Known for his amazing on-site garden at Rico’s American Grill at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix, Chef Ken Arneson has quite the green thumb. (Just visit the property and Chef will gladly you show you around the garden.) So we asked Chef Arneson to provide tips for locals who are wanting to start their own at-home garden. Here’s what he had to say:
When starting a garden, most people forgo the seedling route, preferring to start with a partially grown starter plant. While this is a great way to get your garden going, the plant is still in a delicate, infancy stage. We need to remember we are dealing with baby plants and they need to be treated as such. When selecting your starter plant, get it from a reputable source to make sure you are getting a healthy, consumable product.
When it comes time for planting the starters into your garden, don’t use gloves! The plants aren’t going to bite, so there is no need to protect yourself. The benefit of using your hands? Your positive charge and the earth’s negative charge kick starts the roots of the plant when you bring it into contact with the soil. Once you get you plants into the ground, treat them like you would treat children. Giving the plants more than what they need is bad. And giving them less than what they need is equally as bad. Find the perfect balance and give your plants just what they require.
Now that your starter plant is in the ground, here are the three basic things your garden will need:
1. Light: The sun is a great source of light for your plants. Place your garden where it will receive about 60 percent of the day’s sun. Just like everything else in life, your garden will need some down time.
2. Water: Keep your garden hydrated with the right amount of water. A little bit every day goes a long way. Or you can choose to water your garden every few days, just make sure the water reaches the roots. However, be careful not to over water your vegetation, or else the plants will die.
3. Nutrients: A lot like people, water is not a plant’s only life source. Your garden cannot survive on water alone. Your plants also need great, nutrient soil which is a vital to provide growing organism with the vitamins that plain soil cannot. Using a natural, organic fertilizer every now and then is a great way to keep the microorganisms in your soil alive. Your flourishing plants need them to grow and stay healthy; this is their food.
Gardening should not be a chore, but it does take some patience and dedication. To start, don’t grow more then what you are capable of.
The benefits of a garden, from a culinary aspect, are so rewarding. Fresh-picked ingredients eaten that same day provide the most intense flavors, far better than any grocery store. You will experience flavors that you didn’t know existed in produce like tomatoes, lettuce, radishes and beans. That is because the fruit of the plant hasn’t yet gone into survival mode – it’s not holding on for dear life in the transport process, so all of its nutrients and oils are still alive for us to enjoy.