Documents: Special Interest: What we grow to eat:

A Vegetable Garden With Style
by Niki Jabbour
by Niki Jabbour


Niki Jabbour is an Ornamental Horticulturist and a writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Fertilized by sea breezes, her gardens are comprised of a colourful mixture of perennials, annuals, herbs and flowering shrubs, with a few patches of clover and chickweed thrown in for good measure.

A member of the Garden Writers Association Niki is also the weekly gardening columnist for the Halifax Daily News and the Chester Clipper.

May 29, 2011

Whether you own a large tract of land, an urban lot or a small balcony you can plant a kitchen garden filled with tantalizing vegetables, fresh herbs, and beautiful flowers to nourish the body and the soul.

The first kitchen gardens were planted as a means of supplementing one's diet with the occasional vegetables and by growing medicinal herbs to heal the body. These gardens were purely practical, and precious space was not wasted on frivolities such as flowers. Later, as food became more readily available, kitchen gardens evolved to become a place of beauty, as well as practicality.

Simply put, a kitchen garden is a vegetable garden with style. This style is reflected in both the design and planting of the garden. In France, the potager has became a garden style that reflects romantic and informal ideas by combining vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit trees and berries.

In order to create a pleasing and high yielding garden, it is important to organize the layout of the ground. In many kitchen gardens, plants are organized in square beds, rather than traditional rows, but any organization that appeals to you will work. Paths should be wide enough to allow for easy passage between the beds or rows and may be mulched to prevent weed growth.

Garden beds should be no more than 4' wide to permit easy access to the center of the bed for weeding and planting. As well, these beds may be raised above the normal soil level to allow for adequate drainage and early soil warm up in the spring. To raise these beds, the first few inches of topsoil from the path areas may be removed and added to the garden beds.

Every inch of soil space should be utilized in a kitchen garden to prevent weed growth and to optimize the amount of bounty produced. The edges of the beds may be planted with a border of such low growing plants as leaf lettuce, dwarf nasturtiums, globe basil, sweet alyssum or whatever else catches your fancy and your tastebuds.

If you are running out of space in the garden, go vertical! Stake up indeterminate varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, nasturtiums and plant a scarlet runner bean teepee using bamboo poles. If a fence or a wall surrounds your garden, hang up some netting and grow climbing vegetables and flowers.

Flowers may also be interplanted with vegetables and some, like marigolds, may even have beneficial effects on their vegetable neighbours. These combinations of vegetables, herbs, flowers, berries, and so on, will create a garden that is pleasing to all the senses.

Planting your own garden allows you to experiment with different varieties not always found at the local grocer or florist. If you are short on space, dwarf or compact varieties may be planted in containers or small spaces, to maximize yield. Cherry tomatoes, patio cucumbers, leaf lettuce, peppers and most herbs will all grow well in containers.

To permit a continuous harvest and allow you to maximize your production, practice succession and double planting. As the summer progresses and early cropping vegetables have matured, follow with another sowing of the same vegetables, or with another type that will still have enough time to mature before fall. This planting technique may be applied to many crops such as leaf lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, radishes, beans, peas and so on.

Kitchen gardening must strike a balance between aspiration and experience. If you are a novice at gardening, start by planting a handful of your favourite crops, carefully planning their cultivation and eventual harvest.

After several summers, you will become used to the routine of the seasons and all the events that make up the world of gardening, such as frost dates, soil amendments, planting schemes and so on. At that time, you may wish to expand your garden. After all, who need grass?

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row