by Anja Haelg Bieri
A kitchen garden is the most convenient way to always have fresh herbs at hand. If you want to go one step further, you can even add fresh salad and maybe some veggies. And flowers!
The kitchen garden is not only phyically close to our kitchen, it is also primarily grown for use in our kitchen. So what would you want to plant? Anything, really.
Zucchini, squash and tomatoes are rather easy to grow. However, they’ll happily spread out and take over your garden. They are also the main crop you’ll find at the farmers market. So why not venture out into other things?
Some Advice I follow
Harvesting Your Herbs
In autumn, when your herbs still look juicy but are on their last leg – you’ll notice since you will have tended them for months now – it is time to harvest it all. Choose the early morning to harvest.
Rosmary will not want to be completely cut – the winter in Blacksburg can be tough, so maybe the plant won’t make it, but you can certainly give it a try.
Basil and parsley might not come back next year, so harvest all the leaves and make pesto (see Gwynn’s pesto recipes).
Chives can do with a good haircut. Leave about 1-2 inches.
Oregano can be cut pretty radically, leaving about 2 inches intact. It will come back nicely.
Take off the twigs of thyme and leave a centre bit intact, it will also come back.
Harvest twigs of sage containing several leaves. Depending on the size of your sage plant, leave a nice bit, don’t cut to the ground.
When you Harvest from a plant, say thank you.
Drying your herbs
Choose a dry, warm, not too airy space where you can lay out your herbs. I simply spread the herbs loosely over a kitchen towel and put another one loosely over it. I keep the different kinds separate from each other in the drying process. It usually only takes about 1 week to dry them. Check daily. Then fill into glasses or little containers for spices. If you have a lot, you can also put them into paper or cotton bags. You can make your own herb mixes.
Take sage twigs or bushels (or other twigs) and hang them upside down. You’ll lose more taste like this, but it is rather decorative.
Covering the beds
Spread fallen leaves over the beds (take thin ones, oak leaves won’t disintegrate properly). I presume you have leaves yourself, since Blacksburg has so many beautiful trees. If you don’t have enough, you can receive leaves from the town of Blacksburg leaves collection.
We put pine twigs on flower and kitchen garden beds to protect the plants from heavy snow. It also looks rather nice.
Take them inside
You might want to take the pot of mint into the house and give it a sunlit spot. I sometimes try the same with basil and parsley - it doesn’t always work, but is well worth a try, since having fresh herbs in the winter is just marvellous. I keep a separate rosemary plant inside, as well. A delicate kind of mint shares the space with the rosemary. A friend from Sicily gave it to me when she went back to live in Italy.