Jennifer Ebeling Grows A Garden Outside Her Kitchen Door

Master gardener Jennifer Ebeling shows how to grow a garden outside your kitchen door.

Jennifer Ebeling’s Maple Grove deck is as lush as the undergrowth of a Minnesota forest—not only with flowers, but with food. The master gardener simply walks a few feet from her kitchen to her deck door to gather the ingredients she needs for dinner. Large silver bowl in hand, she plucks away, a sprig of mint for fresh mojitos, some parsley—flat for cooking, curly to garnish the platter of pork. For the salad she harvests tomatoes, a plethora of peppers, snap peas and Swiss chard—standing like rhubarb showing off the beautiful veining in its bright red and yellow leaves.

Ebeling’s deck garden doesn’t stop there. Her large planters line the entire length of the elevated deck filled with all the herbs and spices she needs throughout the growing season to feed her family of six. 

“I think people become edible gardeners without choosing to do it,” she says.

Most often, she said, kitchen gardens begin with a gift from a friend—a simple rhubarb plant, an allium—and it never stops. Today, Ebeling grows watermelon on her deck, strawberries, eggplant, dill and four varieties of basil, among other things.

She chose the deck for the majority of her food and spices even though her entire yard is virtually covered in gardens. She began with a front yard garden as her kids played on the lawn, she moved to the backyard when they were old enough for the swing set and she wrapped to the side of the house when they were ready to play ball. Every corner, nook and curve of her yard is growing with abundant grape vines, bushel after bushel of thyme and mint and tucked back into a corner, asparagus that she’ll patiently wait three years to develop into tender edible stalks. The food is mixed in with dozens of perennials but Ebeling relies on her kitchen deck garden as her workhorse, pulling from it constantly.

“You want your pots close to your kitchen and sometimes your garden isn’t close,” she says.

For her, it’s all about a line of sight to the things she uses most often. Using containers gives her complete control over the soil; she packs in the plants so she has very little weeding inside the pots and she can monitor the plants and tell at a glance if they need more water or nutrients. In addition, because the pots are on her elevated deck she doesn’t need to worry about deer and rabbits running away with her goodies.

Ebeling’s love for all things green is evident in her yard, her front porch and the lush décor inside her home where living plants soften nearly every corner and cascade from pots, bowls, hurricanes and mini greenhouses.

Ebeling shares her passion and knowledge with others through her work organizing the Maple Grove Garden Tour. She also hosts mini workshops in her ever-blooming backyard. Classes are free and limited to five participants but cover various topics from creating a succulent wreath to pruning boxwood. Students bring their own supplies and nestle in around Ebeling's garden table for tips and a hands-on experience.

“I liken it to art,” Ebeling says. “Gardening is such a personal expression.”

for your kitchen garden bounty. 

Glory Pesto

1 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil 
1 1/2 Tbsp. raw pine nuts
1/2 Tbsp. walnuts
1/3 c. parmesan cheese grated (Grana Padano is ideal but not necessary)
2 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese
1-2 cloves fresh garlic (chopped)
Kosher salt to taste

Blend basil and oil in food processer until smooth (15 sec).
Add nuts and cheeses, and process (15 -20 sec).
Finish with garlic and salt.
Don't over process at this point or the garlic will overpower.
Taste and adjust with salt as desired.
Place mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a log shape, wrap it, and freeze it.
Then, simply break off chunks as needed.
Use for crostini, spaghetti, pasta, etc.

Ebeling calls this Glory Pesto “because it is so heavenly”.

Easy Compound Butter

1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs (pick one - thyme, rosemary, chives, sage, basil)
2 tsp. lemon zest

Combine in food processor or mixing bowl. 
Place on sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log, wrap and chill.
To serve, cut it into disks or spread on bread. 

This is a fun and easy way to experiment with herbs and flavor combinations.

Do it Yourself:

Tips from Jennifer Ebeling, author of the home and garden blog, on how to create a no-fuss watering system for all your pesky planters, hanging baskets, pots and gardens. Need to see the video? Check out her blog for a step-by-step walk through!

1. Remove the in-ground sprinkler head nearest the pots/planters you need to water.
2. Add an extension pipe to the sprinkler head with plumbers’ tape to prevent leaks. Extend the pipe so it rises 4-6 inches above the soil.
3. Attach a manifold to the pipe using plumbers’ tape. She uses the Toro Blue Stripe Drip 9-outlet Distribution Manifold, part #53755 from The Home Depot.
4. Attach tubing to the manifold and extend the lines to all of the pots, planters and hanging baskets that need to be watered. If needed, purchase Barbed Tee packs to make a “T” in the line and make additional splits off the main line to reach more area. Good water flow to all the lines is preferable.
5. Attach an emitter to the end of the line which allows you to adjust the flow of the water and prevent it from becoming dislodged. You can also simply purchase drip line tubing to reach a number of areas.
6. Stake the line into the pots/planters so the water line is secure.
7. If needed, purchase and attach a Toro Drip Jet Stream sprinkler head to replace the head removed from the lawn. The jet stream product can be attached to the manifold to water small areas of yard.

Don’t have an in-ground sprinkler system? Don’t worry, the 6ft mama has you covered:

1. Attach the manifold to a standard garden hose (you may need an adapter depending on your hose and manifold).
2. Follow the above steps to attach the tubing.
3. Install an outdoor faucet timer so your plants will be regularly watered.

Catch the Tour
The Maple Grove Garden Tour is in its 16th year and is a culminating event of the annual Maple Grove Days celebration. The public is welcome to attend the one-day tour to view scenic gardens, spectacular yards and outdoor living spaces throughout Maple Grove and surrounding communities.

The tour consists of four to five outdoor garden sites in and around Maple Grove and includes many staggered educational workshops giving visitors a chance to not only view the splendor, but take home a few tips.

“The main goal is to inspire a passion for the outdoors and gardening,” says Jennifer Ebeling, tour co-chair.

Check for date and times. 

Plants with Meaning

All plants and herbs have meaning and Jennifer Ebeling is on a mission to share their purpose. She often gifts baskets of plants to friends and family along with a note explaining the meaning behind her choices—some signify remembrance, friendship and hope.

For house guests she’ll leave a simple sprig of an herb on a pillow and she adds a fragrant sprig as a keepsake in cards.

Courage – thyme, yarrow

Friendship – sweetpea, lemon

Healing – peppermint

Love – basil, plumeria

Spirituality – African violet, sandalwood

General blessing – rosemary

Protection – clover and dill

Healing –eucalyptus