Edible Garden Makeover

Just like nature, Gamble Garden is constantly changing. Thanks to the efforts of the horticultural staff and the Dirty Knees Brigade, visitors are treated to an colorful landscape that changes with the seasons. In addition to garden maintenance and seasonal planting, they are always on the lookout for areas that could use a refresh or redesign. Areas that have undergone improvement in recent years include the Pollinator Garden, Watershed Garden, and Lavender Beds.

The the latest area at Gamble to get a makeover is the Edible Garden. Located beside the Gamble Gazebo, the Edible Garden consists of 22 beds, including a raised bed, planted with all things edible. There is at least 1 edible component in every plant in the edible garden. Even ornamental varieties like morning glory have at least one component that is edible. Other edible plants include marigolds and allyssum. French marigold have a stronger taste, smaller signet marigolds (we are growing 2 varieties, lemon gem and tangerine gem, which smell like their namesakes). Unlike almost everywhere else in the garden, the Edible Garden must be replanted twice a year.

It was traditionally known as the Roots & Shoots Garden, named after the intergenerational gardening program that pairs volunteers with 2nd grade students from Walter Hays Elementary School. With school visits on hold indefinitely due to the pandemic, Edible Garden Program Manager Veronica Thao decided the time was ripe for a refresh and redesign.

The planning process began in March. Veronica worked with Garden Director Corey Barnes and Garden Manager Ella Ancheta to create a new design for the garden. One of their goals for the garden was to make it visually similar to the other areas at Gamble. Another goal was to be both visually pleasing and functional. A third goal was to serve as inspiration for visitors for their own home gardens. With those goals in mind, Veronica, Corey, and Ella created a planting map, taking into consideration colors, size, spacing, position of the sun, even views from all directions.

In June, the renovation of the Edible Garden began in earnest. Working with Girvin Peters Landscaping, staff and volunteers replaced the soil in all 22 beds with a fresh mixture of soil and compost from Wheeler Farms. A biodegradable, starch-based sheet mulch product was laid on top of the soil, then new plants (many grown from seed in the Gamble greenhouse) were laid into the soil via X-shaped slits cut into the sheet mulch material. A top layer of compost was added to help retain moisture and protect against the sun. In addition, the raised garden bed frame was powerwashed, sanded, and stained until it gleamed like new. New plant labels, new edging, a new arbor provided the finishing touch.

Two months later, the Edible Garden is thriving. It is amazing what what can be grown in just 2 months! There is so much traffic around the edible garden these days. The beds are bursting with almost 100 varieties, including corn, pepper, bean, eggplant, amaranth, sunflower, radish, carrot, marigold, basil, sorrel, cherry tomatoes, gomphrena, chives, kale and more. Endcaps throughout edible garden contain golden variegated sage and allysum. Harvesting has already begun and will continue as plants ripen, with produce to be donated to Second Harvest food bank.

Veronica is already making plans for winter. Many plants are dormant in the winter,” says Veronica, “So this is a time for the garden to shine and show what can thrive in the winter.” She wants the winter garden to evoke happiness, color, brightness, cheerfulness, and a sense of fun. She is looking at 5 or 6 seed companies, with a draft of around 130 varieties (including many different kinds of cauliflower!) to choose from.