What has working with the seasons and cycles of life taught you?
Nature is our great teacher. As we garden through all of the different seasons, we understand how much we can’t control. We learn about resilience, perseverance and that nature will also delight us with unique surprises! These are important lessons, both in and out of the garden.
What about creating edible gardens do you feel most passionate about?
I want a garden to make a real difference in people’s lives. I feel that every time we create a garden we make the world a little better than it was before. Gardens are a powerful vehicle for change, both in ourselves and how we relate to the natural world.
What elements make for a beautiful edible garden?
Beauty means something different to each of us. By building a relationship with the vegetables and flowers that resonate with us, beauty will always be there. In caring for the seed, the seedling, the plant, and the harvested food, we experience beauty in all stages of life, from planting to cooking.
Why is it important that people are connected to the food they eat?
When we understand the journey our food takes to get to our plates, we are better equipped to make healthier choices for our bodies and the larger world around us. We need to tune into the politics and policies that affect how our food is grown so that we can support local farmers growing nutrient dense food without the use of chemicals, genetically modified seeds, or methods that supplant technology for natural growing practices. If we don’t educate ourselves about the toxic and technology-driven practices of Big Ag and its unrelenting development of chemically grown foods, we become part of the problem.
How has your passion and knowledge of plants changed the way you eat?
Growing food has given me a deep and profound sense of appreciation for the incredible and mighty work that each plant does to produce food. I think of each harvest as an offering, as a gift of the relationship that has developed between the grower and the plant. I find tenderness and beauty in cooking and creating meals out of the bounty the garden produces.
Composting is one of my most favorite activities, the gift that seems to keep on giving, how do you see the role of composting in gardening life?
Composting is essential to good health, both for garden health and the planetary health. It is very powerful to take part in the extraordinary process of working with nature to transform yard and kitchen waste into rich soil.
What creates harmony and balance within a garden?
It’s important to grow both food and flowers together. Flowers bring bees and butterflies – vital pollinators to any vegetable garden. And they add a beauty that completely transforms a garden. We like to grow food and flowers for beauty. Both are so important.
How does intuition play a role in creating edible gardens?
As you gain experience gardening, your connection to the land grows deeper and deeper. The relationship that develops between you, the soil and the surrounding environment guides your hand. We come to trust our place in the natural world and understand that we are a part of nature, not separate from it.
Your book is titled, A Garden Can Be Anywhere, where is the strangest place you’ve witnessed a garden?
I’m not sure that any place is strange to have a garden as long as there is sun, soil and water. However, there was a garden I created that was 92 steps up a steep hillside. It was a long haul from the kitchen, but we made it a destination and the whole family enjoyed it. It was the only place on the property that received sunlight!
Any ideas for what to grow for success?
Some of the easiest plants to grow include beans, sunflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and spicy peppers in the warm season, and peas, leafy greens and broccoli in the cool season.
What do you suggest for those of us with small spaces?
Most of us only have small spaces to create our gardens, and yet there is so much still we can grow. In an apartment setting, grow herbs inside in a sunny window or outside on the stoop or patio. For homes that have lots of concrete and little earth, large terracotta pots, measuring at least 18” in depth, are great to use for growing almost anything. Place these in areas that receive plenty of sun and be sure to water the pots every day as they have a tendency to dry out quickly.
How do you approach container gardening?
Container gardening is a wonderful way to grow all kinds of food – from vegetables, herbs and flowers to fruit trees. Be sure to grow your food in pots that are ceramic or terracotta. Never use plastic pots or pots made from synthetic materials, as the chemicals in these leech into the soil, into your food and onto your plate. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to water your pots daily so that plants stay healthy and thrive. You will also want to feed your potted garden a couple of times a month with a seaweed fertilizer to add nutrients to the plants and soil.
Do you have a favorite edible plant?
I love growing fava beans. The seeds are big, shiny and beautiful. Planting them requires little planning other than starting them in the cool season. They can be spaced closely together and don’t need to be in perfect rows — a few here and there works well. They add nitrogen to the soil, so they are great for a depleted garden, and their flowers are so pretty. Fava beans are also a delicious and nutrition-packed food. The chef, Suzanne Goin, has a wonderful recipe for a fava bean puree that I make every season, over and over again.
Top tips for someone who’s never grown anything?
Start simply! And don’t feel like you need to know everything before you plant your first seeds. The garden teaches us as we grow. Find a space where you live that gets five or more hours of sun per day, use good organic soil and water regularly. Get started with something that is pretty easy like growing some cherry tomatoes and perhaps some green beans this summer. Throw in a bit of basil for good measure! Once you feel more confident, add additional varieties of plants, herbs, and flowers.
You love both music and gardening, what connection do you see between the two?
Both music and gardening are intensely creative endeavors, in which you give shape to a feeling. They start off as ideas and become shaped and formed by our own interpretations of them, of their meaning and of what we experience and understand through them.
Are there any specific qualities that lend themselves to being a good gardener and why?
Anyone can be a good gardener. We each bring our own unique perspective and experiences in life to our gardens. No two gardens will ever look the same, even if we use the same plants. How we plant and how we move through our growing spaces creates a singular and rewarding garden experience for each grower.
You mention in your book to plant things you love, as well as one thing you don't, a sentiment that can be applied both in and out of the garden. What's the idea behind that?
When I was growing up, I couldn’t stand eating cabbage. My experience of it was that it was this overcooked, mushy and tasteless meal. For years to come, I never ate cabbage and told people that I didn’t like it. That all changed one season when the cabbage was ready to harvest in a client’s garden. We picked the cabbage together and she asked me if I knew how to cook it. There and then, I decided we should just cook it like I do with lots of vegetables – sauté it with garlic, olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. We cooked it within minutes after picking it and it was one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. Growing cabbage changed my entire experience of this wonderful vegetable, and now I eat it all the time.