Top Tips for Starting a Culinary Garden


Earlier this month, Aron and I got to have dinner in the gardens at Kendall-Jackson’s Santa Rosa winery. One of the highlights was having the winemaster, Randy Ullom, take us around to show us from where our dinner (and wine) was sourced, and introduce us to their resident culinary gardener, Tucker Taylor.






Tucker (who had been the head gardener at the French Laundry before coming to them), spoke softly about things like hybrids of celery and lettuce, and about starting his first culinary garden at home with just terra cotta pots filled with herbs. The garden he manages now is massive by comparison—sending cuttings to top restaurants around the region, supplying dinners and events at the winery, and feeding all the staff at daily lunches (which sounds amazing).


It seems at once inspirational and aspirational, and he assured me that anyone can eat from their garden. So I followed up to see if he would share his top three tips for the would-be culinary-home-gardener:

1. It’s all about soil. Compost is key and helps bring your soil into balance as well as having excellent water-holding capacity. Use a well-balanced organic fertilizer as well.

2. Looks matter. Just like you choose the freshest looking produce at the market, choose the healthiest looking transplants. You might have your heart set on a Brandywine tomato, but if the plants look spindly they are not going to produce a good crop.

3. Water wisely! Use drip irrigation in conjunction with a timer. Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to irrigate your plants because it slowly saturates the soil at the root zone. When we irrigate with overhead sprinklers the water quickly moves through the soil past the root zone and irrigates the weeds as well.



Any green thumbs out there? What would you add? What have you had the most success with?

Thank you, Tucker! (@Farmert on Instagram) And thank you to Lauren Kelp and Kendall-Jackson who invited us to be their guest.

P.S. 48 Hours in Napa Valley, and a daytrip to Shed in Healdsburg. Also, our kumquat trees and my mother-in-law’s amazing blackberry garden.

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