I’ve spent years reading about the European style kitchen garden.  Both the French as well as the Italian versions.  I’ve watched you-tube videos and done countless photo walk throughs trying to figure out how to make one work for me at my own home.

In Florida we did a very good job creating a garden but it didn’t have the feel I was looking for.  When we moved here we found ourselves with so much room to work with we immediately went in the wrong direction and tried to create a garden that was much too large and too far away from the house.  The only thing we grew successfully were red ant hills and tomatoes riddled with blossom end rot.  Each pitiful tomato had a bite taken from it by our resident chickens.  It’s safe to say last years garden was a total failure.

Then, we decided to regroup.  We took a good look at the land available to us for gardening and the resources at hand to create the garden I could so clearly see in my head.  Here is the closest we’ve ever come to a proper French kitchen garden….we are simply delighted!!!

One of the first things needed to give the garden that enclosed space of the French garden was to create walls.  Why had it taken so long to realize that??  I don’t know.  Maybe for the same reason I forget to wear socks under my muck boots…the mud pulls the boots off and I’m stuck in the mud with my bare feet.  I’m a moron.  The mud is gross and makes me consider chopping off my own foot every time it happens.  Sigh.


We have been collecting wood pallets all year.  We had enough pallets to create a really large garden room.  Hubby will build the garden gate over the next few weeks.  The enclosure is done and works perfectly. See…….

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Having the walls around the garden immediately gave us that sense of cozy and structured space that we’ve been looking for.  The walls also help keep the chickens out (once the gate goes up).  In case you didn’t know, chickens don’t eat a tomato here and there.  They literally take a bite from every single thing grown in the garden if they are allowed to reach it.  Except for hot peppers, they seem to know not to taste those.

The next issue was the soil.  The soil here is heavy clay.  So many people here seem to grow amazing gardens in this soil but I grew nothing but ant hills.  We tried some simple raised beds last year but didn’t love them either.  We grew the blossom end rot in those….I guess we used poor soil mix to fill the beds.

This year we went with straw bales that we conditioned for 12 days before planting.  The method is from a book written by Joel Karsten called Straw Bale Gardens.

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The book lays out a truly simple way to grow in straw bales with shocking results.  We figured we would give it a go.  I have to tell you, we love and I do mean LOVE the results so far!

We have more still to be planted in the way of vegetables though we are just about done.  I think we have one row left.  We’ve begun planting flowers.  We had such great results in Florida mixing flowers in with the vegetable garden we just had to do it here too.  The flowers make the garden so pretty but the real plus is that the flowers attract bees and butterflies.  In Florida, once we planted the flowers throughout the garden our yields jumped significantly.  Of course, it’s important to grow the right flowers for that purpose.

As many of you know, I love to make pickles and jams….food preserving is yet another hobby of mine.

This year we are growing:

5 types of tomatoes

6 types of peppers both spicy and sweet

2 types of strawberries

4 types of onions

2 types of cucumbers (pickling and slicing)

Sugar baby watermelon

4 types of mint

2 types of oregano

3 types of thyme


Italian parsley







Salad greens

Swiss Chard

We, have also started a small orchard.  The orchard is home to our figs, blackberries, raspberries, and citrus trees.

Thanks for visiting our “Jardin Potager”(French kitchen garden).  I can’t wait to make pickles, jams, marmalades…..pies….cakes….flavored vinegars…..canned tomatoes…..tomato paste….roasted peppers preserved in garlic oil…… ok, you get the idea.  Get the canning pots ready y’all!

I will post updated photos as the garden grows.  I’m so excited!

This is a picture of Penelope wearing her bed as a hat….It has nothing to do with anything.

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14 Responses to An easy twist on the European Kitchen Garden….

  1. Charlotte Moore says:

    I love it!! I hope you have a tremendous crop this year. You work so hard not too.

    So good to hear from you again. I need to show this to my husband. The hay bail growing looks interesting.

    • Tamatha says:

      Oh I hope so too!!!! The straw bales are easy on the back and produce really well. You can grow in any sunny spot. We have 30 bales growing right now. I will probably add more. I love it!!! Hugs :)

  2. Elizabeth YP says:

    Great to be receiving your wonderful posts, hope you are feeling better.
    We too, are on a heavy clay soil, in Nw Zealand. Wish we had known about this straw bale growing…. Years ago! We get a lot of couch grass everywhere…terrible stuff. Am going to google that book! Thanks Tamatha….just love your pig!

    • Tamatha says:

      New Zealand!!!! What a lovely country!!!!!! I’m so excited! If you have heavy clay like we do the straw bales will really make life easy for you. It takes less than two weeks to prep the bales and then you can plant. The plants are doing great. Let me know if you have questions, I would happily help.
      Penelope the pig thanks you :) She’s our princess.

  3. norma says:

    It is so nice to hear from you again. Penelope looks so content. I love pigs!! I like you garden I would have not thought about straw bales. I have read about lasagna gardens and planting tomatoes in a bag of black kow compost. This sounds like a possibility! I will research!! Hope you feel better and things are going better!! Hugs!!

    • Tamatha says:

      The straw bales work great. They keep weeds to a minimum and pests too! Another plus…they bales keep the gardening up high, it’s easier on the back. It’s super easy to do. I just love it. Ley me know if you have questions, I would be happy to help. Hugs!

  4. Heather says:

    Thank you for sharing, your garden is lovely! We are currently renting a property where we don’t want to dig up the ground or put in anything too ‘permanent’ for a garden, and have been trying to come up with something as an alternative that will still give us a good bounty. This is the answer! Thanks again! Love hearing your adventures & sometimes learning from them!

  5. Jo Ann says:

    I’ve heard of the straw bale gardens but never tried it. I’m glad to hear it’s working for you. I bought the corrugated metal garden beds since my veggie garden is in my front yard, it’s the only sunny area I have. My Swiss Chard is already finished because it’s gotten so hot here. I’m going to try growing some lettuce inside under grow lights.

    Love the picture of Penelope!

    • Tamatha says:

      Have you considered trying to cool your garden down by creating artificial shade? That’s all it took in South Florida, we put up shade cloth and were able to grow right through the summer. Without the shade cloth the growing season down there ends in May. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

  6. Teresa W says:

    My friend has a small conventional garden that doesn’t well, but tried a couple of straw bales last year for zucchini and something else. The zucchini grew like crazy and produced as much as three plants in her garden. This year she has six bales for just squash plants. They are saving her lots of space for tomatoes and beans elsewhere. One thing she did learn- if you get your zucchini growing really well, you just might need to stake it up! That plant was huge!
    I love your garden. It looks like a great place to sit and enjoy a glass of ice tea in the afternoon.

    • Tamatha says:

      Thank you, we love it too. We have a little seating area in the middle with an umbrella just for ice tea and morning coffee sipping. We have another project we are working on at the entry to the garden. We will share that as soon as we’ve finished it. I’m delighted to hear your friend has had such good luck with straw bales.

  7. Susan J says:

    Oh Tamatha! I love, love, love that you are back!!! Keep us posted on the farm’s progress and, of course, those wonderful critters!

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