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Growing Interests

When architect and Southampton resident Campion Platt decided to get healthier, he started in his own backyard, building an organic vegetable garden for his entire family to enjoy.

Platt and his family in their backyard

Our Hamptons house is an ongoing experiment in renovation, expansion and embellishment. My wife, Tatiana, our children, and I are always dreaming up fun ways to add to our summer getaway. Last year it was an elevated fire pit and a playhouse—both of which have been a great source of pleasure, especially for our children on s’mores nights under the stars.

This year we focused on improving our healthy lifestyle and taking advantage of the resources of the East End by creating an organic garden. We wanted it to be easy to grow, fun to watch and delicious to eat.

Together with our friend Darlene Marone, a lifestyle consultant, we designed a garden that would not only provide nutritious fruit and vegetables, but would also offer an opportunity for the kids to learn where food comes from, how it grows and how to care for it. They take turns gathering produce for our daily “garden-to-table” meals. Our 5-year-old son, Fox, who’s mainly a chicken-tenders-and-fries man, has taken nicely to pea tendrils, and is even eating the tasty zucchini flowers. My 4-year-old daughter, Xenia, wonders at all the foraging bugs, and is particularly fond of the blossoming broccoli rabe.

The garden was designed to be long, narrow and elevated, so the children could harvest without having to walk through it. This way, we were able to plant the vegetables closer together. We laid the garden with stepping stones so every plant was accessible from either the side of the bed or from the center stones. We wanted to avoid the soil being stepped on where possible.

One question we faced was what to plant. We wanted to grow the most nutritious vegetables possible—but not all organic vegetables are created equal. Fortunately, we had the guidance of farmer Frank Trentacoste of Bhumi Farms in Amagansett, an organic vegetable farm with soil that’s augmented with macro- and micronutrients, along with trace elements, which produce vegetables richer in nutrients. Upon request, Bhumi’s will create “Bhumi Backyards,” providing people with their own organic farm or garden.

Under Frank’s guidance, we planted pea tendrils, sugar snap peas, two types of kale, spinach, radishes, beets, lettuce, broccoli rabe, tomatoes, squash, broccoli and cucumbers—all chosen because, first, they were nutrient-rich; second, they could be eaten with the least amount of preparation; and finally, they’d be fun for everyone to harvest.

The garden was set up for two seasons, spring and summer. The first planting of spinach and spring rabe has given way to the second planting of tomatoes, zucchini and squash. Some of the vegetables—cucumbers, for example—grow quickly and are fun for the children to watch. Broccoli is more difficult to harvest since it needs to be cut with sharper tools, but its nourishment levels are higher. Frank provided the seed, seedlings and excellent soil, and consulted on the planting and the care of the garden as well.

Now, our youngest daughter, Riva, 3, observes such fast daily growth that she runs outside every morning to see what’s happened overnight. And my eldest son, Jeremy, 24, has even adopted a gluten-free diet (like mine) as a result of all the delectable meals our garden has afforded us.

We’re overrun with greens of all kinds, and we’re loving it.