What’s the Difference Between a Kitchen Garden and a Regular Vegetable Garden?




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© 2014 Shanna Lea

Do you know what the difference is between a “kitchen garden” and a regular vegetable garden?

Kitchen gardens, or potagers (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), are edible gardens that have a rich history going back to French and old English gardens.  Kitchen gardens are planted with herbs, edible flowers, fruits and vegetables that are tucked right outside the back door for ease of gathering while you are cooking.

So what makes them different from a vegetable garden?

3 Main Characteristics of a Kitchen Garden:

1.  Convenience.  One of the main characteristics of the kitchen garden is its convenient location just outside the back door.  This makes it easy to grab that special herb or veggie for your salad when you are in the middle of cooking a meal.  A potager should be as close to your kitchen as possible.

Imagine you are preparing a marinade and you remember you need some rosemary.  You can’t leave the pots simmering on the stove while you go out to the vegetable garden, but you can step outside the back door briefly to pinch off a sprig or two of rosemary and be back in the kitchen in a flash.  The kitchen garden makes it easy to grab what you need as you cook.

2.  Size.  Kitchen gardens are smaller than traditional vegetable gardens because they are located so close to the house.  It may be a small container garden on the porch or balcony or a small section next to the back door.  A culinary garden is close enough to be easy to access herbs and vegetables needed quickly.

If you have limited space, consider these criteria:

  • A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, to harvest an abundance to preserve by canning or dehydrating.  Crops like corn and squash take up lots of space.
  • A kitchen garden is filled with the foods you prepare and eat fresh.  Good foods to plant in your kitchen garden would be containers of fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, and leafy lettuce.  A small potager can keep you in fresh salads all season long.

    Nancy James stackable container garden

    Nancy James stackable container garden

3.  Beauty.  While the vegetable garden is all about production, a charming potager is ornamental as well as convenient.  You can design a kitchen garden to add beauty to your entryways while it produces for the table.  Design ideas include:

  • Lemon thyme around other plants and containers for a border.
  • Edible flowers like violas and daylilies mixed in with lettuce for a splash of color.
  • Compact blueberry shrubs for another border.

Start Small

Kitchen gardens offer convenience and beauty in a small space.  It doesn’t take much to get started—all you need are a few large pots, some fresh herbs, a cherry tomato plant and a few varieties of leafy lettuce to have your own potager.  Be sure and check out the resources below for design ideas and supplies.


Planters—Vertical Garden Planter, great for patio or apartment gardening

Living Wall Planter INDOOR/OUTDOOR USE

Akro-Mils Stack-A-Pot

Nancy Janes P1360 12-Inch Stacking Planters with Patented Flow through Watering System and Hanging Chain, Terracotta, Set of 3


The Complete Kitchen Garden: An Inspired Collection of Garden Designs and 100 Seasonal Recipes

The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

The Edible Balcony:  Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces

McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container:  Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers



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