5@5 - Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier
August 11th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

From rooftop gardens to community supported agriculture, green thumbs abound lately (whether intact or not) 'round these parts.

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier are the chefs and owners of Summer Winter restaurant in Burlington, Massachusetts. Here, their seasonal menus take full advantage of whatever just happens to be growing in the on-premise greenhouse. This farm-to-table (or greenhouse-to-table, if you will) cuisine recently earned them the 2010 James Beard Award for "Best Chefs in the Northeast."

Inspired to tear into the soil but don't know where to dig first? Mark and Clark are here to plant a little terra firma know-how. Time to get seedy.

5 Seeds to Start Your Garden: Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

1. Tomatoes
"If you have the space, tomatoes are a quintessential summer fruit to have in your garden. There are so many varieties available in different shapes and colors, and each has a unique flavor. At Summer Winter, we have more than seven varieties growing from Sungold Cherry to Cherokee Purple. A simple tomato salad with goat cheese, basil, salt and fresh cracked pepper is one of our favorite summer dishes."

2. Lettuce
"Lettuce is a great seed to start with for novice gardeners because it does not need a lot of space and you can grow it year-round. Plus, the taste difference between home-grown lettuce and store-bought is like night and day. To try something different, grow Flashy Trout Black or Black Seeded Simpson lettuce in lieu of your basic butter or Romaine. Our best tip for harvesting: cut off the bigger leaves and allow the smaller ones to grow."

3. Mint
"We love mint! The best way to grow mint is to start with a rooted division in a large container separate from your garden (mint can overtake a garden in a heartbeat!). Mint is available in multiple varieties from black and lemon to pineapple and spearmint. Try apple mint for a different variety - the fuzzy leaves and sweet apple smell go great with cocktails and desserts especially. We love using a combination of varieties from the garden to kick up our summer Mojitos and Sangrias."

4. Basil
"At Summer Winter, we have 15 varieties growing right now. It's a very diverse and easy plant to grow. One tip is to pinch the growing tips - this will make the plants bushier and more productive. Genovese basil is a classic variety to start with; it's perfect for pesto and has beautiful, large, dark green leaves. Basil and mint are great is southeast Asian curries, which we not only love to make at home, but are also currently on the restaurant menu."

5. Cucumbers
"Cucumbers need a strong trellis to climb, but these seeds are super easy to grow and a great addition to a first-time garden. Cucumbers are also low maintenance; if you water them regularly, they will sprout tons of delicious fruit. Try a different variety like Lemon Cucumber that is round with a soft yellow striped skin. Cucumbers are also like a two-for-one special because you can make pickles to last long after the summer is over."

What seeds helped jump-start your garden? Let us know how your garden grows in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

Previously: The Fabulous Beekman Boys share their five favorite farming books

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Filed under: 5@5 • Business and Farming News • Farms • Think

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. kaerdna

    I was just talking about wanting to start a garden next season. Serendipitously timed article!

    August 12, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  2. AGeek

    Heed the advice given for mint. Do NOT plant this outside of a container and prune seedheads religiously. If it gets established in your garden, it'll take over that ..and the yard ..and anywhere else it gains a foothold. The former owners of our home thought it was a nice plant for the landscape. This is the 7th straight summer of trying to eradicate it from our yard. EVIL, EVIL, EVIL. I cannot even *stand* mint now.

    August 12, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  3. S.M.

    Tried container gardening last year in Puerto Rico and got a lot of basil, jalapenos, and was starting to get tomatos when I had to move and ditch it all. This year I put in a small garden in the back yard here in the states and I've had tons of Cucumbers, basil, oregano, a few beans and currently have some watermelon, pumpkins, onions, and a TON of tomatos still ripening. Unfortunately I sorta misjudged and just kind of threw the melons cucumber and pumpkins in the ground close together and they've gone crazy and are currently climbing up and growing off of a tree and fence near the garden patch... but they're producing!!

    August 12, 2010 at 6:55 am |
  4. Jack

    So nice to see a board without any Obama wrangling and shet talking. I can't wait to get some Cuc's going!

    August 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • Alex

      His economic policies are making people so poor the only way they will be able to afford to eat is to grow their food from seeds!

      Sorry, I couldn't resist! I'm a Obama supporter actually, not that it matters.

      August 12, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  5. Carolyn

    Mother earth news is wonderful, I google everything and usually go to their site.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  6. colin in Florida

    I only grow tomatoes. Most other veges don't taste better than the ones you can buy, but the difference between store and garden tomatoes is amazing. Not the easiest thing to grow (they are sensitive to inconsistent watering) and lots of bugs like tomatoes too, but BT, which is organic, takes care of most of them. I use Earthboxes which eliminates the watering problems. Unless you have lots of room, don't grow squash. They are easy to grow, but will take over your garden.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Nimrod

      Sweet corn and bush beans are two crops that absolutely taste better than what you get in the store, tomatoes tend to be everyone's favorite, but can be a bit difficult in many areas. If you live where it is hot, one crop that is really easy and will yield until you are absolutely sick of it is okra!

      August 11, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  7. Barada


    August 11, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  8. SAW

    As an avid container gardener, I turn to youtube for a lot of idea and remedies for my veggies.

    August 11, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  9. Dilan

    Everyone looking into this should check out "aquaponics barrel system" on youtube... a very,very cheap and awesome way to grow free AWESOME veggies and fruits (with edible fish as well, and use the fish "waste" to use as your natural fertilizer) Believe me, its awesome

    After checking out the barrel system, just check out the regular aquaponics setups people have, they are insanely cool

    August 11, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
  10. Weatherpunk

    When I get settled into Texas later this fall, I will be preparing to grow lettuce, carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and maybe chili peppers. I'm a new gardener, but it's what I want to do professionally!

    August 11, 2010 at 8:29 pm |
  11. Liz in Seattle

    For a new gardener I would recommend peas and carrots. Peas are pretty, they grow quickly and yield a lot. Snap peas are especially yummy. And carrots are great because they are also quite satisfying to grow and you can leave them in the ground until you want them, which spaces out the crop a bit and avoids having to eat 100 pounds of something all at once. Also, potatoes are very fun if you have a good deal of space or a tall bin to grow them in. I don't necessarily recommend tomatoes or peppers for a new gardener if you are in a cool or very hot climate. Here in the Pacific Northwest they are a bit iffy sometimes– if the summer is short or cool we may not get much fruit. And in a super hot place the yield will be disappointing or the fruits will get hard inside.

    August 11, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • AGeek

      We're in the Northeast. Same problem with shorter growing season. The solution for tomatoes is to pick cool/short season varieties which mature in 70 days or less. There's a good size and color range available in short-season types and most taste wonderful!

      August 12, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  12. Bill

    I've gardened for 40 years and the five plants listed are very easy to grow. I grow everything form seeds. You need good soil, a water supply, full sun and the worst part is the weeds. Mint is very invasive and will spread. It is best to find the tomatoes that grow best you your part of the country. I love Homestead tomatoes, they are the best tasting tomatoes of the dozens I've tried. I also love Boston bibb lettuce. The worst is iceberg lettuce. Good old large leaf Italian basil is great, fast growing and tasty. Cumbers are very easy to grow but I don't like them.

    I hope people who have never gardened will try it. It can be fun.

    August 11, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  13. bvilleyellowdog

    Peppers. There are many kinds. Banana, hot and mild, cayenne are my vaves. Bell peppers taste like the store ones so why bother.

    August 11, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
    • mitch

      I grow bell peppers because I use a lot and they are $0.50 to $1.50 each at the grocery store depending on the month.

      August 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  14. Trish

    I really want to start a garden (tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli and green peppers) but I'm a complete novice and don't even know when to plant them. I am at 6,500 feet exactly. Does anyone have a book and/or website they can recommend that could really help me, something straightforward and not too technical or scientific. Thank you.

    August 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Every question I've ever had about gardening has been answered by the smart folks on the message boards here: http://yougrowgirl.com/

      August 11, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Kit

      Trish, try an AeroGarden. You can grow indoor year round and it's very easy. I have three now (herbs. tomatoes, and lettuce), and they're the first things I've grown I haven't killed off in the first month with my black thumb. Some of the herbs have gotten moved outside once they got huge (e.g. any basil) and since they're well established they've kept on growing. They're more expensive up front then just buying seeds, but I figure that what I've saved in buying cut herbs from the grocery store that go bad in a week has made up the cost of the machine.

      August 11, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • Bill

      The New Victory Garden by Bob Thompson is the classic book.
      Also, the Victory Garden show is on TV it has been on TV for more than 30 years.

      August 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • dansimonphotography

      http://www.yougrowgirl.com as the other poster noted is a great site. A terrific book is "All new square foot gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. (sp?) It's particularly helpful for a beginner's situation since it can help you come up with better garden soil faster than trying to just improve your backyard soil.

      August 11, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • abbydelabbey

      try the mother nature network on line -

      August 11, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
    • Megan

      For the tomatoes I recommend getting a 5 gallon bucket, cutting a hole in the bottom and planting your tomatoes that way. We hung ours on the side of our porch. It is like the topsy turvy without the expense.

      August 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
    • Alex

      If you live at 6500 feet I'm guessing you live somewhere in the intermountain west. It is too late to get started this year. But figure out when your last frost date is (this is the latest date that you normally get frost). You can find this online or by calling your local agricultural extension service. Since this is your first time gardening I'd recommend buying started plants from your local nursery. They can also give you great advice on how to grow the plants. If things go well then try seeds in the future for many plants (I think tomatoes are always easier to deal with when you buy started plants). Seeds aren't hard, but it is a bit more challenging than going with started plants. You should buy the Western Garden Book (by Sunset). That is a great all around gardening book and is pretty much the bible of gardening in the west.

      August 12, 2010 at 1:02 am |
    • Ray Lawrenceville PA

      Try Burpee.com. They have a free booklet for beginners that they will send to you, I found it very helpful. Good luck!

      August 12, 2010 at 7:06 am |
    • Trish

      Thank you for all the info. I look forward to start studying and researching and hopefully I'll be all ready by next year.

      August 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
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