Meet One of Houston’s Newest Urban Culinary Garden Consultants {INTERVIEW}

Posted on Jul 23 2016 - 7:37pm by UOG

Whether you’re in the Houston area or not, we’ve stumbled upon a great Instagram account that will give you wonderful gardening tips and beautiful imagery. Nicole Burke (@rootedgarden) is one of the Houston’s most up-and-coming garden consultants and her clients rave about the work she does.

The Rooted Garden designs, installs and maintains organic vegetable and herb gardens in Houston, TX. Providing consulting, high quality garden beds, and local sources for plants and soil, The Rooted Garden is a leader in Houston’s edible gardening market.”

photo credit: Meredith Flaherty (http://www.meredithflaherty.com)

We’d love to hear about your gardening business and what you do.

In the fall of 2015, my youngest child entered preschool.  While I was already employed as a philanthropy advisor, I was quietly looking for a way to be out and about in Houston and gardening more.  The business happened almost accidentally as a few friends asked me to help them begin a backyard garden.  In November, I registered ‘Rooted Garden’ as a business and formally announced my enterprise to friends and neighbors.  My first six gardens were standard 4′ x 8′ or 4′ x 4′ cedar gardens.  But within a few months, friends began to tell other friends and I was soon working with clients on gardens of 150 square feet or more.  Now, eight months in, I have served over 45 clients and the phone keeps ringing!  Just recently, I’ve begun garden consulting for clients in other cities as well.  It’s a dream come true and a real joy to share the garden with so many new friends.

photo credit: Meredith Flaherty (http://www.meredithflaherty.com)

How has having a family garden improved your quality of living for your kids? What do they most love about growing their own food?

As parents, we all feel the need to provide a wide open space for our kids to run free but that is not always possible for families in the city.  We have a fairly small backyard but our vegetable garden still provides some of the aspects of adventure and discovery that kids often miss in urban settings.  In a relatively small space, my children can explore, work, forage, discover and eat. The novelty that my kids crave can often be met in the garden with an emerging butterfly, a new seedling, a hidden fruit or a pest infestation.  Every day and every season is unique.  With a family of four children close in age, it’s difficult to find an activity in which we can all participate fully but the garden has become such a place.  When my kids are fully grown, I believe they’ll look back and remember our garden as a central part of their family and life.

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What have you been most successful at growing up until now? What would you still like to try?

Lettuce!  Lettuce crops are incredible in Houston.  We plant seed in October and we can cut and come again until April and then grow Arugula and Mizuna throughout the hot months.  Because our winter temps don’t drop very low, the winter garden is actually (I think) the best.  I love to grow a huge variety of lettuces with different colors, textures, and tastes.  I think most people that tire of salads do so because they’ve never had a freshly cut salad full of bitter and sweet, crunchy and soft lettuce.  It’s so satisfying and delicious and it’s one of the main reasons that I desire to see more Houstonians growing.

What would I still like to grow?  I’d love to grow Chia seeds, Amaranth, or Quinoa.  Unlike most of the country, Houston’s toughest time to grow is June through August so I’m always looking for new crops that can stand the heat and humidity and help me hold on till its sweet lettuce season again.

photo credit: Michele Grifiths (http://michelegriffiths.com)

Do you have any tips on how to keep your garden area free of weeds? Your gardens always look so tidy and well-kept! 

Thank you!  I almost always work with raised garden beds.  Houston’s soil is gumbo clay and while it has some beneficial properties, the proven method for successful edible gardens here is raising the garden bed and filling it with soil and compost.  I work with several local soil companies that are amazing.  Their soil and compost are so clean and nutritious that weeds are really not a thing for the first year.  There are airborne weeds to contend with, but I try to fight them by keeping the gardens full.  My clients will tell you that I don’t waste an inch of the garden.  Some may say that things are too crowded but if I can see a weed finding its way into the garden, I figure there might as well be something edible growing there instead.

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