You don't have to own acres of farmland or be an expert gardener to enjoy the benefits of "farm to table" in your own home. A small plot of vegetables or fruits or even a small herb garden in your backyard can yield a delicious bounty of produce. Three local chefs talked to TOPS about their own gardening experiences. Maybe they'll inspire you to bring out your inner gardener!

Chef & Partner, Volare

When he isn’t in the kitchen at Volare, Josh Moore can be found tending his farm in Taylorsville. He has almost three acres of garden, orchard and berries on the entire 10-acre farm. This year he will grow about 20 different types of lettuce and several varieties of broccoli, cauliflower and kale in addition to kohlrabi, collard greens, onions, beets, carrots, radishes, pep- pers, cucumbers, melons, strawberries, cherries, squash and herbs. But he’s not stopping with that mind boggling and mouthwatering list. He’s also preparing for 60 varieties (1,200 plants) of heirloom tomatoes!

“We grow pears, apples, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, but cherries are my favorite fruit to grow and I love cooking with them. They’re a ton of work to harvest, but they’re worth it,” says Moore.

Not only is he a renowned chef and farmer, he’s always happy to share some gardening hints:

  • Cutting off the top of Brussels sprouts plants at the right time will help the upper Brussels sprouts grow big like the lower ones.
  • Use a clothespin to bunch the leaves of cauliflower to keep the sun off the heads.
  • Raised beds are easier to harvest and thin plants.
  • For tomatoes, rather than using cages, consider a Florida weave, which is placing a metal post between every other plant, then weave twine on the stakes between plants as they grow higher.

Chef & Owner, Lilly's Bistro

Kathy Cary’s family has owned a 300-acre farm in Oldham County since 1961.” It’s one of the prettiest places in the world,” she says about the farm that’s bordered by Harrods Creek, cliffs and upper fields.

She isn’t as active growing fruits and vegetables on the farm as she once was but has fond memories of planting and harvesting tomatoes, jalapenos, squash, cantaloupe and herbs. Originally a chicken yard, the soil was especially fertile. “Chicken manure is wonderful for plants,” she insists.

In the first garden she tilled, rather than black plastic which is non-organic, she placed straw over magazines and newspapers to help with the weed problem. “A few weeds are ok because it’s not about how the garden looks but how the plants are doing. I just weeded around the roots of the plants.”

She has some other tips you can put to use:

  • You may need to water tomato plants every day or every other day during very dry weather. Water in the evening, not mid-day. Soak the dirt around the root but don’t get the leaves wet. Don’t plant tomatoes in the same place as the year before. Rotate them.
  • Trim flowers off herbs twice a week so they keep growing.
  • Some plants, like strawberries, aren’t happy to be around other plants. Research online to learn more.
  • Squash can become “a shop of horrors,” taking over everything, even climbing up tomato posts.
  • Nasturtiums protect plants from bugs.
  • Instead of planting seeds, you can buy so many plants that are five or six inches tall. They may give you a healthier start and you can better see where you’re planting them.

Chef & Partner, Pizza Lupo

Max Balliet has thriving small beds of thyme, oregano, sage, basil and mint outside Pizza Lupo. “My sister and partner, Sarah Balliet, is really the one with the very good green thumb but I love having herbs I can go out and clip and immediately put into my cooking. It’s handy and we don’t have to spend a lot of money on herbs that are easy to grow. I wish we had more room for the beds. I’d probably grow fields of basil because we use so much in cooking,” he says.

He’d like to grow tomatoes but is limited by space. Being able to grow Sun Gold cherry tomatoes is high on his wish list.

His gardening plans this year include grow- ing nasturtiums to use as garnishes. The edible flowers will also be used in cocktails.

Giant bushes of mint, which can take over a garden, grow in front of the restaurant. “We clip and harvest it as often as we can. It mostly goes into cocktails but I also like to garnish pastas like Amatriciana with it,” says the chef.

Posted on 2019-05-06 by Nancy Miller