My No-Frills Kitchen Garden

I’ve had to be brutally honest with myself. The harsh reality is that when it comes to horticulture, while I may aspire to a green thumb, mine is mostly black and blue. No amount of planning, Miracle-Gro, cultivating, raised beds, sweat or physical labor has ever produced the kind of stunning vegetable sanctuary I dream of.

basil herbs pots ready to be plantedSome perfectly good greens, ready to be neglected. 

Now that the gardening season is upon us, I have a confession to make. I have serious garden envy.

I used to dream of a meticulously planned, well-manicured kitchen garden. Those full-page spreads in Martha Stewart Living would set my heart aflutter as I gazed at those perfectly tiered rows of pole beans, pert lettuce and glistening green peppers planted in a flawless diagonal pattern.

Recently, I visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. The sheer, obsessive beauty of the vegetable garden was enough to make me weep. It looked like an exquisitely rendered counted cross-stitch sampler.

But, I’ve had to be brutally honest with myself. The harsh reality is that when it comes to horticulture, while I may aspire to a green thumb, mine is mostly black and blue. No amount of planning, Miracle-Gro, cultivating, raised beds, sweat or physical labor has ever produced the kind of stunning vegetable sanctuary I dream of. The garden of my dreams usually ends up as an unorganized disaster. Sometimes, even the weeds don’t survive.

Yet, I can’t seem to give up the desire for hyper-local greens, as accessible as my back door. So, I’ve perfected a no-frills strategy when it comes to kitchen gardening. I let those greens fend for themselves.

Seasoned gardeners would be appalled at my approach. I simply dig a hole, drop the seedling in, and set the garden sprinkler to automatic. It’s not even laborious enough to get my fingernails too dirty. Then, I pour a cocktail and watch the little plants grown from my deck.

And, you know what?  It works. The mint is growing out of control. The chives stage an annual revival. Last year, the kale and Swiss chard were prolific. That one kale plant — that got absolutely no TLC from me — was still hanging on during the polar vortex. My plant-it-and-forget-it approach shows every sign of being successful again this year. After just a few weeks in the ground, my Swiss chard looks tall and strong, and the basil is in the middle of a growth spurt. And, I don’t lift a finger, except to snip a few leaves for a healthy dinner salad.

I may have given up on botanical beauty, but the greens have not given up on me. Maybe gardening by avoidance will become the next big thing.

T.W. Barritt blogs at culinarytypes.blogspot.com.

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T.W. Barritt is a passionate baker who studied the art of bread and pastry at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. He is the author of “Long Island Food: A History from Family Farms and Oysters to Craft Spirits" published by History Press.