Chef Symon’s 7 Tips to Help You Start Gardening This Earth Day

By Joshua Cohan

Apr 22, 2014 3:52pm
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Chef Michael Symon. Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival

You know Chef Michael Symon as the co-host of ABC’s “The Chew.” But what you may not know on this Earth Day is that Symon comes from a long line of gardeners.

“My grandfather had his own garden, my father had his own garden, and I’ve had my own garden for over 20 years,” Symon said in an interview for a special edition of the ABC News Radio show “Perspective.”

“There’s something so soothing about digging in the dirt,” he said. “With the stress we all have in our day-to-day lives, there’s nothing better to me than going out in the morning with a cup of coffee and putzin’ around in my garden.”

Symon’s garden includes multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes and chilies, eggplants and “every herb under the sun that you could fathom.”

Here are seven tips from Chef Symon that will have you gardening — and eating! — in no time:

Take a cue from the sun.
“You always need sun. The best sun is morning sun,” he said. “So when you’re planning on where to put your garden in your yard, stand outside and look where you’re getting the best morning sun. And that’s a very good place to start.”

Mix it up!
Never plant something in the same place two years in a row, Symon said. “Tomatoes take certain nutrients out of the soil that peppers may not, so you want to keep moving things around your garden. There are even parts of my garden that I leave dormant for a year or two to kind of rejuvenate the soil.”

Keep them close.
“Plants are like people. If you crowd them a little bit and they actually touch as they’re growing, they tend to grow better. You know, they’re happier. You need less water. You need less fertilizer.  And you could grow more in a compact space.”

Consider composting.
“We always keep a big compost at our house,” Symon said. “We’re using coffee grounds” and other things to create and maintain healthy soil.

Get to know Mother Nature.
“Understand what bugs eliminate other bugs,” he said. For instance, “If you have a lot of slugs (in your garden), let ladybugs in. They’re typically going to eliminate a good amount of those. Eliminate certain pests by adding other pests.”

Get the kids involved.
“It’ll make them less-picky eaters because they’ll always want to try to cook things that they’ve grown.”

Use your taste buds.
“Things that taste good together typically grow well together,” Symon said. “Next to my tomatoes will be basil or peppers or eggplant.”

Hear the full segment below:

* Note that some responses have been edited for brevity.

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