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How to Start a Culinary Garden

May 01, 2020

Master Gardener Tucker Taylor shares tips on how to grow fruits, veggies, edible flowers and herbs to bring fresh tastes to the table.

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Photo: Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens

Why You Should Grow a Culinary Garden

At Kendall-Jackson, a wine estate in California's Sonoma County, Master Culinary Gardener Tucker Taylor oversees four acres of fruit, herb and vegetable gardens that provide produce for wine tastings. The estate offers a farm-to-table dinner series. Taylor's also enthusiastic about sharing tips on how anyone can grow their own fresh foods. "There's nothing like having a culinary garden nearby," he says. "It can be as simple as a few pots of herbs by the back door or a few planting beds in the backyard."

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Photo: Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens

Grow What You Like to Eat

One of Taylor's tips: grow what you like to eat. If you cultivate healthy soil, "you will harvest flavorful, nutrient-rich produce. This is why I love growing baby crops like French carrots, Tokyo turnips and rainbow beets for platters of crudités. I like to eat them raw so I can taste the intense flavors of my labor."

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Photo: Kenall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens

Build Soil

"If there is one thing I believe in the most," Taylor says, "it is soil building. Compost is key. Just like we eat yogurt or kimchi which helps inoculate our guts with beneficial bacteria, adding compost to your soil inoculates it with billions of microorganisms that help your plants remain healthy. It's all about soil."

Adding aged animal manure, turned-over green cover crops, peat moss and mulches can also help build soil for your culinary garden, whether you're planting in the ground, a large pot or a raised garden bed. If your garden soil is poor, use a raised bed and fill it with good quality soil.

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Photo: Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens.

Water Regularly

Taylor says a simple drip irrigation system with a timer is the most efficient way to water your garden. "They are easy to install and prevent your plants from drying out," he notes. "We all get busy and forget things from time to time. Some people tell me that they like to water by hand and that is fine, but I ask them how [much they water] and it is usually not enough. I explain, ‘It is like me giving you a shot glass of water for the day.'’’

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