Meet Mike, Bay Meadows Resident Gardener

Meet Mike. Mike Irvine works with Star Apple Edible Gardens overseeing vegetable gardens for clients throughout the Bay Area, including small backyards, larger estates, and even a rooftop garden that feeds a tech company in Palo Alto. He’s originally from north of the border near Toronto, Canada, but has been in the Bay Area for the past six years. In addition to gardening he also enjoys writing, teaching, and hiking around.

Star Apple will be hosting a garden class called DIG IT on the first Saturday of (nearly) every month at Bay Meadows – open to all of San Mateo. April’s class, an introduction to raised bed gardening taught by Mike and Stefani Bittner (Star Apple’s co-owner), was a big success. Through hands-on activities and demonstration, more than 20 Bay Meadows’ residents, children, and community members learned about soil preparation, succession planting, plant spacing, “tickling” a plant’s roots, and what kinds of delicious herbs and vegetables will grow well in raised beds at this time of year. It was lots of fun and great to see so many people excited about growing their own food!

Star Apple Gardens

Q: What inspired your love of the garden?
For a long time, I didn’t eat particularly healthy. There was a lot of frozen lasagna, pizza, and greasy takeout in my life. So when I started cooking more with fresh ingredients, I thought, “Why not just grow these veggie and herbs myself?” Things kind of spiraled out of control from there and now I’m a full time gardener.

Q: What are your top 4 tips for new gardeners?
1. Grow what you love to eat.
2. But always leave a corner for experimentation or something new!
3. Remember that flowers are your friends, even if your goal is just to grow food – lots of beautiful flowers are edible (think violas, nasturtiums, borage, bachelor buttons, and calendula) and they also bring bees, pollinators, and beneficial insects to your garden.
4. Don’t be afraid to get dirty!

Q: If you could plant only 6 edibles to grow throughout the year, what would they be?

Beets – Nothing beats a beet! They’re my favorite vegetable.

Romanesco broccoli – One of the most beautiful, crazy looking vegetables I’ve ever grown. This heirloom variety creates spiraled, yellow-green heads of broccoli that look like a cross between a UFO and a seashell.

Carrots – There’s nothing more satisfying then pulling from the ground a massive carrot that you grew from a single seed.

Potatoes – I’m amazed by any vegetable that grows beneath the ground where I can’t see what’s going on, but potatoes are a favorite. A single plant can yield so much – it’s the plant that keeps on giving!

Black cherry tomatoes – Once you grow and eat your own tomatoes, it’s hard to buy them from the store. I love all tomatoes, but there’s something about the black cherry tomato. It’s super sweet and a little bit bigger than your average cherry tomato – great as a quick snack or mixed into a salad.

Lettuce – I wish every salad could have freshly picked, crisp lettuce. The difference between store bought lettuce and salad greens that you grow on your own is like night and day.

Q: What class are you most looking forward to this year and why?
Although the Tea and Cocktails class is definitely up there, I’m looking forward to the Winter Vegetable class. We get so excited about summer vegetables that it can be easy to forget what’s available through the winter in the Bay Area’s temperate climate. Your garden doesn’t need to take a break after the fall harvest!

Favorite SFBay- Peninsula area garden to table restaurant: Gather (Berkeley)

Ingredients in my own home-grown salad would include: Beets, blood oranges, fennel, a bit of arugula, fresh salad greens, and an orange vinaigrette.

If a single edible could represent our community, which would we be? The sun gold tomato – bright, cheery, and welcoming!

Favorite garden to table dish: Any dish with brussels sprouts – they’re one of the most difficult veggies to grow, so I’m always impressed by beautiful looking brussels sprouts.

The one veggie you won’t find on my plate is: I have a hard time getting behind the parsnip, but I’m willing to be convinced!

The celebrity I’d most like to collaborate with on a project: I know I’m supposed to say someone like Michael Pollan or Alice Waters, but I’m going to say Prince. Imagine how crazy it would be to create a garden with Prince?

3 words I’d use to describe Bay Meadows are: Bright, cheery, and welcoming – just like that sun gold tomato!

My personal favorite heirloom tomato: Black cherry tomato

When not in the garden, you can find me thinking about… the garden. I can get a little obsessive.

Bring those smartphones to snap photos of the growing garden and fun day! Use #baymeadowslife

Fame x Frame Photo Contest
As we develop community, we want to see how you live or play at Bay Meadows. Share your fun lifestyle photos with our community by using #baymeadowslife. You could WIN $50 or our Grand Prize of $500 at the end of 2014 and be featured in a live pop-up gallery exhibit event. View official rules here:

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