Why head to the grocery store when you could step right out to your backyard and harvest your own fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits? There’s nothing quite like growing your own fresh, flavorful produce right at home. I know you’ve thought of it… so consider this your sign to start a kitchen garden!

Whether you have a spacious backyard or a kitchen window to garden in, you can grow your own incredible incredible, fresh ingredients right at home. I promise! So, where do you start? In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about how to start a kitchen garden. Ready to learn? Grab your gardening gloves – let’s dig in!

collage of photos from my kitchen garden with a text overlay readying "how to start a kitchen garden in 10 easy steps!"

What is a Kitchen Garden?

A kitchen garden is a space specifically designed for growing a variety of edible plants, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Unlike traditional gardens focused solely on ornamental plants, a kitchen garden integrates practicality and aesthetics, offering a convenient source of fresh, flavorful produce just steps away from the kitchen. 

A kitchen garden isn’t quite the same as a regular vegetable garden. For most people, a vegetable garden delivers large amounts of produce, which can be canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved. Most kitchen gardens, however, focus on growing just enough for you and your family to enjoy right as it’s harvested.

1. Choose a Location

Before you start a kitchen garden, the first thing you’ll need to do is select a good location in your yard. The main considerations when choosing a spot are as follows: 

  • Sunlight
  • Convenience/accessibility
  • Soil quality

The most important of these is sunlight because that one is the hardest to make up for if not accounted for properly. Past the basics, the best place for your kitchen is the one that works for you!


Your kitchen garden will thrive in a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight. However, some of my favorite vegetables, like kale, for instance, can thrive in shade. If you only have partial shade, consider creating a salad garden as many greens can thrive in, or even prefer partial shade.


For convenience and practicality, consider placing your kitchen garden in a spot that’s easy to access from your kitchen and that is close to a water source for easy watering. 

Soil Quality

Soil considerations are most important if you opt for in-ground garden beds. Avoid areas prone to waterlogging to ensure good drainage. If you have compacted or heavy clay soil, you may want to opt for raised beds instead. 

collecting soil for a soil test

Know your soil type- while you can grow in a wide variety of soil, it can help address specific plants’ needs if you know what type of soil you have. For a detailed analysis, opt for a soil test. However, you can determine whether you have loose, sandy soil, loamy soil, or clay soil fairly easily on your own. Here’s a quick summary according to NOAA:

  • “If it holds its shape but crumbles when you give it a light poke, it is loamy soil. This is the best soil for plants.
  • If it holds its shape and doesn’t respond to being gently poked, then it is clay soil, which is nutrient rich but dense.
  • If it falls apart as soon as you open your hand, it is sandy soil.”

Alternative Locations

If your yard seems to lack a good location for a kitchen garden, all hope is not lost! Remember, even if you don’t have much space, small spaces like balconies or small plants can also be utilized efficiently. If you’re short on space, it might be worth exploring vertical gardening and edible landscaping ideas to maximize the usable area you have. 

2. Plan Your Kitchen Garden Size and Layout

Now that you know where to put it, it’s time to design your kitchen garden!

Start by determining the size of your kitchen garden. Of course, you’ll be limited by the overall space you have to work with. Beyond that, start by thinking about how much you cook at home, and how much work you’re willing to put into growing your own produce. This is important because you don’t want to create unnecessary work for yourself.

Divide the space into sections based on the types of plants you wish to grow. You might want separate areas for herbs, vegetables, and fruits, for instance. Consider companion planting, placing mutually beneficial plants together to maximize growth and deter pests. Marigold, for example, is one of the best companion plants for a wide variety of vegetables. We always have it planted throughout the garden.

marigold flowers with a butterfly on them

You can get as formal as you want with your design process, or simply lay out a few garden beds to start! Here are some elements you may want to consider both for aesthetic and practical purposes:

  • Pathways: for easy access and maintenance
  • Flowers: use flowers both for aesthetics as well as to invite beneficial insects and pollinators like butterflies into your garden
  • Height considerations: Plan to put the tallest plants in the middle of the garden bed so that they do not block access from smaller plants
  • Garden structures: some plants, like tomatoes and peas, require structures on which to grow. If you plan ahead, these can be excellent design features to enhance your culinary garden aesthetic.

Ideas for a Small Space Kitchen Garden

One of the best things about a kitchen garden is that you don’t need a lot of space to make it work. You can create an incredible small vegetable garden by exploring creative solutions such as utilizing vertical spaces, hanging planters, or creating tiered garden beds. 

Optimize every corner by adding plants into existing structures or use compact gardening techniques like interplanting, where you utilize every bit of space by planting small plants like radishes in free soil space next to larger ones. Use pots, buckets, or even repurposed containers to grow herbs, vegetables, and small fruit varieties. Vertical gardening systems, like wall-mounted planters or trellises, provide additional growing areas, perfect for climbing plants such as peas, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes.

snow pea growing on a trellis

For those aiming to grow vertically in limited spaces, our post on vertical vegetable garden Ideas might offer the perfect solution. And if you’re venturing into growing tomatoes, our guide on growing tomatoes in pots is a must-read to ensure you get juicy, ripe tomatoes even with a small space.

3. Test your Soil and Amend it Accordingly

If you opt for a raised bed kitchen garden, this step will be less important as you will likely fill your beds with garden soil. However, if you design an in-ground garden or plan to inter-plant with your landscaping, soil testing is very important! 

gathering soil for a soil test

Food-producing plants require a lot of nutrients in the soil to produce healthy, flavorful vegetables. Furthermore, many different plants require specific levels of nutrients in order to thrive. A professional soil test is likely the best option, but if you’re in a hurry, you can pick up a basic, DIY version at the garden center. While less thorough and accurate, they’re a good way to get a quick look into your soil health. These can be a bit finicky, so be sure to check out our guide on how to use at-home soil tests for some tips to make the process go smoothly!

soil testing kit results

4. What to Grow When You Start a Kitchen Garden

Choosing what to grow in your kitchen garden is the most exciting step so far! Remember that the whole point of this garden is to be delicious, so don’t bother growing anything you don’t want to eat. Based on your personal preferences, try starting with a mix of herbs, leafy greens, and other vegetables. Almanac has great ideas for creating themed kitchen gardens to match your food preferences- I love the idea of a salsa garden!

In general, it’s best to choose plants that don’t take up a lot of space and produce well. You want your kitchen garden to be as productive as possible, and to do so, you can’t let space go to waste. Some great plants that suit this purpose include:

  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers- especially hot peppers like jalapenos
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Garlic

Stay away from plants that take up lots of space with vines and greenery without producing much. Broccoli, for example, is a large plant that takes a long time to grow and yields only one harvest. Some other plants to avoid or at least reconsider before planting might include:

  • Pumpkins
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Potatoes

Some of these are available in dwarf varieties though, which can make sense for a smaller garden. The choice is yours about what to prioritize in your kitchen garden! If you LOVE carving pumpkins in the fall, maybe the thought of giving up a large space to grow a bunch in your garden doesn’t bother you at all. That’s the wonderful thing about a kitchen garden- you make all the decisions according to your own tastes!

5. Buy Seeds or Transplants

Visit your local garden center or page through a seed catalog to get ideas and choose from a variety of seed packets or transplants. Whether you want to grow leafy greens, green beans, cherry tomatoes, or sweet peas, starting with high-quality soil from the center can give you a good start. For those interested in organic matter, exploring heirloom seeds and organic transplants might be the best way to ensure your kitchen gardening remains organic from start to finish.

When Should I Plant What? Seed Starting Calendars

6. Plant Seeds or Transplants in Your Kitchen Garden

Following the basics of kitchen gardening, it’s essential to plant your seeds or transplants at the best time, considering both the soil temperature and the length of your growing season. Start by determining your hardiness zone if you don’t know it already. Most plants will come with detailed instructions for when to plant them, but you can adjust recommendations to get the timing right for your own needs. 

For example, you may want to start your summer vegetables in early spring by using frost protection and starting seeds indoors early. This could allow you to start fall-harvested vegetables in late summer to harvest cool season crops all fall and even into winter.

7. Maintaining Your Kitchen Garden

Good news for new gardeners, maintaining a kitchen garden requires just a little time each day. Here are some of the maintenance considerations you’ll need to address.


As mentioned above, plan your kitchen garden next to a water source to make this maintenance step easier on yourself. If you want to make your kitchen garden extra convenient, set up a drip irrigation system to run on a schedule.

Maintaining Soil Health

Mulching can help maintain soil temperature and moisture levels, while crop rotation and cover crops can ensure fertile soil year after year. Even with these measures, it’s still helpful to test your soil during fall garden cleanup and spring garden prep so you can know exactly what it needs.


The best time for weed control is before they appear. Mulching can help suppress weeds, as can ground cover plants. If you need to get weeds under control, try using a homemade weed killer instead of store-bought chemicals to protect your yard’s ecosystem.

Pest Control

Once again, it’s best to try to avoid chemicals if at all possible. This is especially true if you have children or pets playing in your garden. Try to attract beneficial insects into your garden by putting up structures or including plants that will attract them.

Another good natural pest control solution is to employ a “sacrificial” plant. A great example of this is nasturtium- many gardeners will plant it next to plants that aphids love. Aphids will attack the nasturtium first, keeping those precious veggies safe!

nasturtium growing on a trellis in the garden

8. Incorporate Your Harvest Into Meals

After successfully establishing your own kitchen garden, the joy of harvesting and incorporating fresh herbs and vegetables into your meals is unmatched. Planning your kitchen table menu around your garden’s yield ensures you make the most of your own food, enhancing meals with the fresh fruits and vegetables you’ve grown yourself. From salad greens to root vegetables, the options are endless, offering a rewarding experience as you bring your garden soil-nurtured produce to the plate.

9. Ideas for a Year-Round Harvest

Let’s take it a step further… with a bit of extra planning, you can have produce from your garden nearly year-round. This not only keeps your garden looking productive but also ensures you have a healthy supply of your favorite vegetables regardless of the season. 

Frost Protection

Depending on your climate, your garden might need some help to keep producing year-round. 

Cold frames or greenhouses provide a controlled environment that protects plants from harsh winter conditions. Cold frames, typically low-profile structures with transparent lids, trap heat and shield plants from frost. Greenhouses offer a more substantial space for cultivating a variety of plants during colder months, regulating temperature and humidity levels. 

On raised garden beds, consider constructing my easy, cheap frost covers. This is a great, middle of the road option to protect plants through a frost without resorting to a greenhouse. 

raised garden bed with frost cloth tunnel on top

Plant Selection

You can also try growing cold-hardy vegetables like kale, spinach, and carrots in these protected environments to enjoy fresh produce throughout the winter. 

Succession Planting

Another year-round harvest trick is succession planting – planning your garden carefully to plant new crops immediately after you harvest a crop, minimizing your garden’s downtime. 

Troubleshooting Common Kitchen Garden Issues

Two of the most common issues that come up with kitchen gardens are pests and unexpected weather conditions like early frosts. For pests, it’s always best to use natural methods for control, to help protect the ecosystem of your garden and keep your produce organic.

squash bug larvae and eggs on a squash leaf

Try attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings that prey on harmful pests. Companion plants and natural remedies like neem oil or garlic spray can be effective in deterring pests. It’s also beneficial to attract birds to help with pest control. Do this by placing a bird feeder and bird bath in or near your garden.

When the weather doesn’t cooperate, shield plants from unexpected frosts by covering them with blankets, row covers, or cloches. My frost covers I mentioned always make this super easy. Watering the garden before a frost can also provide some insulation and protect plants. If you’re dealing with too much or too little rain, mulching helps retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. 

Start Your Kitchen Garden Today!

Embarking on your kitchen gardening journey transforms your relationship with food and gardening. It’s a great way to ensure a supply of fresh produce, learn about the basics of kitchen sustainability, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of tending to your own garden. With a good plan, good soil, and a bit of patience, your garden will flourish, providing fresh fruits and vegetables right from your own backyard to your kitchen table.

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