A Beginner's Guide to Gardening
Few things are more rewarding than cooking up a meal comprised entirely of the bounty from your own garden. Sauntering outside to harvest your smoothie’s spinach, your dinner’s dill, or your cocktail’s cucumber offers a true sense of food security.
Our Founder & CEO, Toni Desrosiers, is one truck load of dirt away from having both her back AND front yard be prolific food-bearing gardens, and she’s here to answer all of your sprouting questions.
Whether you’re a first-time gardener or looking to level up your current bounty, we dig it, and we’re here for you. Check out our interview with Toni below to get your gardening inspiration germinating.
LET'S DIG IN
What three plants would you suggest for a first-time gardener?
- Snap Peas - There’s nothing like standing in a pea patch snacking on peas straight off the plant. Enjoyed by kids and adults alike!
- Japanese Turnips - These fast-growing turnips can be planted early in short rows every other week for a continual harvest until the fall. Eat the young greens raw and sauté them as they mature. Bonus: leave them in the ground to overwinter and enjoy tasty sprouts in the spring!
- Buttercrunch Lettuce - Space seeds close together and eat the small plants you pull as you thin them to grow whole heads.
What is the first food of the season that you and your family get to harvest and enjoy?
Formerly radishes or Japanese turnips, but this year I learned that greens like kale and arugula offer an abundance of sprouts in the spring if they are left to overwinter. It’s been game changing and is my favorite garden discovery to date! In my opinion, the best way to eat them is sautéed in salted butter and topped with a poached egg.
Aside from replacing lawn with food-bearing plants, what other joys has your FRONT yard garden brought you?
My front yard garden is pretty so it attracts conversation and has been key in building community on my block. Neighbors walking by always strike up a brief conversation about my garden, their garden or food in general. Our relationships have become stronger and they are more invested in our family and land as they watch our garden through the seasons. It’s my hope that it’ll inspire more front farms over front lawns, so I always take the opportunity to feed people a fresh bit of produce while we chat so they can experience the rewards first hand. Watching people taste fresh food for the first time brings me great joy.
How has your garden changed over the years?
My garden was primarily shrubs, grasses and rhododendrons when we moved in. It was my goal to have a fully edible landscape so, bed by bed, I dug out the plants and put in herbs, edible flowers, strawberry beds and vegetable patches. When I ran out of room in the back yard I started digging up the lawn in the front yard. Today, our garden is our primary source of produce from April until the end of October.
What is one food that seems daunting but you would encourage others to plant anyway?
Cucumbers. You will never eat a better cucumber than the one you grow outside your kitchen door. The flavor simply can’t be matched. The best way to grow them is on a trellis but don’t let that deter you. You can make a trellis from almost anything. Our cucumbers grow in the front yard, vining up a trellis I made from the sides of my daughters old crib. It’s a neighborhood show stopper.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of growing their own food?
You don’t need to be an expert, a master gardener or a botanist. All you need is the willingness to try, the curiosity to learn from your plants and the drive to know your land. My yard is my land, I steward my land and understand it in relation to where my food will grow best. I always trial new locations, for example I have a spot in the yard where I know my tomatoes will be successful so I plant my sure-thing crop in that area and test some new locations with plants I’m willing to sacrifice if the conditions aren’t suitable. Hedging your bets in the garden allows a deeper knowledge of your land and ensures you don’t experience full crop loss. It’s taken me years to fully understand my land and I continue to learn more every year.
How has your garden changed the way you think about food?
Food has so much to offer from seed to maturity and every stage in between. Many of us only understand vegetables once they’re fully matured. The truth is, we are missing so many incredible food opportunities, nutrients and experiences because we don’t recognize the food produced throughout the plant’s stages of life. For example, radish seeds are scrumptious to use as pepper and their greens in a salad, and cauliflower leaves fried with oil, salt & pepper is such a treat.
What would you recommend apartment-dwellers to plant on their window sill and balconies?
Basil, mint, strawberries, and micro-greens. Just be sure to use a big enough pot and water and feed the plants regularly for a healthy crop.
It's easier than you think. Growing a garden, saving seeds, smarter food storage, and reframing food scraps in creative ways are all steps we can take to breathe life into the food that breathes life into us.
If you've been thinking about starting a garden (two green thumbs up from us!), now is the time. Don't stop there, wrap your beautiful bounty in Abeego to keep it alive for longer than ever imagined.