Growing a pizza garden is a great way to get children outdoors and
motivated to plant and eat vegetables. Our family loves homemade
pizza, so my 4-year-old daughter and I have already started planning
our pizza plot. So far, our seed list includes several kinds of
tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, basil, arugula, rosemary and
black beans - one not-so-traditional topping which was her idea. In the summer,
when our garden is ready, we hope to host a pizza-baking garden party for her
Unable to find a local pizzeria whose pizza I liked, I’ve become a homemade
pizza fanatic. To make a crispy, chewy crust, I purchased a pizza stone. They
aren’t expensive and many come with a pizza cutter, a wooden paddle, and recipes
for dough. Fresh mozzarella
cheese has also become more widely available, and tastes better than
the processed kind that many pizzerias use.
It’s very easy to make
your own sauce by sautéing fresh peeled,
seeded and mashed tomatoes with fresh oregano, garlic and a little olive
oil. Now that we have the stone, we eat pizza much more often. My daughter
enjoys arranging the toppings artistically on the pie. If I am pressed for
time, I buy ready-made pizza dough, mozzarella, and
a can of sauce from our local coop and then added fresh vegetables
or basil on top, as the entire assembly takes about 10 minutes!
Pizza Garden Design
A pizza garden can be any size or shape, and can easily be grown in
containers on a sunny patio or terrace. It is most fun, however, to
make it the circular in the shape of a pizza pie, with triangular
slice-shaped beds containing different vegetables and herbs. If the
plot is large, the slices can be divided by narrow pathways, so that
you can reach the plants in the center. In smaller pizza gardens,
you can use bricks, stones, wood, mulch—or even the spokes of a
wagon wheel. If you have a very small space, you could restrict the
circle to compact plants like pizza herbs.
No matter how large your
garden space, make sure to loosen your soil to at least a foot in
depth, and amend it with well-rotted manure or compost, and a
balanced organic fertilizer. If you are using containers, make sure
they are big enough for the plants you plan to grow, and add
granular slow-release fertilizer to the mix, since frequent watering
drains nutrients quickly. Most pizza plants are sun-lovers; so need
6-8 hours of sunlight for best production and flavor.
Renee's Garden Seed
"True Greek" Oregano
"Profuma di Genova"
"Italian Pesto" Basil.
"Scented Trio" Basil
To purchase these and other
Renee's Garden Seeds
Try these great recipes from
Santa Fe Style Pizza
Recommended Varieties for a Pizza Garden:
Tomatoes: Italian Pompeii
is the quintessential Italian sauce
tomato—these indeterminate plants produce loads of firm, elongated
red fruits. I also like to grow red, orange and yellow
Garden Candy and
juicy Camp Joy cherry tomatoes for slicing and baking directly on pizzas, or for
making “sun-dried” tomatoes in my dehydrator.
Peppers: For a colorful pizza, grow
Jewel Toned Sweet Bells
in red, orange and gold.
chile peppers have three different heat levels, from mild to hot.
Oregano: The sweetest and most
flavorful variety for fresh eating is
Many other Italian types taste too
hot, spicy or bitter. I use this oregano all year, so grow as many
plants as I can fit. Hang small bunches upside down in a dark, warm
(but not over 90 degrees), well-ventilated place for two weeks until
they are dry. Then, gently roll the bunches between your hands onto
paper to quickly remove the leaves. Funnel into mason jars, and
store in a dark place.
Arugula: My absolute favorite arugula for pizza is
Arugula. Since it’s perennial, it lasts all season in the
garden, whereas annual arugula goes to seed faster and must be
continually replanted. I think it also has the most delicate flavor,
and its finely cut dark green leaves contrast beautifully with the
white cheese and red sauce, to make the colors of the Italian flag!
Top pizza with arugula just before serving instead of baking it,
since it will quickly burn to a crisp in a hot oven.
Basil: Good choices for pizza include the extra-large
Basil, and the spoon-shaped and fragrant
Profuma di Genova (another
compact plant for containers). For abundant harvests of basil for
pesto, try Italian Pesto Basil. Another
of our favorite
pizzas, which makes an excellent party appetizer, is spread with
pesto and topped with slow-cooked caramelized onions. Menus in
gourmet pizzerias often include pesto pizza topped with chicken, as
well as goat cheese pizza, which you might want to try with
basil. As with arugula, add basil right before serving rather than
baking it in the oven.
Rosemary: For an interesting variation, add a small amount of
chopped rosemary leaves to flavor your pizza dough, or make the
dough into rosemary-flavored focaccia bread.
French rosemary leaves also
make an excellent addition to toppings of ground beef or lamb.
Other garden possibilities for pizza toppings include garlic, onions,
flat-leaf parsley and
Italian eggplants and
zucchini can be added to sauce
recipes. Precook them before topping, since they need more
baking time than the pizza crust. This year, I might also try
growing leeks for a pizza variation of a Middle Eastern savory pie
Getting children involved:
It’s sometimes challenging to find safe and non-destructive ways for
young children to help in the garden, but advance planning helps. I
like to get the heavy, less child-friendly work of forking and
tilling the soil done without my daughter around. To keep children
focused on a particular task, it is helpful to discuss what you’d
like them to do before going outside. Bring whatever you’ll need
such as tools, water and a snack, so you don’t have to make trips
Young children can help mix soil for seedlings, scoop
it into flats, water with a fine spray hose, space seeds in furrows,
make holes for transplants, and press soil around them. If they are
old enough to handle children’s scissors safely, they enjoy snipping
off tips of herbs such as rosemary and oregano into a harvest
basket. They’ll quickly learn which color tomatoes are ripe for
picking, and enjoy searching for zucchini hidden under masses of
leaves. Many children also enjoy inspecting for pest infestations,
spraying aphids with a mild soap and water solution, or collecting
Encourage them to enjoy the sensory experience of things in the
garden. After we’ve accomplished something together (like sowing
seeds) I sometimes set up my daughter with a flat of soil and some
pots to make “salad” out of weeds for earthworms or a teddy bear in
a stroller. She plays with them while I get the rest of the work
done! Children that have helped in the garden will share in the
pride of the harvest.
For our pizza party, (since my daughter is too young to use a
knife) I’ll chop the toppings in advance and put each in
separate bowls, so that the children can pass them to each other
while decorating their pizzas. Another adult can supervise games
until the pizzas finish baking, when everyone can sit down and enjoy
the pizza feast!
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, by Sharon Lovejoy, contains a
pizza garden plan and many more fun ideas for gardening with children.
for Seeds |
© 2013 Renee's Garden
Hill Rd. Felton, CA 95018