Merging the garden and the grill is a simple way to enjoy homegrown vegetables without a lot of prep time or detailed recipes. Most grilling requires a heat source and a barbecue tools set, the rest is up to personal preferences and what is in season or recently harvested. From setting up the garden to harvesting and enjoying the bounty, this season will be filled with garden to grill dining.
Starting a garden
Creating a backyard garden only requires a few tools, supplies, and patience, yielding a bounty of fresh vegetables to supply an entire grilling season. Before digging or building it’s important to decide on what type of bed the location allows for, either raised of in-ground. Be sure to check the soil fertility as well as the existing plant life. This will help you decide if any fertilizer or other nutrients will need to be supplemented as well the weeding frequency.
While in-ground gardening may seem cheaper, tilling up the land and moving on to planting, raised beds may be a good idea for several reasons. Using raised beds will enhance the irrigation, allows you to use higher quality soil, and ensures that the soil will hold water and necessary nutrients throughout the season. Raised beds also protect from small predators, like rabbits, squirrels, and neighbor dogs, while keeping the crops away from the lawn mower or landscapers.
The biggest decisions, aside from which seeds or plants to install, is what type of material to frame the bed with and which soil to use to fill the space. Wood is a great option for lining beds because it comes in uniform sizes and lengths, and is generally easy to work with. Other options include stones, bricks, or recycled materials. Remember, using something pre-treated to reduce bacteria growth may have an impact on your soil and plants, so understand what the wood is treated with if you choose that option.
Soil choice is another important decision in determining the success of the garden because quality materials will have a difference in how much the plants yield. Using potting soil mix is acceptable, but it will break down over time. If this is a permanent and reusable plot, think about using topsoil or dirt to create a base and filling the rest with potting soil, topsoil, or mulch.
Many vegetables that thrive in backyard gardens can be included in barbeque and grilling meals. The best vegetables are those that stand up to longer cooking times and higher cooking temperatures. Staple grilling vegetables include squash, eggplant, onion, and peppers, with potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms not far on the list. More delicate vegetables like tomatoes are also acceptable, but stand up better to a quick sear than on a kabob or skewer.
All of the vegetables listed can be grown in a backyard garden or raised bed, but it’s important to think about each of their ideal growing seasons. Timing the planting, water schedule, and seasonal variations will ensure that your vegetables will be hearty and ready for grilling weather. Most grilling vegetables like eggplant, bell pepper, carrot, and summer squash will be ready to harvest in the summer months.
There are a variety of summer fruits that are great for grilling, but only a few can be grown in a backyard garden or raised bed. Strawberries and watermelon are great examples. Most common grilling fruit like apples, peaches, nectarines, and pears require mature trees to yield ripe fruit. While some backyard gardens may include these trees, they will also be in season at the local markets, both farmers and grocery.
Tending and harvesting
Any garden may only need a few minutes each day to check on its progress, weed out any stray growth, and give it a good watering, but proper attention must be paid to the types of plants and the current weather so things aren’t overwatered or picked at the wrong time.
Consistent watering is the best way to get high yields, and water variation can result directly from the type of soil being used. Lose soil will absorb the water and nutrients, and is best suited around the plants. A couple of inches of mulch atop the soil will help protect the root bed and will reduce water erosion through the season. Watering with drip irrigation or a soaker hose will distribute the water evenly, while a garden hose may provide too much pressure and wash away the top layer of soil.
Picking vegetables as soon as they are ripe will maintain overall garden health. Over ripe or rotting pieces should be removed promptly so they don’t affect the neighboring plants. Fully harvested plants should be removed and composted or replanted if possible. Keeping the garden clean will provide an ideal growing environment throughout the season.
Including vegetables in the grilling process is an easy way to add vegetables to any meal without any added work. Most vegetables, like eggplant, peppers, and squash can be sliced and added to a skewer for a quick sear. Veggies can also be steamed in a foil packet with a little olive oil, salt, and herbs to enhance their flavor. When adding vegetables directly to the grill surface, brush them with a little olive oil beforehand to avoid sticking.
Grilling fruits is a little trickier because the sugar content makes them prone to burning, and their high water content can quickly turn them mushy. Many fruits can be added to the grill, from watermelon steaks, to strawberries halves and even bananas. The smoky flavor of the barbeque balances the sweetness nicely. A great way to use grilled fruits is to make a fruit salsa, or create a tasty dessert.