Raised Bed Gardening Blog


Institute of American Indian Arts

In August of 2015, Grow Y'own was fortunate to coordinate a large, multi-bed installation at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. The existing IAIA Demonstration Garden was already growing beautiful crops of tomatoes, squash, amaranth, sunflowers, and more. This existing garden demonstrates and promotes Indiginous agricultural methods for food and medicinal crop cultivation, while serving as an outdoor learning space. It is designed and maintained by the Center for Lifelong Education, local tribal members, students, and faculty. The garden is representative of IAIA's 1994 Land Grant Mission to provide training and outreach that promotes tribal sovereignty and self-determination. In one day, with the help of 20 students, 4 faculty members, and our crew of 5, we moved 45 tons of material- block and soil-, set up 11 4'x12' units, installed drip systems in each bed, and collectively planted one. It was a gargantuan effort, and we pulled it off without a hitch. Since that time, we have finished planting all the beds, and have covered them with both the Summer and Winter covers. Within 2 weeks, the gardeners were giving away big bags of greens to anyone on campus who wanted them. By next Spring and Summer, the plentiful food will be used in the campus cafeteria, as well as open gifts to students and faculty. Many hands made light work to construct this wonderful addition to an already powerful gardening space, and Grow Y'own and crew look forward in 2016 to more of these communal types of installations that can benefit multitudes of people.

Heat it Up!

Last night we made chicken parmigiana with an arrabiata sauce over pasta. The arrabiata sauce is a spicy Italian red sauce made with red bell peppers and crushed red peppers. Red peppers contain almost 300% of your daily Vitamin C intake, and have powerful anti-oxidant polyphenols, which give them strong disease-preventing properties. The capsaicin in hot peppers promotes circulation, which may prevent hardening of the arteries and reduce the risk of heart attack. They also have strong analgesic or pain-relieving and anti-=inflammatory qualities. Eating red peppers can increase libido and build collagen, which ensures beautiful skin. Red bell peppers are a great source of Vitamin B6 and magnesium, help support healthy night vision, and help to burn more calories. People who consume hot red peppers eat fewer total calories per day, and have diminished interest in food. Great for dieting! In the Winter, whenever I feel a cold coming on, I power down hot peppers to get a good sweat going and create a nice internal heat. Adding them to soup or other foods takes a lot of the 'bite' out of the peppers. Whichever way you consume them, red bells or crushed or whole peppers have a wealth of things that can make you healthier, and add a nice kick to sauces and foods which you find bland!

Gift Yourself a Garden!

Xmas is over, the presents AND the tree are gone and put away, and its a quiet time to start planning what to plant this season in your garden. For those already with Grow Y'own raised beds, you're probably continuing to grow and harvest from your existing units. For anyone who has longed to or thought about getting a Grow Y'own and starting a year round gardening program, why wait? You can get setup now, plant starts, install a heat system, and by the beginning of March, your bed will be flourishing and you'll have a 2-3 month jump on the season. We plant 12 months a year here in New Mexico, and for states like Arizona and California, its a no-brainer. So put the catalogues down, pick up the phone, and call for an appointment with Ken. Grow Y'own now! You'll be glad you didn't wait till May!!

Gimme Shelter

At the end of last year, I joined CCLI, (Climate Change Leadership Institute) in Santa Fe, NM, in their effort to 'gift' raised beds to Youth Shelters, and in the future, to low-income housing recipients and community housing projects. By growing their own food supply, these residents will be able to raise their own organic vegetables and herbs, without having to go to stores and pay inflated prices for 'natural' foods, that they can easily grow themselves out their back doors! We can all affect climate change, by changing the way we eat and obtain our food sources, and by growing what we consume the most in whatever forms that we can afford. Now in its 8th season, Grow Y'own continues to be committed to helping people achieve these goals, both locally and nationally, one by one, and family by family. 1,000 beds later, the movement is becoming stronger than ever, and with partners like CCLI, it will grow exponentially, enriching individuals with better health. 

New Year 2016, New Growth

Happy New Year 2016, and may we all be thinking about how to contribute to reducing our carbon footprint and growing our own local food supply. Sharing the production load in Community Housing situations is a wonderful way to get families involved with multiple beds and increased output.  Maintenance and harvesting is reduced, rather than one or a few individuals shouldering the brunt of the work. Passionate interest and synchronicity of purpose becomes promintory, with the result being a highly successful gardening venture. And the cost of start up is vastly reduced through multiple investments. Its a new year, and time for us to start and continue working for more ways to make our communities self-sufficient with viable alternatives to reducing hunger on the planet. 


Fennel. Part of the Umbellifereae family, and related to parsley, carrots, and dill, with a taste similar to anise or licorice.  The bulb, stalks, and green leaves are all edible, as are the seeds that come from the yellow flowers it produces. The health benefits of fennel come from quercetin and rutin, which are both potent antioxidants. It has been used orally for women's health concerns, to address backache, low libido, loss of appetite, infantile colic, and flatulence and other gastrointestinal issues. Topically it has been used to treat snakebites!  It is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a great way to support a healthy immune system. Its also a good source of fiber and potassium. Chewing 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds after a meal prevents or relieves gas or bloating. Culinary uses are unlimited due to its crunchy texture and subtle sweetness. Much more on fennel can be found in Deborah Madison's beautiful new book, Vegetable Literacy!

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. SO big I can't even get the whole book in my scanner! Beautifully photographed by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton and published by Ten Speed Press. The book details cooking and gardening with 12 families from the edible plant kingdom, with over 300 deliciously simple recipes. A total must-have for your culinary collection. And, as of this past weekend, the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) award winner for a cookbook in the Health and Special Diet category. The IACP cookbook award winners are considered the gold standard among cookbook awards. They have been presented for more than 25 years to promote quality and creativity in writing and publishing and to expand the public's awareness of culinary literature. Huge congratulations to my good friend and neighbor for this monumental achievement!


Asparagus.that delicious Sprintime vegetable that we eagerly wait for- fresh- and consume copiously in many ways. A great source of vitamins K, C,and B6, potassioum, thiamin, and fiber. Always look for stems that are firm, and tips that are deep green or purple in color. White asparagus is grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, and has a more delicate flavor and texture. So many ways to cook it, but simple is just fine, with a little butter and olive oil, and parmesan cheese topping. It pairs wonderfully with Salmon in Puff Pastry, and both of these can be found in the recipe section on this site! Buon appetito!

Fast Foods- To Eat, or Not to Eat

Fast Foods. What to eat, and what to never eat. Four nutritional pitfalls to avoid-  1)Opt out of cheese and condiments such as mayonnaise and tartar sauce, which can add unhealthy types of fat. Use mustard or vinegar to add flavor as desired. 2)Avoid anything deep-fried, as these foods contain altered fats that are pro-inflammatory and detrimental to the body 3) Skip the soda, since it has no nutritional value and adds unnecessary calories to an already nutritionally challenged meal. 4) Avoid  desserts, as there are more than enough calories in fast food, and there's no need to add a surgary finale! If you MUST go to a fast food restaurant, then try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables if possible, drink water or tea, try veggie or soy burger alternatives, and opt for yogurt or fruit parfaits for dessert. Your body will thank you!




15 Foods that Don't Need to be Organic!

15 Foods that Don't Need to be Organic! Again from Dr. Weil and the EWG, the 'Clean 15' list that when grown conventionally, posed the least risk of exposure to pesticides. Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms. According to the EWG, eating 5 servings from this 'clean 15' list reduces your exposure to pesticides by almost 90%, compared to 5 servings daily from the 'Dirty Dozen Plus' list!!