden, you can grow 8 tomato and pepper plants along with space for your salad crops such as lettuce, carrots, spring onions, spinach and more. There is no need to till with a raised row garden – just one of the many benefits of growing with this method. With a little straw and topsoil, you can create the necessary 10 x 10 garden on top of existing soil and follow the plan. Raised rows are a great way to get into gardening!
For complete details on setting up Raised Rows – check out our page : Basics of Raised Row Gardening
Grow Boxes / Containers
If a patio garden is your method of choice – check out our diy container grow boxes. The grow boxes are attractive, have their own built-in trellis system – and you can use a standard 5 gallon bucket as a liner! All can be built inexpensively from standard framing lumber or for free from pallets. See : Creating DIY Grow Boxes
So get that chef’s simple garden planned and ready – and you’ll be cooking fresh in no time at all!
We will leave you with some of our favorite recipes from our chef garden:
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary
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