What should foodies plant in their gardens this year? Amanda Dunker and Jeremy Nusser can tell you, along with which greens will give you the biggest nutritional bang for your horticultural buck.
Dunker and Nusser’s new company, Avalow, offers “concierge food gardening” throughout Sonoma County. The duo will be speaking on garden timing on Jan. 17 at the Windsor Garden Club’s monthly meeting. The free monthly garden education presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. in the community room at the Windsor Senior Center, 9231 Foxwood Dr.
They’ll speak on soil preparation, watering styles and their benefits, temperature control and effects as well as what to plant in 2017 – new veggie, herb and fruit varietals and what chefs have deemed to be the "hot" varietals of 2017.
Dunker, an English major from a gardening family in Washington state, and Nusser, a mechanical engineer from Kansas, have gardened since childhood. The couple launched Avalow in Healdsburg in 2016 after deciding they wanted to make career switches and head north from San Francisco. After adventures in their own garden in Healdsburg, Nusser went back to the drawing board to design enclosed, raised garden beds featuring a water reservoir at the bottom.
Fill the bed’s water tank, and roots are able to draw water up from the base of the bed – no drip irrigation or top water application required. The solid base foils gophers and other rodents seeking tender roots and shoots.
Now, as the chiefs of Avalow, Dunker, Nusser or their staff will come to your home, set up raised, self-watering vegetable beds, and drop by weekly or monthly to weed and feed them as needed, and sow seeds continually so beds are always full of veggies in various stages. They’ll even pick your produce and leave a basket on your back step if you so desire.
The service isn’t cheap: about $200 a month for two beds. Customers who want more beds pay more per month. If you stick with Avalow for three three-month sessions in a row, the physical raised beds structures and contents are yours to keep.
For customers who don’t need the full concierge package, Avalow offers DIY (Do It Yourself) garden kits, and will come set up a self-watering garden bed for clients who just want a bare-bones basic.
The couple has modeled their pricing on CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture memberships that offer a box of fresh-picked seasonal produce each week) or new “farm to table” services offering doorstep delivery of fresh foods weekly, plus recipes for home cooking.
Dunker and Nusser have a catalog of food garden plantings s rich in nutrients and taste, from heirloom varieties to “hot” new herbs, veggies and fruits coveted by chefs and gourmets. They’ve invested time determining which variety grow best in each of the county’s microclimates. “We’ll customize beds for our customers depending on their taste and what we know will grow best in their area,” Dunker said.
So far Avalow clients includes seniors, two-career couples with families, and families concerned about eating organic foods with zero pesticides. “We have a lot of people who are used to having a beautiful garden, but for whatever reason can’t get out there and get dirty for an hour a day to keep it up,” Nusser said. “But they want to keep growing their own food.”
In addition to helping people grow good food, Avalow offers tips on how to cook it. Their website (www.avalow.com), Facebook and Pinterest pages feature recipes and a wealth of beautiful photos. Beautiful beets? You’ll believe it once you see the photos. Sure, you may feel trendy enjoying thin-sliced balsamic-marinated golden beets on your salad – but have you tried chocolate-beet cookies? Or sautéed beet greens?
Treat beet greens like spinach and sautée them with olive oil and a little garlic. They’re amazing, Nusser says. “You really have to try that,” Dunker agrees.
If you can’t catch Avalow’s free presentation in Windsor Jan. 17, you can buy tickets and catch them in when the couple present “A Taste of Winter” at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 in Healdsburg at Relish Culinary Adventures. The ticketed event will include a cooking demonstration and tasting of winter vegetables.
Find out more about the Windsor Garden Club, the Town Green Community Garden, and garden events on the club website: www.windsorgardenclub.org.