With a few pots on your balcony or a small patch of your backyard, there’s more than enough rain and sunshine to grow your own garden this year. Plus, the benefits are endless: Choose your favorite fruits and veggies, reap the rewards in your weekly meals and avoid the long lines at the grocery store. We caught up with Spike Mendelsohn, celebrity chef and restaurateur (Good Stuff Eatery in Crystal City, Vim & Victor at The St. James), who is known for his emphasis on sustainable food, to discuss what you need to start your very own successful, sustainable garden this summer.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to start their own garden?
Especially for people that have their kids at home, there has never been a more opportune time to get the whole family gardening and cooking. I recommend starting with the easy stuff like tomatoes, lettuces and fresh herbs. Personally, I’ve been inspired by the documentary Fantastic Fungi and have started growing my own mushrooms in the yard. This is especially awesome for those who, like me, suffer from lack of sunlight in their backyard, but the moist and shady conditions are perfect for mushrooms.
What’s your favorite way to garden, depending on the space you have?
I’ve done it all—balcony, rooftop, pots, in the ground with soil. It all depends on what you have to work with. It’s part of the experience of gardening. Whatever you do, remember you have to be able to get water to the garden.
What’s the best part of starting your own gardening and cultivating from it?
Hanging with your plants, seeing the fruits of your labor, watching them from seed to sprout and eventually incorporating them into a delicious dish. It’s so rewarding.
What else would you suggest for maintaining healthy, sustainable habits and hobbies?
Lean into the plant-based movement. Never has there been a better reason to try it out and grow your own food. After the garden is going, start to dial in the chicken coop. Fresh eggs are the best!
Chef Spike’s 5 Gardening Tips
• “Find the all-day sun. This will make gardening a lot easier.”
• “Grow something you’ve never grown before.”
• “Pick and cook as you go, such as green tomatoes or squash blossoms. Using ingredients at their different growth stages can be exciting, and at the same time, help you yield more fruit.”
• “Water twice a day, early in the morning and before the sun goes down. I call it a coffee and tea watering.”
• “Get the pollination harmony going. Add flowers and hummingbird homes. Plants need some action.”