This story was contributed by our new wellness columnist, Michelle Calarco.
Interest in home DIY projects has flourished during the pandemic but none may be more impactful than the one outside your home—your garden. Home gardening has exploded over the last year and it seems the trend is here to stay, with nearly 9 in 10 homeowners planning to continue gardening in 2021 (according to a recent Gardening Survey by Axiom Marketing).
Growing our own food helped drive the surge, led by those who wanted access to fresh produce after panic buying resulted in shortages at grocery stores. So with Spring in full swing and Earth Day upon us, we talked to Lizzy Gendell, Crops Manager at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, to get some tips on how to grow and maintain an incredible, edible garden at home.
With the help of farmers and chefs at Stone Barns and Blue Hill, Stone Barns has launched a series of garden kits that offer the opportunity to engage in a community of learning, information sharing and classes while caring for your own small garden. Kits include all the seeds, plants, compost, materials, recipes and resources you will need to start and maintain a garden from scratch or continue your existing garden.
The Well: What is the best location to grow an edible garden?
Lizzy: You’ll want to find a spot with as much sun as possible, or “full sun.” It’s often difficult on a patio or yard to achieve that, so aim to find the place that receives the most sun throughout the day.
The Well: How big should an edible garden be?
Lizzy: Any size is great! You can plant into small containers if you don’t have a lot of space. You can build/buy infrastructure for wood-framed raised beds. Or you can dig up a section of your yard to plant into! For the Stone Barns Veg Kit, we are guiding people through a 12’x15’ garden space.
The Well: Will any backyard dirt do or is there a type of soil you recommend?
Lizzy: If it is your first time growing in a plot of land, you’ll want to feed the soil properly to create nutrient availability! We use compost from the waste that we generate on the farm. We are also fans of Vermont Compost Company for their compost and potting soil mixes.
The Well: What are some of the easiest things to grow for first-timers?
Lizzy: Peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes are all great starter plants. They grow relatively quickly and are pretty low maintenance. Cut-and come-back lettuce is great as it will provide continuous harvests over the season. You can harvest the outer leaves and let it regrow for the next harvest. And kale as well! Choose varieties that sound interesting and different – there’s so much diversity in the world of seed.
The Well: Any other tips to keep in mind?
- Make sure you have a good plan for watering, weeding, and trellising. plants are easy to grow but they need love!
- Grow some flowers around your garden! Flowers are not only beautiful but they are pollinator attractors – great for plant pollination and food for bees!
- Try companion planting: Choose crops that can fit around each others’ space and water needs. If you plant tomatoes, you can sow/plant herbs underneath like basil. If you plant a root crop, you can pair it with a shallow rooted crop. Carrots next to lettuce work great as their roots operate in different zones. Radishes and turnips are great to seed in smaller spaces of the garden as they dig deep and don’t take up too much space.
- Get the most out of your space with succession planting — planting different crops one after the other. For example, if you plant peas in the spring, they will likely last you until early July. After that, you can plant other crops in the same space for a fall harvest. Some good options include: lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, carrots.
- Cool temps can mean cool crops: You can fit a lot in even through the fall/winter. For cool season crops, you will start to sow/plant at the middle & end of the summer. Carrots, beets & spinach are great crops to plant to continue growing in the winter.
The Well: What types of garden kits are on offer at Stone Barns?
Lizzy: The following kits are available:
- Kitchen Garden Kit
- Pollinator Garden Kit
- Flower Cutting Garden Kit
- Dye Garden Kit
- Patio Garden Kit
For more guidance and information, check out our veg kit subscription box at Stone Barns. We will be guiding members through a season of home garden virtually, while providing materials to create the garden along the way. There are 4 pickups of plants for our Kitchen Garden Kit that are accompanied by virtual and in-person guidance in which our farm team will color in details of how to successfully grow the plants! We have carefully selected varieties that we also grow in our fields and Greenhouse, and are incredibly excited for people to grow them at home.
More info on the Stone Barns Garden Kits can be found here.
About Michelle Calarco: Michelle is a communications expert and a wellness enthusiast. After honing her storytelling craft in media and television, Michelle went on to elevate the profiles of premier brands across the hospitality, healthy living, and better-for-you food spaces. She has always been passionate about living and eating well and became even more immersed in health when she became a mom. On weekends you can find her squeezing in a barre class (during Paw Patrol) and baking healthyish desserts with her little one. Michelle has a consulting business and resides in Greenwich with her husband and 2-year-old son.
Have an idea for something you want to see in the column? Write to Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @michelle.calarco