For an easy summertime dinner at home, Bob Gent loves a good stir-fry. He’ll toss together potatoes, eggplant, okra and tomato, and maybe a little meat to make a full and savory meal.
Such a dinner is especially easy for Gent — everything he needs is growing just steps from his kitchen door.
And that’s the main reason he gardens — and raises his own chickens and honeybees.
“I like knowing where my food came from,” Gent said.
The garden of Gent and his wife, Kirsten Bosnak, at 18th and Barker streets — affectionately dubbed Bob and Kirsten’s Own Eden — is one of 18 featured on this weekend’s Lawrence Food Garden Tour. The fifth-annual event, aimed at showcasing the diversity of food production inside the city limits, features both private and community plots growing everything from fruit trees to wheat.
Gent said the tour is a great way to get ideas for things to try in your own yard and to learn from more experienced gardeners, something he credits with his own success after he started gardening only about five years ago.
“I got some very good mentoring, and it helps so much,” he said.
Gent’s corner lot is covered almost curb-to-curb with food in the making.
On the side he’s planted corn (popcorn plus Oaxacan green corn he’ll grind into flour), garlic, okra and potatoes in a weed-blocking layer cake of paper and mulch. The squash mounds, however, are mulch-free — squash beetles are hard enough to keep away without building them a cozy hiding place.
In front, blackberry bushes transplanted from Bosnak’s former home are blossoming in the easement. A stretch of boxed beds hold an assortment of salad greens, leeks, carrots, eggplant, onions, green peppers and tomato plants.
And then there’s the backyard.
It’s home to a flock of both laying hens and chickens Gent slaughters for meat, and soon will be home to a colony of honeybees and a “bee yard” planted with the kind of flowers they like. An herb garden includes chives, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and chamomile. There’s a peach tree and a cold frame — a wooden planting box with a translucent, hinged lid to protect plants from freezing — is full of yet more salad material.
“We were eating greens all winter long,” Gent said.
To keep all this growing food fed, Gent maintains a number of compost piles and is experimenting with biochar, which involves burning wood to create charcoal that supposedly locks in nutrients close to plants’ roots.
“Biochar is one of the more recent fads,” Gent said. “I’m learning as I go.”
Gent said he and Bosnak usually have a surplus of veggies. They share or donate some and put the rest toward their other favorite hobby: preserving. His tips include dehydrating tomatoes or turning them into canned salsa, tomato juice or sauce. He also blanches, breads and lightly fries okra before putting it in the freezer. Pull it out on a cold winter day, put it in the oven, and it tastes freshly fried, Gent said.
Gent has a hard time picking one favorite food from his garden.
“It depends on the season,” he said. “I’m going to eat what’s fresh.”
If you go
The 2013 Lawrence Food Garden Tour is on Saturday. Gardens will be open in the morning from 9 a.m. to noon and in the evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. In case of rain, the tour will be rescheduled for Sunday.
Find more information and a link to download a map and brochure onlin e at facebook.com/LawrenceFoodGardenTour.
The free, self-guided tour features the following 18 gardens:
- ALL-N-1 Landscape/Zell Garden, 916 Prescott Drive
- Millspaugh Garden, 1927 Countryside Lane
- Lawrence Community Garden Project, Ninth and Mississippi streets
- Gretchen and Jim’s Backyard Garden, 223 N. Seventh St. (North Lawrence)
- Tim Coughenour’s Subsistence Garden, the lot west of 865 Oak St. (North Lawrence)
- Hoyland Farm/Avery’s Produce, Eighth and Lyon streets (North Lawrence)
- Pinwheel Farm, 1478/1480 North St. (North Lawrence)
- Mellowfields Urban Farm, new Common Ground plot, northeast corner of TeePee Junction
- The Garden Spot, 801 Pennsylvania St.
- Mike Riehm’s Garden, 1002 Pennsylvania St.
- Cosmic Beauty School’s Urban Permaculture Site, 1145 Pennsylvania St.
- Jardin de Cabinos Bien Lejos del Mar, 1228 Pennsylvania St.
- PermaCommons Community Garden, 1304 Pennsylvania St.
- Penn St. Gardens, 1313 Pennsylvania St.
- Lawrence Community Orchard, easternmost lot on Garfield, near 13th and Delaware streets
- Moon on the Meadow Farm, 1515 E. 11th St.
- Bob and Kirsten’s Own Eden, 1801 Barker Ave.
- Harper St. Edible Landscape and Garden, 2808 Harper St.