Building A Restaurant Garden: Harbor Cafe

Harbor Garden Sign

Have you been to Harbor Cafe yet?

If you answered no, stop reading. Go to 535 7th Ave. Santa Cruz, Ca and order the fish tacos and 2 Bloody Marys (or, go on Fridays and get bottomless mimosas!), then come back and finish reading why it’s my favorite restaurant.

Well, I could spend an entire post writing about how much I love their food and the fun loving atmosphere, but instead I’m just going to tell you how excited I am that Whitney and I were asked to plant a vegetable garden for their restaurant!

Whitney and I go to Harbor Cafe often… very often, and we’ve been lucky enough to strike up some quality friendships with the staff and owners. The opportunity to design and construct the restaurants garden came about from tippys talk with one of our favorite servers. The three of us were looking at their raised bed (of sorts) filled with: palm trees, ferns, a huge jade bush, wild lilies, weedy grasses, and a ton of deteriorating boating equipment and surfboards. After a couple conversations we all agreed that change was necessary and it was time for that little plot of land to become an edible landscape for all to enjoy. Here’s what it looked like before we did anything to it.

Harbor Garden Before
Whitney and I started off by educating ourselves on a couple of things.

1) What to grow: We already knew Harbor’s menu extensively so it wasn’t hard to come up with a huge list of edibles for the cooks to use, however, with our limited space we knew we would have to narrow it down to just a few plants.

2) Companion planting: Once we had a pretty good grasp of what we wanted to grow, we had to find out if they would grow well next to each other, liked the same soil, preferred sun or shade, ect. ect. We really didn’t want to kill all of the plants just because we plopped them in the wrong spot and next to the wrong neighbor.

3) Design techniques: This is our first time designing a garden and we wanted it to reflect the informal atmosphere of the restaurant; so we chose to reuse a lot of their old boating and beach equipment for aesthetics. We also kept track of our color scheme making sure there was an attractive flow of colors to lead the eye through the garden.

After some research we got to the fun part, gettin’ dirty. We were ready and eager to get the project started so we plowed right into removing the old junk, cleaning up the years of trash build up, digging deep into the earth and ripping out old roots. Then, we gathered our homegrown seed starts, bought the other plants we decided on, and started planting!

Here’s the list of veggies and herbs we decided on for Harbor Cafe’s Garden: snap peas, cilantro, basil, celery, jalapeno peppers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and lavender. And here’s how the garden turned out!

Harbor Garden After

Harbor Cafe is a respected restaurant in Santa Cruz and hundreds of people are flowing through their patio doors daily. The addition of a vegetable garden is a small yet progressive change that many people will see, and it’s a great step towards larger changes to add to their eco-friendly contributions. The list of benefits could go on and on for what a quality vegetable garden would provide and save a restaurant; and if they’ll have me I would be privileged to continue the expansion of this project so it could be of even more use to their kitchen.

But for now, if we can all find a voice representing the importance of being served fresh, local food when we go out to eat, then perhaps many more restaurants will hop on the garden wagon and start gettin’ dirty.

What restaurants have you been to that grow some of their own produce? And what do you think the benefits would be if I tried to expand the Harbor Cafe garden?

Here’s my favorite photo of the gardeners: (left to right) Jasmine aka Jam, Whitney, Cait (me).

Harbor gardeners

4 thoughts on “Building A Restaurant Garden: Harbor Cafe”

  1. Greens Restaurant (all vegetarian) at Fort Mason in San Francisco sources most of their food from their own farm. So good – both for the environment, and for taste!

  2. A labor of love to enjoyed by the many munching lunchers and sure to attract notice and aclaim throughout the lands.
    WOW… Can this gal write or what?
    What kind of potting soil is being used on the surf board?

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