A helping hand in yourvegetable garden | TheUnion.com

A helping hand in yourvegetable garden

Do you dream of eating from your own vegetable patch?

According to the Edible Gardening Trends Research Report, a 2009 survey conducted by the Garden Writers Association, more than 41 million American households (38 percent) grew a vegetable garden in 2009. Of those, 7 percent (7.7 million households) were new to edible gardening.

When asked if they planned to continue their garden for 2010, 37 percent of households reported plans to increase their plantings.

Patrick Rodysill and his partner, Mali Dyck, can attest to this growing market. Their business, Garden Fare, has grown steadily. Patrick refers to himself as an “urban farmer” and specializes in coaching and developing budding vegetable gardeners.

Rodysill began his career 20 years ago working with a landscape architect in Nebraska who also did flower design projects for banks, hotels, and other large clients.

“I learned so much from that first job,” Rodysill said. “The aesthetics of a vegetable garden are as important to me as the food production.”

Four years ago, he began encouraging and educating his Nevada County landscape clients to transition to organic methods and growing more vegetables. He found customers willing to follow him in this determination increased their gardens’ overall productivity along with the number of lady bugs, frogs, bees and other beneficial creatures in their gardens.

“I am totally committed to the concept of giving people the opportunity to succeed at growing and eating their own produce,” Rodysill said.

With Garden Fare, you can be as hands-on as you want. Rodysill and his team can help you plan and trouble shoot your garden space or do it all, from planning your site to harvesting your vegetables.

“Focusing on improving the soil is the best prescription for success,” Rodysill said. “It helps your plants to grow healthy, to resist pests and diseases without outside inputs, and reduces the amount of garden care needed. Here in Nevada County, where our soils are depleted, this is essential.”

Rodysill designed and installed a vegetable garden at Pilot Peak Winery in Penn Valley. He also worked with a local woman who has multiple sclerosis to design and build a garden of raised beds high enough for her to wheel around. Another recent project in Penn Valley was a formal vegetable garden intermixed with flowers.

Rodysill also partners with Leslie Bennett in the San Francisco Bay Area; their clients generally have less space to work with. They have created intimate, cottage-style gardens and recently designed a Celtic braid garden using primarily edibles – lettuce, fennel and parsley – with flowers added for color and drama.

Garden Fare will have a booth at the San Francisco Garden show later this month.

March is a great time to start planning and preparing your soil. If you’d like to explore that dream of your own vegetable garden, but don’t have the confidence to do it alone, find more information about Garden Fare’s services at MyGardenFare.com or (530) 913-2962.

Post this recipe on your refrigerator to remind you of the mouth watering possibilities for the upcoming summer.

Ratatouille never tasted so good as when it is infused with the smoky flavor of the grill, and all of these vegetables, plus and parsley and basil, can be easily grown in your back yard.

For best flavor, prepare this recipe about an hour before guests arrive.

Patti Bess is a Nevada County freelance writer and cookbook author. E-mail her with questions or for more information at pbess@exwire.com.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large eggplant, sliced one-half inch crosswise

1 large red onion, sliced one-half inch thick

1 red bell pepper

2 yellow or green bell peppers

3 medium tomatoes, cut bite-sized

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons capers

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Pre-heat a gas grill to medium high or build a fire in a kettle grill.

Brush the eggplant and onion slices with the olive oil (a little salt and pepper in the oil is helpful). Grill until fork tender, about 4 to 6 minutes on each side for the eggplant. Place peppers whole onto the grill and turn occasionally. When peppers are charred evenly on all sides, remove from the grill, set aside and place in a plastic bag for a few minutes to cool and finish cooking. The skin will blister up.

Place cut-up tomatoes in a large bowl. Add basil, vinegar, capers, salt, pepper and parsley. When the grilled vegetables have cooled enough to touch, peel peppers and chop all vegetables into uniform, bite-sized pieces. Add to the bowl and toss to mix.

For best flavor, set aside for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours to allow flavors to marry. Serve warm or at room temperature with couscous or as a side for grilled meats. Makes about 4 servings.

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