BY Lauren Olbeter

A kitchen garden customized to add fresh produce to your pantry and beauty to your landscaping, without overtaking your schedule or your outdoor space, is yours to be had after making a few decisions and completing a couple of afternoons worth of work.

Now that you’ve decided what vegetable and herb varieties to grow in your kitchen garden, it’s time to work out the last details about spacing and placement.

Place your garden bed where it will get morning light and where you can easily get water to it. Plan to trellis any vining plants like cucumber, squash, pole beans, or tomato. The trellis can be a section of wire fencing material either upright or in a giant arch from one garden bed to the next.

You can also create one by stretching twine string between two stakes or suspending the string vertically from either a t-post or a post and lintel structure.

This will cost a lot less than buying tomato cages and will take up less space.

If space still seems tight, you may want to look to patio planters to hold a few of your plants.

This works particularly well with herbs. Growing a portion of your garden in pots allows you the freedom to rearrange those parts of your layout.

This flexibility can be beneficial in creating eye-pleasing arrangements and in taking advantage of the best lighting available.

Planters can also be useful if you find that you need some afternoon shade on your garden or a windbreak. You can position three or four medium to large containers with hardy ornamentals, like Yucca or Texas Sage, to create a screen.

Planters are also a great way to integrate your vegetable garden with the rest of your landscaping.

Keep a sketch of how you plan to layout your garden, noting your target start date and when harvest times are expected.

This will be tremendously helpful in eliminating confusion about what you are planning to do and when. Also, when the next season comes you’ll have a record to refer back to. For one simple chart with local planting and harvesting times go to: http://hidalgo.agrilife.org/files/2012/05/Vegetable-Planting-Guide1.pdf .

For your first season, consider buying tomatoes, peppers, and basil ready to plant and skip trying to start them indoors from seeds. You can find them in season at any Lowes or with local growers like Perennial Favorites in Brownsville.

Most other vegetables and herbs can be sown directly into the garden bed once it’s ready. You also don’t have to make your own compost to prepare the soil, buy it by the bag at your local garden center or order online and follow the directions on the packaging. Looking to stores as a way to cut out some of the legwork is important when getting started. And if you’re starting small it won’t break the bank.

When you think of customizing your garden to best fit your lifestyle and your space you will be able to generate a plan that is right for you. It can take on just about any shape and size.

A simple garden can be an attractive and manageable addition to your outdoor space as well as a source of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Let your garden experience be an on going process of experimenting and learning and one that keeps you coming back.

Sources: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/

http://www.gardeners.com/how-to/vegetable-gardening/5069.html

http://www.almanac.com/vegetable-garden-planning-for-beginners

http://www.gardenbetty.com/2011/08/trellising-tomatoes-with-the-florida-weave/.