Spring in New Jersey is an amazing time. Trees are in full bloom, ramps are popping up by the river beds, and it is time to get The Bernards Inn garden planned and planted.
One of the great things about being a chef and living in New Jersey is enjoying the four seasons. I love the fact that we can experience all of them and each one is so very different. It was disappointing to have such a mild winter, as I love to spend time with my wife and kids in the mountains snowboarding. But as each day gets a little longer and a little warmer, my thoughts turn eagerly to the garden.
We always plan on the middle of May as a safe time to get a majority the plants and herbs in to the ground. Where we are in the world, our growing season can still be affected by frost if we plant too early. We tried to push the limit two years ago and plant the first week of May and almost lost all of our basils--over 70 plants. So you live and learn and accept that Mother Nature is very consistent and deviating from the plan can have costly repercussions.
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That being said, many of our perennial herbs like lovage, coriander, lemon balm, chives, sorrel and thyme are already growing! We’ve eagerly planted lettuces, radishes and beets which are hardier and can withstand a little frost or snow.
Like anything in life, preparation is so vital to success. We learn a little something every year and use that information to make us more successful in the garden. Bunnies have been a major burden on our plants, especially the lettuces, beets, and beans. So this year we wrapped all of our boxes with fencing to keep them out. We fertilized all of the boxes with manure at the end of the growing season last year and this spring all of the soil has been turned in preparation for seeds and plants. The watering system has been turned on and the timers have been set so the plants have an early morning drink. Now all we have to do is keep planting.
What do we plant? Each year we grow something a little different and often unique. That list includes a root beer plant, stevia, fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, rose geraniums, and anise hyssop. The staples are summer squashes, eggplant, beans, lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. There are too many varieties of each of these plants--especially the herbs and tomatoes--to list here, but we will bring you more updates and photos from the garden as the season progresses. Growing, picking, and cooking with them make my job incredibly rewarding!