Staci Elster grew up in Florida with a shovel in her hand assisting her family’s premiere landscaping business, but it wasn’t until a close friend invited her to join the Maplewood Community Garden that the mom and yoga instructor fell in love with vegetable gardening — and got the seed of an idea for her own new business.
“It was all organic and everything grew so easily,” said Elster, who adored working side-by-side with her son and sharing their harvest with friends. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a company that put these in people’s backyards?’”
And the idea of Yard2Kitchen was born. The business would bring the bounty of organic herbs and vegetables grown just outside your door to your home even if you felt you lacked the time or skill to make it happen. The venture would offer customizable raised beds as well as maintenance programs guaranteed to keep gardens flourishing throughout three seasons.
Elster ran the concept by fellow Maplewood resident and master gardener Ed Albright.
“He said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Elster recalled. “He brought on Bill (Boyce), a landscape architect and designer, and Kenny (Baldo) who’s a health and wellness coach, a vegetarian, and a marathon runner. We all have different strengths and it’s been really wonderful working together.”
How Does Y2K’s Garden Grow?
Y2K’s first step is to offer a complimentary consultation with homeowners to determine their goals and taste preferences, Albright explained. Experts determine if you’re interested in supporting a healthier lifestyle, or in creating a family project that will teach children a lifelong skill and appreciation for gardening and organics.
From there, homeowners can choose from the following garden sizes: 4’x 4’, 4’x 8’, or 4’x 12’. Each is constructed with a full 15” depth and filled with the richest, healthiest mix of soil and compost, and topped with organic mulch to help retain moisture and guard against weeds, Albright noted. Y2K’s signature fencing system allows owners easy access to plants while effectively protecting the garden from animals.
Next, families can select from a menu of various plantings. The master gardener is excited to introduce some of Y2K’s delicious and nutritious offerings, which include sugar cube melons, ideal for the company’s vertical gardening system, and Shiraz snow peas, named for their stunning purple hue that resembles the wine.
“There’s a carrot revolution going on,” Albright jokes. “There are so many colors. We’ve got the whole kaleidoscope of the carrot color world.”
What about watering, you ask? The company has that covered as well. Y2K’s special moisture sensor automated drip irrigation system provides the precise amount of water directly to the plant roots, avoiding the common mistake of over- or under-watering, while conserving H2O at the same time.
“We’re in the Garden state; everything grows so easily,” Elster said. “It’s ideal for people like me who juice. You walk five steps out the house and you have the kale you need. For people who love to cook, you can just pull off sprigs of fresh herbs.”
“It doesn’t get more local or organic than that,” Albright agrees. “You’re picking at the peak moment, so in terms of flavor and nutrition, it doesn’t get any better.”
Green Thumb Guarantee
Those with a longtime brown thumb can take comfort in knowing Y2K’s experts are never more than a phone call or email away. With a hotline manned by master gardeners, all inquiries receive a response within 24 hours.
Dubbed “no sweat” gardening, homeowners can choose the level of involvement that suits their lifestyle and let Y2K do the rest. Maintenance plans, designed to keep plants healthy and vibrant, allow for multiple visits per month if desired. Master gardeners will assess, prune, and organically control any disease, fungus or other threats to your garden.
During their visits, master gardeners provide feedback and tips to help educate homeowners. Ideally, Elster said, Y2K will provide ample support during the first year, less the following year, and by the third, homeowners will feel confident tending their garden on their own. Offering additional peace of mind, beds themselves are guaranteed for seven years.
Striving to make the Y2K experience as fruitful (pun intended) as possible, the company’s Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages feature recipes for making the most of your harvest as well as tips on canning, preserving, and storing produce. Updates on informational webinars are also posted.
Those with vacations planned needn’t worry. Y2K’s experts tend the garden while you’re out of town and even deliver the yield to neighbors or make a donation to a food pantry in the homeowners’ name.
Y2K On Display
Essex County residents can catch a glimpse of a Y2K organic garden on display at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Interested theatergoers can pick up literature about the company, while diners will have a chance to sample the rich harvest as the Carriage House Bar & Bistro will be serving up herbs and micro greens fresh from the garden. (Editor’s note: the Papermill garden will be live by the end of April; weather has prevented building it so far.)
So far the response to the new business has been extremely positive, said Elster, who added that she looks forward to watching it grow and sharing its healthful and therapeutic benefits with homeowners.
“We’re excited about it. We really believe in the product and it’s been really well-received, which is exciting and gives us more energy to go forward,” she said. “My dream is to nourish people, help them learn how to garden, and spread that nourishment to their kids and their friends, while enjoying the beauty of nature.”
While much depends on the weather, Elster said for homeowners wishing to take advantage of a full three seasons of produce, it’s ideal to get growing by April 15.
For more information, visit Yard2Kitchen’s website or call (732) 410-6173.