I planted my first garden-fresh out of art school, marking the perimeters with four sticks and a ball of twine. With a sharp-edged spade, I removed a thick layer of rugged turf, dug up the stony soil, then shoveled on the compost.
Using the same four sticks and twine, I measured out long, straight rows, before planting seeds for basil, lettuce, and arugula sprinkled them with water, and walked away. I was fresh out of art school and starting a design business; I thought this might be a good way to feed myself. I would stretch the truth to say the garden thrived.
There was a constant battle with the weeds, and the garden hose didn’t quite reach, so the plants were frequently thirsty. Yet the thrill of dashing to the garden just before dinner to clip a few leaves of frilly Lolla Rossa and crimson Bull’s Blood Beet greens for my salad kept me at it. I reveled in fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of wandering into the garden with bare feet and a harvest basket.
Because food gardens are beautiful…
The garden took more and more time, and eventually, instead of making art of canvas, It was Italian chicory, however, that led me off the farm to cooking school in Venice with Marcella Hazan, where I learned how to respect and value heirloom Italian vegetables. The following year, I attended the Ballymaloe School in Shanagarry, Ireland where I discovered a beautifully designed kitchen garden and became enamored with the European style potager. This set me on the path to kitchen garden design, and eventually to write books about gardens, for cooks who love to garden.
Books and Classes…
Tasting food pulled from the ground, twisting off a green stem, or picking up an apple dropped from a tree at the peak of ripeness is the way I wish we all ate. You may have a one-square foot plot rubbing shoulders with a kitchen door or a wilderness waiting to be tamed, planting a garden is an opportunity to dig deeper into the plant kingdom.