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The Kitchen Garden Belongs Behind the House

Growing vegetables and herbs has been a part of instruction in gardening since the monks in England surrendered their monasteries to Henry the Eighth in the sixteenth century.  In doing so the monks made their methods of growing herbs and vegetables available to all.

When I visited President George Washington’s home Mount Vernon, outside of Washington, D.C., I noticed that the kitchen garden was over to the side of the front entrance.  Red brick walls surrounded the garden, but it was clearly hidden from view.

Washington, of course, built his landscape according to English garden principles, which meant the kitchen garden was far from the view of any visitor.

gardening with vegetables
Seedsman Peter Henderson illustrated growing vegetables away from the house in this 1899 catalog cover.

Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan wrote in the 1861 issue of his magazine Gardener’s Monthly: “Upon small places, the kitchen garden should be as far from the house as the grounds will admit, and well fenced in.”

The kitchen garden, according to Meehan and the  English garden style he promoted in his magazine, was to be part of the landscape but not in view of a visitor to the house.

Perhaps that is why to this day we put the vegetable patch behind the house.

Also, today when people sometimes grow tomatoes on the front lawn, a bit of anxiety emerges among the neighbors who see that garden on a daily basis as they pass the house.  We expect the vegetable garden to be behind the house, hidden from view.

Where do you plant your vegetables and herbs for the kitchen?  Why there?

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