For a complete kitchen garden, here are the top crops to plant

1 of 9 Photo by Jacqueline Koch

An artful garden

“Gardening is all about making really good food a part of my life on a daily basis,” says Joan Caine, who used to teach cooking classes out of her home north of Seattle. That’s why—after years of gazing wistfully out her front window at the property’s only sunny patch and imagining a kitchen garden there—Joan hired landscape designer Cameron Scott to make the potager a reality.

Cameron dug up some lawn, put down gravel, then built bottomless raised beds of oxidized (and recycled) Cor-ten steel that look more like sculpture than planters. “I love working with it because you can build such sexy curves,” says Cameron. And the 1/4-inch-thick metal absorbs the sun’s heat, helping to warm the soil in cool weather.

Joan packs the beds with herbs and salad greens in spring, then beans, cucumbers, and zucchini in summer. “We pull our table right up by the raised beds,” she says, “and eat out there.”

For these raised beds, looks, growing speed, and happiness in tight quarters are the qualities you’re looking for. Most of these grow rapidly from seedlings—start beans and carrots from seed, though, since they don’t transplant well.

Design: Cameron Scott, Exteriorscapes, Seattle (

2 of 9 Photo by Thomas J. Story


The grasslike foliage forms neat mounding plants—perfect for clustering in the spiral bed. Showy rose-purple flowers are a bonus. Sunset climate zones 4–9, 14–24.

3 of 9 Photo by Thomas J. Story


If you have room to grow only one kind, go with spearmint (Mentha spicata); more recipes call for this mint than any other type. Zones A2, A3, 1–24.

4 of 9 Photo by Mark Turner


Bush-type snap beans bear their crops earlier, but pole types are more productive. Train them on trellises (insert poles 2 feet apart). Zones 3–6, 8–10, 14–17.

5 of 9 Photo by Burpee


To save space and encourage longer, straighter fruit, grow cukes in a cage or on a trellis. Zones 8–9, 11, 17.

6 of 9 Photo by Thomas J. Story


Consider long-rooted ‘Envy’, half-long Nantes types, or colorful varieties such as ‘Purple Haze’ or ‘Red Samurai’. Zones 3, 6, 8–10, 14–16, 18–19.

7 of 9 Photo by Kimberley Navabpour


Try a bush variety such as ‘Ronde de Nice’, a French heirloom, which bears round fruit on a tidy bush about 24 inches tall. Zones 7–11, 14–19.

8 of 9 Photo by Damien Scogin


This compact plant packs a lot of flavor despite its size, and it grows quickly from seed. ‘Astro’ tolerates some heat. Zones 4–9.

9 of 9 Photo by Damien Scogin


Loose-leaf types such as ‘Oak Leaf’ (green) and ‘Red Sails’ (red-tinged) are as pretty in raised beds as they are in salads. Zones 1–6.


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