By Kathleen McLeod
As you can read in our article this issue, “Eating Right: Counting Miles, Not Calories”, chefs are starting to get the best, freshest ingredients from local, organic suppliers. Take this a step further, by bringing the produce closer! Even if you’re in the heart of the city or you’re too busy to care for a garden, there are ways to grow your very own fruits, vegetables and herbs, all the while promoting sustainability.
Window Box Garden
Window box gardens are a simple way to grow herbs, small vegetables and edible flowers while cosmetically enhancing the appearance of your building. They don’t yield a lot of produce, but they don’t need a lot of attention either.
A treated hardwood or softwood box is easy to paint so that it blends in nicely. It is important that the box is at least 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep for roots and top growth. Spaces with sun exposure are optimal. Your watering duties are increased if your window box is protected from rain.
While rooftop gardens cannot always provide the cosmetic appeal, they are the most efficient way for urban inns and dwellers to grow produce. Flat rooftops are the easiest to grow on and access, but virtually any shape can support a garden of some sort as long as it’s sturdy and safe to access. Simply lay plastic sheeting down where you will place your garden, collect pots or garden boxes, fill them with soil and plant!
The benefits of rooftop gardens are plenty. They provide insulation in all seasons, absorb water runoff, reduce CO2 emissions, increase property value and, best of all, provide you with the freshest foods without having to leave the building!
Aeroponic and hydroponic gardens offer a modern alternative to those with little space or in harsh climate conditions. Neither of these methods require soil but rather nutrient-rich water. The difference between the two is that aeroponic systems suspend the plants in the air and spray the nutrients on the roots, while with a hydroponic system, plants sit in the nutrient solution.
Using one of these systems allows your vegetables to be at hand in the kitchen when needed. They are optimal for urban kitchens, colder climates or for anyone without the time to care for a regular garden.
The Ultimate Kitchen Garden
Sooke Harbour House in Victoria, British Columbia has taken the kitchen garden concept and really run with it. The beautifully executed meals served in their dining room are seasonal, organic and grown right on the inn’s property. The kitchen relies almost solely on what is grown on site. Head Gardener, Byron Cook, is responsible for the edible landscape surrounding the inn and has shared a few tips.
If interested in starting an outdoor garden, Cook advises you to “start small with a few raised beds – 4′ x 8′ is a good size to start with. Also, replace non-edible landscaping with blueberries, hardy kiwi, herbs and other fruits depending on your climate. As your enthusiasm grows and your customers comment on the taste and freshness of whatever ingredients you decide to grow, you will find ways to grow more.”
Growing an outdoor kitchen garden will make your property visually appealing, unique and more sustainable. Having an abundance of seasonal foods readily available will please guests and inspire any chef to experiment with new culinary twists.
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