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10 Kitchen Gardens to Visit Before You Die

10 Kitchen Gardens to Visit Before You Die
Feb 27, 2013

One thing that gardeners understand better than most people is that compost happens.  And what's true for our plants is also true for us. We're all part of the big cycle of life, death, decay and rebirth and it's not too soon for any of us to start thinking about what we want to see, do, taste and feel before we become part of that big compost pile in the sky.  

In that spirit, I thought it would be fun to start putting together a list of the gardens I'd like to visit before compost happens to me.  I'm starting with the three I have seen and continue with the ones I'd like to see.  Which gardens are on your bucket list and why? Use the comment section below to chime in.


1) Havana's Organopónicos (Havana, Cuba)

While gardens may be about pretty flowers and pesto for many people, in Cuba and other places that have lived through food crises, they're about survival. Cuba was stuck between a rock and hard place in the early 1990s due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the US Embargo. Unable to access food and agricultural inputs in the international market, Cubans were forced to put new gardens and systems in place for feeding themselves. Havana's urban food gardens known as organopónicos are still there today and are showing the way for other cities interested in becoming more food independent. I was so taken by my visit to Havana that I made this short video to tell the story of how these gardens came to be. 


2) Forest Farm and Four Season Farm (Harborside, Maine)

This is a two-fer is there ever was one: two gorgeous gardens located just 5 minutes away and made famous by two inspiring couples one of them inspired by the other. The Forest Farm was the final homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing and features a lovely walled kitchen garden.  Although the Nearings passed away in the 80s and 90s, their legacy as homesteaders and social activists lives on via theirs writings and the Good Life Center which is open to the public in July and August. For more info, see

Among the thousands of people the Nearings inspired were Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch who would later go on to write best selling organic books of their own, marry and farm on land that Coleman famously bought from the Nearings for $33 an acre, the same price they themselves paid.  Coleman and Damrosch's farm, called Four Season Farm, is a feast for the eyes and their gardens are a great place to study best practices in the area of season extension. For more info, see


3) The White House Kitchen Garden (Washington, DC)

Having worked on the campaign to build support for this garden for 15 months, I have a soft spot in my heart for it and much hope for its ability to inspire people to grow a kitchen garden of their own. Unfortunately, I have less hope these days in our elected officials to inspire by their own example. As amazing as the White House garden is to visit, you currently cannot visit it due to the man-made disaster known as Sequestration which has forced the Secret Service to make cuts to its budget including security staffing for White House tours. Hopefully, that will be resolve soon and the garden (our garden!) will be open to us once again. Photo source: The White House 


4) Potager du Chateau de Villandy (Villandry, France)

The Chateau de Villandry is smaller and less known than the Chateau de Versailles, but its edible gardens are considered more beautiful and the standard-bearer for the classic, Renaissance-style potager.  Photo source:


5) Monticello (Charlottesville, Virginia)

As the private residence of Thomas Jefferson from 1772 to 1826, Monticello is well worth the trip on historical grounds alone, but for gardeners there's the added appeal of being able to see Jefferson's experiments in horticulture and landscaping up close.  The gardens show the garden as it is believed to have existed between 1807 and 1814. Photo source: Eric Langhorst For more info, see:


6) Kibera Sack Gardens (Nairobi, Kenya)

Although travelling to one of the world's poorest slums might not be on the top of your list, Nairobi's Kibera district shows that hope can sprout in the most improbable places and conditions. Unable to gain access to healthy fresh vegetables for their families or the land needed for growing them, the mothers of Kibera became the mothers of invention by planting leafy greens in large sacs filled with soil.  We can all take some inspiration from their creative interpretation of a garden.  


7) Amalfi Coast Mountainside Gardens (Amalfi Coast, Italy)

Italy. Gardens. Food. Wine. Mountains. Do I really need to write more? I've been to Italy a few times, but still haven't made it to the Amalfi Coast. These steep slopes planted with vegetables, olives, wine grapes and citrus fruit are breathtaking for the eye and, one has to assume, the mouth! 


8) The Edible Schoolyard (Berkeley, California)

The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for urban public school students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. Started by Chef Alice Waters, this garden has inspired countless schools and teachers to plant food gardens of their own. At ESY Berkeley, students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce during the academic day and in after-school classes. Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community. 


9) The Kitchen Garden at Zaytuna Farm (new South Wales, Australia)

Home to the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, Zaytuna Farm serves as a global networking center for permaculture projects. The farm is also home to a variety of kitchen gardens growing diverse vegetables and herbs with species varying from Mediterranean to subtropical. For those interested in seeing how kitchen gardens can fit into and contribute to larger, stable ecosystems, this 66 acre site and the knowledgeable permaculture instructors who maintain it are a strong draw. Photo source:


10) Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens (Shanagarry, Ireland)

The Ballymaloe Cookery School is a world renown culinary school located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm in Southeast Ireland. Vegetables, fruits and herbs for the courses are sourced from the school's beautifully maintained kitchen gardens. Ballymoe was started by Chef Darina Allen who is not only Ireland's best known chef (imagine Alice Waters with a charming Irish accent) and but also one of Ireland's leading advocates for locally-grown foods.  Photo source:


Barnsley House, because Rosemary Verey was an amazing garden designer
Il giardino del Castello, Palazzo Madama, Turin, Italy, because it is a reconstruction of a medieval kitchen garden
Kitchen gardens in Cuba, cause organic gardening happens even with the american embargo.
Some of these I have already visited, and wanted to visit the others.
Where exactly is this kitchen garden on the Amalfi Coast? Going there in 3 weeks (Positano village) and I really want to visit Kitchen Gardens of this area. Any suggestions? Tks
Gosh you have showcased some amazing gardens - thank you - eye candy for gardeners!
Virgin Islands Sustainable Farming Institute (VISFI), St Croix, USVI. My own particular favorite, if you ever get there. They support a growing food independence movement in the USVI.
Beautiful gardens and breathtaking views. Great photo opportunities , particularly on the " infinity terrace"This has to be one of the best gardens with a view in the entire world. Not to be missed if you're near Ravello! I only visited a handful of the gardens with and it was highly memorable and romantic. Don't miss seeing the Temple of Bacchus and having a walk through the olive trees afterwards

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