The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. – Alfred Austin

The Edible Garden at the Marin Art & Garden Center is a hands-on demonstration and exhibition garden for all ages. We gather here to study horticulture, science, nutrition, cooking, the environment and our place within it. Our hope is that by empowering our broader community with knowledge about food (and where it comes from!), we can empower them to make healthier choices for both themselves and our planet.

Homestead Design Collective
creates Edible Garden 2016

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle Stefani Bittner (left) and Alethea Harampolis (right) of the Homestead Design Collective.

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Stefani Bittner (left) and Alethea Harampolis (right) of the Homestead Design Collective.

The 2016 edition of the Marin Art & Garden Center’s Edible Garden has been created and planted by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis, founders of the farm and gardening landscape design firm Homestead Design Collective. Fresh from the debut of their 11,000-square-foot Sunset Magazine test garden at Cornerstone Sonoma, the Homestead team brought their vision for a beautiful edible garden to our 1,250-square-foot space at MAGC and it is brimming with delicious herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are already spilling over the edges of the raised beds and providing early harvests of lettuce and radishes.

The MAGC Edible Garden is a focal point of the landscape at the Center and is used for our popular school program, “dig it, grow it, eat it,” which brings nearly 400 first grade students from throughout Marin County to MAGC each fall. This summer, it will also be a key teaching location for the Outdoor Explorers day camp led by the Bay Area Discovery Museum from June through August.

Workshops for adults in seasonal herb recipes, flower arranging, wreath-making, and more will be held starting in July and the bounty of the Edible Garden will find its way into botanical cocktails, herbal salts, and home grown bouquets gracing the tables at the MAGC Summer Concert Series.

Homestead’s Garden Design Philosophy

We believe that a garden should provide three things.

Beauty. A garden is an extension of your living space, so it should reflect who you are and where you want to be.

Harvest. A garden can give back to you in so many ways. Yes, of course there is the kitchen garden where we grow our annual vegetables; these are beautiful spaces, too. But we want to inspire you to grow harvestable plants throughout your entire landscape. This means growing edible plants that give you flowers, fruits and herbs for use in the kitchen and to fill your home with beautiful arrangements.

Marin Art & Garden CenterPlants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators. The idea of growing food throughout your landscape is one of the most exciting realizations a gardener can make. And when you make this happen, all kinds of other amazing things follow.

It’s an opportunity to learn and implement organic gardening practices and principles. When you grow food, our assumption is that you want to do so organically. Organic gardens need beneficial insects and pollinators — and flowers.  Flowers provide beauty, harvests and are needed for their ability to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. The great news is that the flowers we love to bring indoors to fill our vases and garnish our salads are the same ones pollinators and beneficial insects love, too. In addition to edible plants, we also fill our gardens with non-edible flowering plants because not only do they make fantastic cut flowers, they also support organic garden care.

The MAGC GardenGeranium Smells

We are inspired by the communal experience that the MAGC gardens provide. The garden is designed to provide spaces for food growing, garden interactions and exploration through fragrance based edible plants and edible plants that do double duty and are used to make plant dyes. We encourage folks to touch and smell the plants in the garden. We have included unique varieties of many familiar plants.

Search out the flowering basils. Unlike its cousin the classic genovese basil grown for its pesto making leaves, these plants are bred to flower! The leaves and flowers are edible and bloom from late spring until frost.

We have also included a scented geranium bed that we think of as the scratch and sniff bed! Scented geraniums release their scent when the underside of their leaves are warmed – this means that you need to gently rub the leaves to fully enjoy the plant’s aroma. Varieties include a wide variety of scents. Our favorites include: Mabel Grey, Nutmeg, Strawberry, Apple and Lemon Skeleton.

The Upper beds include all edible plants that we love for their fragrance, culinary use and as dye plants.   Each plant is labeled with its plant name and its uses to encourage garden visitors to explore the space.