How to Grow an Easy Kitchen Garden

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Growing your own food is a delicious experience. There is nothing quite like slicing into that first summer tomato, still warm from the sun, or cutting some fresh herbs to add to a dish. A kitchen garden makes for great meals, a sense of joy, and a modicum of food security. Don’t overthink it: now that spring is here, find the sunniest spot where you live–maybe in the yard, a raised bed, a big pot on the patio, or a sunny kitchen window—and plant some seeds or seedlings from your local nursery in good, organic soil. With at least five hours of sun per day, the right plants, and a few tips, it’s about that simple.

The two of us run a small urban farm in Los Angeles and a company called Edible Gardens LA that has designed, built, and maintained vegetable gardens for countless families over the past 16 years. Here are the five best things for beginners to grow.

Herbs

A potted plant selection of kitchen herbs in clay terra-cotta flower pots, isolated on a white background
(Photo: YinYang/Getty Images)

Herbs are a perfect starting point, because you can grow them year-round: outdoors in warm climates and on an indoor windowsill in regions where winters are cold.

First, buy some organic seeds. Some of our favorite online sites that sell seeds are Adaptive Seeds, High Mowing, and Seed Savers. You can also purchase seedlings at your local garden nursery for a faster and easier start. Get the basic ones that you use regularly in your kitchen: rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, and basil. All are easy to grow.

Find a terra-cotta pot at least six inches deep or, if space allows, 18 inches deep so you can grow multiple plants in one pot. (Tip: mint needs its own pot, as it’s super invasive.) Never grow food in plastic or fiberglass or treated wood, because the toxins from those materials will leech into the soil and into your food.

Fill the pot with organic potting soil, and sow the seeds following the instructions on the packet. If your plants are indoors, put a plastic tray under them to catch any water that runs through. If you’re growing outdoors in the ground or in a raised wooden bed, water deeply three to four times per week, depending on the weather. (Check out our book, A Garden Can Be Anywhere, for blueprints and instructions on building raised beds.) On the hottest days of summer, your garden will need it daily. If you are growing in pots, water deeply every day. Be sure to feed your plants by using seaweed extract every couple of weeks to replenish the nutrients in the soil. Chives can be harvested by cutting straight across, at the base of the plant, but for all other herbs, cut just what you need, taking a few leaves or a few stems, and they will keep growing and you can enjoy them all season.

Tomatoes

Garden Tomatoes on white background
(Photo: chengyuzheng/iStock/Getty Images)

Yes, we all love that big heirloom tomato, but do yourself a favor and grow cherry tomatoes instead. The Sun Gold or Sweet 100 varieties mature faster, and you’ll be eating delicious tomatoes all summer instead of waiting until late August or September. Buy these seeds and start them indoors now. Yes, now! You can use seed-starter trays or a good ol’ cut-off cardboard milk carton full of fresh soil. Give each seed a couple inches of space. After about six weeks, they’re ready to transplant. (Important: Tomatoes and the other vegetables mentioned here, except the herbs, cannot continue to grow indoors. Eventually, they will fizzle; they need that summer sun.)

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