See our tips on How to Create an Italian Kitchen Garden at home and enjoy a bounty of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs all year around.
We love kitchen gardens here at ele, the ability to walk outside your back door and pick fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables for cooking is pure joy (for us anyway!). On a recent trip to Italy we picked up some great tips for creating a classic Italian style kitchen garden.
What to Plant in an Italian Kitchen Garden
- Tomatoes: Italian cuisine uses a lot of tomatoes in sauces, soups, and salads.
- Basil: An essential herb in Italian cooking, basil is used in a variety of dishes, including pesto.
- Zucchini: This versatile vegetable can be used in soups, stews, and pasta dishes.
- Eggplant: Eggplants are a staple in Italian cuisine and can be baked, grilled, or fried.
- Peppers: Bell peppers, chili peppers, and other varieties can be used in sauces, on pizzas, and in salads.
- Garlic: A key ingredient in many Italian dishes, garlic can be used to add flavor to soups, stews, and pasta sauces.
- Rosemary: This herb is often used to flavor meats and potatoes.
- Fennel: The bulb, fronds, and seeds of the fennel plant are all used in Italian cooking.
- Oregano: A common herb used in pizza sauce and pasta dishes.
- Parsley: A versatile herb used in salads, soups, and pasta dishes.
- Beans: Italian cuisine uses a lot of beans in soups and stews.
- Lettuce: Italian salads often feature fresh lettuce leaves.
- Artichokes: These delicious vegetables are often used in pasta dishes or served as an appetizer.
- Radicchio: A leafy vegetable with a slightly bitter taste, radicchio is often used in salads and as a garnish.
- Strawberries: Fresh strawberries are a popular fruit in Italian cuisine and can be used in desserts, sauces, and salads.
1. Use Pots and Planters
In Italy no matter the size of the garden you will see decorative pots filled with herbs, vegetables and fruit growing on balconies, verandahs and throughout the garden. It is great for small space kitchen gardens or if you are renting and want to take your precious herbs and vegetables with you when you move. We love growing tomatoes and strawberries in pots, you can let them to tumble over the side of hanging pots or stake them to grow upwards. Try mixing two different tomato varieties in pots for added color and interest.
2. Plant in Rows
Neat lines of vegetables and herbs are a hallmark of an Italian kitchen garden, planting in this style allows you to walk along the rows and easily tend to, water and cultivate plants. It also makes it easy to replace herbs and vegetables once you have harvested your crop at the end of the season.
3. Location, location, location
Italians plant their kitchen gardens as close to the the house as possible, making it easy to access ingredients for cooking. Even better if your kitchen garden can be in line of sight from your kitchen window – a quick look outside will help inspire you to work out what to cook for dinner.
4. Find a Spot in the Garden to Relax
A simple table and chairs, a seat – somewhere to sit and enjoy the fruits of your labour is a beautiful addition to any kitchen garden. There is nothing better than enjoying a cup of tea (or glass of wine!) in between tending to the garden.
5. Create Some Protection for the Garden
By adding vines and hedging of rosemary or other herbs you can create some interest to the garden as well as adding some protection from wind, sun and harsh weather conditions for seedings and newly planted vegetables.
Once you have harvested the beautiful vegetables from your garden you need a great recipe to showcase the produce.
One of the most simple and delicious meals we had in Italy was a simple Padella di Primizie del Nostro Orto al Basilica, a frypan filled with vegetables and fruit fresh from the garden – carrots, zucchini, fennel, red onion, cherry tomatoes, orange and apricot – drizzled with olive oil, lightly fried on the stovetop, seasoned with salt and pepper and finished with fresh herbs. It was served with fresh bread to mop up the delicious juices and a glass of crisp white wine – pure heaven.
Tips to Consider for an Italian Kitchen Garden
- Do plan your garden layout and plant selection ahead of time to ensure a successful harvest.
- Do provide ample sunlight and shelter from strong winds.
- Do use organic methods to enrich your soil and control pests.
- Do water your plants regularly, especially during hot and dry periods.
- Do harvest your crops regularly to encourage new growth and prevent overripeness or disease.
- Do preserve excess produce by canning, pickling, or drying.
- Don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides that can harm the environment and your health.
- Don’t plant incompatible crops together as it can lead to poor growth and disease.
- Don’t neglect your garden by failing to water or care for it regularly.
- Don’t let your harvest go to waste by failing to preserve it for later use.
- Don’t ignore signs of pests or disease in your plants as they can quickly spread and destroy your harvest.
No matter where you live you or how much space you have (unless you live in an apartment with zero outdoor space – in which case try growing herbs on a sunny windowsill) you can create an Italian style kitchen garden that will provide you with delicious produce all year round.
Love gardening? Read our tips for Creating a Simple Herb Garden no matter how much space you have.