It’s never a bad idea to cultivate some new interests—like growing your own year-round edible garden. Naturally, having a space to garden is key and—believe it or not—most of us have some usable real estate, whether it’s a full backyard, a small side yard, a patio, a balcony, or a window box. There are a few things to keep in mind when planning your edible garden, so we consulted award-winning landscape designer and urban farmer Christian Douglas, who’s spent over two decades creating extraordinary and productive outdoor spaces.
Through his two companies—The Backyard Farm Co. and his eponymous firm Christian Douglas Design—Douglas combines his passions for classic design and sustainable agriculture. “There’s pretty much always an edible component in everything we do,” he says. “We didn’t see a pandemic coming, for sure. But in some ways, we’ve been preparing for this a really long time by empowering self-reliance—and growing food is one way to do that.”
The San Francisco Bay Area–based designer and his team, including landscape architect Christian Macke and farming experts Christiana Paoletti and Amy Rice-Jones, help clients all over the world through a variety of virtual programs that serve to educate them about growing and harvesting food. “Based on a site assessment and soil samples, we guide them where to establish the garden (if they don’t already have one set up) and make a crop plan for the season,” Douglas says. “We tell them where to plant, when to plant, what to plant, and do regular check-ins every two weeks by FaceTime to provide feedback, tips, and advice from afar.”
Closer to home, where his clients include Tyler Florence—for whom he’s spent several years designing and maintaining a three-terraced kitchen garden, among other projects, at the chef’s Northern California property—Douglas prefers keeping his hands dirty with projects following roughly the same process.
Douglas and his team designed, planted, and maintain this three-terraced kitchen garden at chef Tyler Florence’s Northern California home.
Photo: Tolan Florence
“We need to know there’s ideally between six and eight hours of sunlight—particularly for things like tomatoes and peppers. We look at the amount of sunlight to determine what can grow,” he explains. “Then, of course, we look at how much space you have–there are ways of growing horizontally and vertically to maximize space, particularly if you have a small area for your garden.”
For small spaces, Douglas suggests a couple of options, including growing your garden in plant pots that can be ordered online from places like Wayfair, Houzz, or your local nurseries (which also deliver). “We like to consider the style of the house when choosing the right pots for our clients. You can pick from terra-cotta, ceramic, wood, or even fabric pots—which are a quick way to get set up. These are planters that ship folded up, and you simply unfold them, fill them with soil, and start growing.”