Knee-deep in dirt, two Rottweilers by her side, Monica Rose tends to her thoughtfully planted culinary gardens as a painter would contemplate every stroke—she nourishes, pinches, gathers produce, replants. Granted, these are elemental tasks for any gardener, but Rose is far from a hobbyist grower—at 27, she is quietly pioneering a farm-to-table movement from the backyards of many Dallas homeowners.
While tending to a community garden on Concho Street in Austin, the Dallas native’s life path was changed: “I realized I was in love with plants,” she says. She pursued her bachelor’s degree in environmental science at the University of Texas at Austin and took a job at a local nursery. She also got her certification in landscape design and native Texas gardening. In 2014, she launched Edible Landscapes Dallas after repeated requests to cultivate personal, “menu-specific” gardens. She now has the incredible challenge of designing, installing, and maintaining nearly 100 bespoke gardens for homeowners in Highland Park, Addison, Plano, Arlington, and Dallas and also offers landscape, floral, and interior plant design services.
She educates her clients, too. Rose is a patient instructor with unceasing knowledge of Dallas-specific soil and planting requirements. She also possesses an unbounded enthusiasm for garden “surprises,” like a 30-pound watermelon or even destructive tomato hornworms, which she finds beautiful (she’s been known to place some in mason jars to show children). She devotes countless hours in brutal temperatures for the elation of watching a verdant array of kale, radishes, cucumbers, berries, sage, and thyme burst to life, gathering them elegantly in arrangements to leave on back doorsteps. “Seeing a flourishing garden is beautiful and rewarding,” she says. “It makes every minute of hard work worth the effort.”
Her gardens—uniformly planted in custom cedar or stone beds—work with the surrounding landscape and serve as a focal point, seamlessly blending different textures and colors. “I become part designer, part artist, part urban farmer, part educator,” she says. “Designing edible landscapes truly is an art—both in the harvest and the aesthetic.”
The soil in Dallas—and likely, in your backyard—is rarely garden-ready.
So much depends on what your homebuilder added to the lot. Clay soil must be excavated or a raised bed is required.
Don’t fall in love with tropical fruits.
While most vegetables, fruits, and herbs thrive here, tropical fruits require temperature-specific greenhouse protection during winter. In other words: They’re high maintenance.
Despite our harsh weather, you can, in fact, plant in every season.
Of course, you’ll need to acclimate to hot summer temperatures—when you’d want to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans—or brave the cold when planting in winter—when leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower would be ideal. But a four-times-yearly transition to different plants is the way to maintain bounty.
You can’t predict the outcome of your garden—especially in Dallas.
Those tomatoes might not fare well with heavy rains. Expect some disappointment.
We have specific predators.
In winter, your garden might be hit with aphids or cabbage loopers. In the summer, it’s tomato hornworms or Japanese beetles. Education and a good eye are key (tomato hornworms can destroy a plant in 24 hours and are hard to spot).