Lessons From the Garden :: How a Food Stylist Built A Bountiful Backyard in Urban Los Angeles
You may know food stylist Kristin Guy of Dine x Design from her beautiful (and educational!) instagram, her brief stint as a recipe contributor here on Coco Kelley, or simply by her gorgeous imagery and storytelling. I’ve known her for quite some time, but this year, as my husband and I got way more into building out our own garden, I found her to be such a wealth of knowledge on the basics of starting raised bed gardening. So, naturally she was the first person I asked to be a part of what I hope will be many more lessons from the garden here on the blog!
Tell us a bit about your gardening journey – how did you get started? What was the motivation?
My grandmother had an amazing garden in Michigan (where I grew up) and I have the fondest memories of climbing her apple trees, snapping beans at her kitchen sink and frying freshly harvested zucchini…so gardening has always been a very fond memory and something special to me. I dabbled in container gardening as a young adult, but it wasn’t until we bought our first home 4 years ago that I had the opportunity (and space!) to really start building my dream garden.
Our lot was a very intimidating, very large patch of uneven rolling dirt when we first moved in, but we took it as a creative challenge. We started with just three 3×6 beds but from there we’ve exploded into a tiny homestead: we now have 6 vegetable raised beds, 4 cut flower beds, a 8×12 greenhouse and 16 fruit trees. We also just received our Wildlife Habitat certification this summer! My husband and I have done everything ourselves, slowly chipping away at projects over freetime and weekends…so we truly know the meaning of sweat equity!
The motivation has always been the desire to spend time in nature, learn about how our food grows and experiment with growing/cooking new things. Each year we tackle another garden project and there is still so much to do! This spring we hope to build a chicken coop and terrace a hillside to add more fruit trees and a small vineyard. It is definitely a labor of love and we are incredibly fortunate to have found this blank canvas to build upon here in urban Los Angeles.
What have the biggest lessons been that you’ve learned from your garden?
I think maybe one of the most surprising things is the incredible online community that has developed from my garden. Gardening is really bringing people together this year!! I never thought my personal hobby would filter into my career or turn into an educational platform helping others. At the beginning of quarantine I launched a weekly “Garden Q&YAY” series on instagram stories after receiving so many of the same questions from followers who were starting their very first gardens sheltering in place.
It has been so rewarding and fun to pass along my years of knowledge, while inspiring and motivating gardeners around the world to tackle everything from seed starting, to composting and even sustainable and organic pest control. I am incredibly grateful to have connected with so many lovely people.
If you could only plant one raised bed next year, what would be in it?
I grow in Zone 10 which is pretty special because we can pretty much have a productive garden year round. I’ve really started to play with how much I can pack into one bed: focusing on companion planting and maximizing space using trellising… so this will be a fun exercise, even if it’s incredibly hard to choose just a few things
Summer/Fall: Blue Beauty & Atomic Grape tomatoes (vertically trellised), graffiti or rosa bianca eggplant, garlic & saffron (as a border), Armenian cucumber (trellised), purple jalapeno, basil and oregano. Outside and around the box: Cornflower, Calendula, Marigolds or lavender as a natural bug repellant/edible flowers.
Winter/Spring: Dino Kale, Rainbow Swiss Chard, purple sprouting broccoli, peas/beans (vertically trellised), candy cane beets, french breakfast radishes, chives, cilantro & parsley. Outside and around the box: nasturtium, borage or chrysanthemum as a natural bug repellant/edible flowers.
Does being a stylist make you approach gardening differently, and how?
Definitely! When I started my current garden I wanted to grow vegetables and flowers that I couldn’t easily get at the farmers market and use them for photoshoots. Not only has growing new unique heirlooms each year become one of my favorite parts of gardening, it also has me being more creative in the kitchen working with new ingredients and inspiring my visual work using new colors, textures and flavors.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their own garden journey?
Have patience, stay flexible and be kind to yourself. Even when you think you’ve mastered it, each year and each growing season always has it’s new challenges… especially those you can’t always control like extreme weather or pest infestations. Failure and learning are all parts of gardening, which make every harvest that more rewarding. Take each of those moments as a learning experience, make notes and adapt your future plots and all that hard work will pay off.
Thank you so much Kristin for sharing your amazing garden with us! Friends, as we continue these series what kind of questions do you have about your own gardens? I’d love to bring Kristin back for more of her knowledge as well as many of my other friends who have so much skill and beauty to share! Drop me a comment!!