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3-Course Interview: Emily Mickley-Doyle 

An urban gardener tells you how to get started — and what grows well in the winter in New Orleans

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Emily Mickley-Doyle and Matt Glassman run Sprout NOLA (, an urban gardening organization that's part of the ReFresh Project at 300 N. Broad St. Along with Whole Foods Market and The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, Mickley-Doyle leads a class at The Goldring Center on Monday, Nov. 16, about preparing vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes, including lentil and greens ragout, cauliflower and potato mash with mushroom gravy and more (see for information). Mickley-Doyle spoke with Gambit about Sprout NOLA and starting a garden.

What does Sprout NOLA do?

Mickley-Doyle: Sprout NOLA is a teaching garden on the site of the Refresh Project. We're urban farmers and we teach classes on gardening, we host a community garden and we mentor gardeners. So people can come learn about what we're gardening right now, and they can take food home in exchange for the help that they give. We have five days a week – Monday through Friday — of open garden time. On weekends, we have classes for adults and we have a kids' program. We do a kids' gardening and cooking class with the Goldring Center.

  People adopt plots on-site, so we have 30 community gardeners who are growing food for themselves. We organize that.

  [Sprout NOLA] is a sounding board for folks; it's a great place to learn from scratch. We have options for people to be able to grow right here. We have a partnership with Green Light New Orleans. If people want to get a box in their backyard, we connect them with Green Light. We're also a Parkway Partners garden. We can connect folks who want to be part of a community garden that's closer to where they live.

How hard is it to start a home garden?

M: It can be as simple as putting some pots in your backyard and planting some greens or some herbs. You can make a garden out of anything — a pot, a can, a bag. Just fill it with soil; it's so easy. Or it can be involved and you can build a bed. It can be up to whatever people's needs are.

  I teach beginner classes. I think a lot of folks think it's magic. I hear this thing about "having a green thumb" — like you do or you don't. It's not that mystical. It's like a pet. You have to water it and feed it every day and take care of it — make sure it looks healthy.

  People should start small and expand based on their comfort level. Some people start big with a beautiful garden and then it's too much. I say start with one box or a couple pots and expand from there.

Can people start now, in fall?

M: Especially right now, growing greens is amazing. You just throw the seeds down. You can plant spinach or lettuce, and as soon as the leaves are big enough, you can eat them. You cut them up and have a salad, and they'll keep regenerating.

  A lot of herbs are fantastic to grow in the winter. Parsley, cilantro and dill are great to start right now. Fennel. There are great annual herbs to start right now, like thyme and rosemary. Fall is the time for planting.

  You can grow all year round in New Orleans. You can't grow all the things all the time, but you can grow something all the time. [In winter] you can grow greens and root crops, like beets, carrots and onions. You can grow cauliflower and broccoli and cabbage. Fall is the time to get your winter garden growing.

  Plants like to grow. It's their whole job. You just make it so the conditions are easy. Make it so there's great soil, light and water.

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