Thursday, June 30, 2011
Helaine Tregenza has done it again. Guru of the home and commercial garden installation business The Raised Bed, and previously a main player behind the sorely missed Elkhorn Farm & Mercantile in Moss Landing, the erstwhile entrepreneur recently planted her cumulative experience into new soil with the The Garden Party, the debut home of her backyard organic veggie operation The Raised Bed.
Inhabiting the old Viking Forge space at the Barnyard Shopping Center in Carmel, The Garden Party is an organic retail garden shop and more, born of a serendipitous partnership with Todd Elliot and Ranko Radoman of Elliot Frame Design. Elliot needed a workspace for his magnificent custom frames but had little use for the retail and outdoor space, and Tregenza needed help cutting reclaimed redwood for garden beds. The three became partners in a symbiotic relationship that also boosts any home gardener aspiring to cultivate robust organic vegetable and herb production.
After two years running The Raised Bed out of her home, developing a retail base for identifying new clients and having more to offer them was a natural progression for Tregenza. It only helped that the Barnyard is revitalizing its identity by prioritizing new tenants emphasizing healthy, active lifestyles.
When I showed up to interview Tregenza, she was busily separating and saving lilies that someone had given her. The outdoor garden area where she bustled is coming together, replete with all kinds of vegetable starts, organic soils, garden art, spiral tomato stakes and my favorite: pots that can make a wall of vertical vegetables.
For organic gardening, The Garden Party is your one-stop shop – a niche garden shop with surprisingly broad reach. I was impressed with her resident knowledge of plants and her familiarity with new, hip gardening supplies. Tregenza only sells the products she believes in – and uses – herself, so customers can be assured that what they purchase will work well and make their gardening lives easier, whether it’s a lead-free, non-kink hose ($55.95/50 feet), natural deer repellent ($19.95), organic Baker Creek heirloom seeds ($2.50/pack) or nitrogen-fixing beneficial bacteria ($10-$20). There is something to be said for going to a store and knowing that the absolute best products have been tested by an expert.
The plant doctor is in five days a week (from 11am to 5pm), Wednesday through Sunday. She jokes that the state animal should be a gopher, not a bear, as she shows me her raised-bed arsenal, which prevents said rodents from decimating the garden.
She uses reclaimed, long-lasting redwood to build variously sized raised beds, and as the sample design garden to sell to customers. One of the most interesting items she carries are the above ground Geo Planters ($70/3-by-3-foot bed), which are made out of a patented material that allows water to pass through and roots to breathe, yet doesn’t break down for several years. These above-ground planters are the perfect purchase for renters who want to grow food in their backyard but don’t want to invest time or money in raised beds that can’t easily be taken along when moving.
The Geo Planter kits set up in a flash using PVC as the structure, covered by thick black or dark brown cloth. To disassemble, all you need to do is dump out the soil, remove the PVC and fold up the bed. The Geo Planters also come in round pots ($8.95-$17.50), so no matter how limited your space might be, the potential for rich harvests is there.
Other exciting garden items include tomato spirals that make tomato growing fun ($9.95), and classy European wire market baskets with wooden handles that can hold your harvest or farmers market bounty. There’s also worm casting compost, certified organic veggie and herb starts from a local nursery, micro herb kits, eco-pots, live ladybugs, Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, copper tape, bird netting and wire gopher baskets for pest control, plant disease control products and more. I mean, where else can you can buy an Xtreme Gardening Giant Pumpkin kit with a mycorrhizae innoculizing treatment used to grow the prize-winning heavyweights? Created by the guys from Reforestation Technologies International, the organic steroids for plants can make your garden grow large, and taste better. Trials are currently underway in the The Garden Party design plot, where visitors can stop in and check on the progress.
Tregenza’s gearing up to have many garden-based classes this season ($35; advance registration required), including Vegetable Gardening 101 (she says many people know how to grow ornamentals, but when it comes to vegetables, people need their hand held a bit); Demystifying Soils and Fertilizers; Organic Pest and Plant Disease Control; Starting Plants from Seed; Container Gardening; How to Espalier Fruit Trees; Organic Gardening For Kids; and a surplus of other guest speaker spotlights and book signings. Tregenza also holds group classes at least once a week on Basic Raised Bed Gardening, and Cathy Haas from Monterey Peninsula College’s Horticulture Department leads a class on plant propagation June 29. Full disclosure: Yours truly is teaching a class on Growing Organic Tomatoes July 7.
Visit www.theraisedbed.com for the class schedule with times, since, as food security becomes an increasingly crucial issue, everyone should learn how to grow their own food. All it takes is a little space, good quality supplies and some knowledge. This garden is ready to party when you are.
THE GARDEN PARTY The Barnyard Shopping Center, Carmel • 11am-5pm Wed-Sun; closed Mon. • 620-0700, www.theraisedbed.com