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The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden

The traditional layout for kitchen gardens was established many hundreds of years ago. Called the “four-square” design, it is based on the intersection of two major paths within a symmetrical, enclosed area; in the days before irrigation it usually included a central well or spring.

Many of the early examples of this traditional kitchen garden layout were monastic gardens, and while there were perhaps religious and symbolic reasons for the creation of this form, over the centuries its inherent efficiency has gained it a place in the secular world as well.

Vegetables (and fruits and flowers and herbs) were grown in raised beds marked out by the permanent paths. The four equal-sized plots that resulted made crop rotation and planning easy. The diversity of the plantings not only made balanced demands on the soil, but preserved the natural balance of the garden’s animal life-small mammals, insects, amphibians, and birds-an important factor in keeping pest problems under control.

American kitchen gardens have, on the whole, been much less formal. From the beginnings of colonization there has been less emphasis on strict training of the plants, but the efficiency and utility of the class four-square layout has been largely preserved. Americans have adapted, and should continue to adapt, this traditional design to the particulars of their lives and their land.

Read more: Nature, Lawns & Gardens

Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic, by Shepherd Ogden. Copyright (c)1992, 1999 by Shepherd Ogden. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green Publishing Comapny.
Adapted from Straight-Ahead Organic, by Shepherd Ogden.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Straight-Ahead Organic

"The book ... represents more than fifty years of gardening experience—my grandfather's and mine... ." —Shepherd Ogdenbuy now


+ add your own
10:10PM PST on Jan 12, 2013

Thanks :)

9:58PM PST on Jan 12, 2013

I prefer a more round one myself, I find it calming to walk in the circles seeing what needs to be tended to. Sadly, we went to a rectangular one :( easier to put a border around.

10:12AM PST on Jan 9, 2013


1:23AM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

Thanks for the article.

8:25PM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

Thanks for sharing. I have a few vegetables and herbs in my garden.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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