The writer received complimentary services from Yard2Kitchen. All opinions are her own.
When I first came across Yard2Kitchen‘s Twitter feed I thought “Oh, how cool would that be? A company that comes to your house, plants and tends to your own personal organic garden. Sign me up!” I was ready to be over feeling guilty for having no clue what I’m doing but still planting, only to watch most of the fruits of my labor—literally—just wither and look sad. The possibility of relief from this guilt alone gave the whole setup appeal.
Here’s how it works. Your own personal farmer shows up at your doorstep with a custom crop that you personally selected, organic ingredients to get your soil up to snuff and a pretty impressive auto-irrigation system. Now that’s my kind—well, it’s really their kind—of gardening.
I need to be perfectly up front here. While they were kind enough to work with my itsy-bitsy 4 x 8 plot for this story, Yard2Kitchen usually installs spectacular custom-raised beds. Just check out their photo gallery. Next year, however, I’m going for the real deal.
This four-person company launched in 2014 when Ed Albright retired from a career in the pharmaceutical industry and decided to follow his love of farming and organic gardening. As a Rutgers certified Master Gardener, Albright had plans and once his team was assembled, it was full steam ahead. Kenny Baldo is customers’ first point of contact. Baldo is a garden consultant and will come and meet with you to determine if you’re a good fit for their service. Six hours minimum of sun and access to water for their automatic drip irrigation system are two key ingredients for success. (Sadly, some yards are just not suited for gardens.)
Once your yard passes the test, then it’s time to choose your plants. Yard2Kitchen has everything covered when it comes to garden planning, starting with a grid system. Your garden will be divided into square foot grids and they list all of your plant choices with the coinciding number of grids each plant requires. Talk about taking the guesswork out of gardening!
Headquartered in Maplewood, their greenhouse provides all of the plants for customers. This allows Albright and his team to control the quality and be sure only organic ingredients are used from seed to salad. What makes them even more specials is that they offer maintenance and education for the client. Yard2Kitchen offers different programs and bed sizes to fit clients’ needs. Generally, you get three main seasons planted. Intermittent additional plants, as short-run crops, are harvested. This includes produce like lettuce, basil, and cilantro. For clients with pesky critters, Yard2Kitchen offers a signature fencing system that attaches to the bed. (This setup is preferable to having it go around the bed as it utilizes less space.)
As of the publish date of this article, my garden is looking very green. I am patiently waiting for the big beautiful tomatoes to turn red. I’ve already enjoyed fresh lettuce and cilantro and my basil is ready for some serious harvesting. I’ve got eggplant and peppers starting to grow as well.
Every two weeks, your personal Yard2Kitchen gardener pays a visit to look over the plants for any signs of pests or disease and to give them some organic fertilizer. They use a mixture of insect killing soap, neem oil, sulphur and Bt (aka Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that attacks insects, to thwart off pests and powdery or downy mildew. At the same time, they treat your garden to some nourishing organic fertilizer which includes fish emulsion, seaweed extract, and bone meal. At the end of their visit, your personal gardener will leave a door hanger with a detailed description about what was done and instructions on what needs picking now and what to look out for.
August is peak harvest time. Here are a few important tips on how to get the most out of your glorious garden, straight from Albright himself.
- Pick vegetables as soon as they are ripe, which often encourages the plant to produce more.
- Most vegetables are at their peak of tenderness and flavor when they are relatively small. Zucchini for example, are best when they are no more than six or seven inches long. After that, they get tough and woody. (If you discover an overlooked monster, grate it and use it to make zucchini cookies or zucchini bread.)
- When you harvest, look out for signs of trouble, such as yellowing leaves or rotting fruit, and remove the problem parts. Even if it’s something you can do little about at harvest—such as blossom end rot or cracking from too much rain—there’s no point in letting the plant put energy into fruit you won’t be able to eat.
Look for fall gardening tips from Yard2Kitchen and some dishes featuring my gorgeous organic veggies next month.