Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pizza Party in the Garden

Pizza Party in the Garden
By Kathy Rohrbaugh, Penn State Master Gardener – York County PA

From The Essential Herbal Magazine Mar/Apr 2014

I love pizza, and most people I know do also. On average, each American typically consumes 23 pounds of pizza annually. Why not make a pizza shaped garden?  In this garden you will grow the vegetables and herbs used to make pizza sauce and toppings. This pizza shaped garden plan takes very little time, tools and effort to plant.  The whole family can enjoy planting together while using this project as a resourceful teaching tool to learn about the process of growing, harvesting, and making your own sauce. 

 Before getting started make sure to let your kids know what to expect before you begin. Have a short discussion on the science aspect of gardening such as how root systems work.  Inform children about the insects they may encounter when gardening and how many insects are beneficial to plants. Tell them it’s okay to touch a slug, they may feel slimy and won't hurt you.  However, do warn children of hurtful insects such as stinging insects and some spiders.


The beauty of the pizza garden is the plants require similar growing conditions. Your garden needs to have nutrient rich soil, proper drainage, and at least 6 hours of full sun to flourish.  No matter how large you choose to make your garden space, make sure to loosen your garden soil to at least a foot in depth, and you may want to amend it with compost.


Once you have chosen a spot for your pizza garden, you will to need create the pizza circle.  Mark off the circle by putting a stake upright in the garden area.  Tie a three and a half foot piece of string to the stake.  Keeping the string tight and walk around in a circle and mark the ground to show the garden's border.  Divide the circle into six equal wedges.  The “pizza slices” can be defined with rocks, landscaping timbers, or rows of parsley or basil. 

Below are several suggested types of common herbs and vegetable plants that you may want to consider growing.  In this pizza garden plan, grow three kinds of herbs and three vegetables.  These suggested plants can be bought locally at your favorite nursery. 

Oregano:  (Origanum vulgare)  This aromatic, perennial herb is in the mint family.  It is easy to grow and gives pizza the characteristic taste and that wonderful smell.  You may use it fresh or dried.  I suggest one or two plants.

Basil:  (Ocimum basilicum) This aromatic herb is a must in the pizza garden.  I grow several every year and love it for its wonderful culinary uses.  It is good in the sauce and thrown on the pizza in the cheese.  Basil is an annual herb and there are many varieties.  I recommend the sweet basil variety for your pizza garden.  However, there are many varieties of basil and is your personal choice.  Two to three plants can be planted in the wedge.

This is Greek Columnar basil.  We grow this variety because it doesn't flower, so we have basil all season long.
Parsley:  (petroselinum)   This is a biennial herb that reseeds itself.  It is very common in Middle Eastern, European and American cooking. Grow two or three plants in the wedge.  You may want to define some of your pizza slices with parsley, so you will need several more plants.

Tomatoes: (Solanum lycopersicum) The tomatoes I suggest to use on a pizza are the “red sauce” tomatoes, or plum (Roma) tomatoes.  I find this tomato an excellent paste-type tomato that gives the tomato sauce a hearty flavor and is easy to grow.  If you choose other varieties of tomatoes can be grown and used as well.  Here is a bit of tomato trivia.  Did you know that in 1893 the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato must be considered a vegetable?  Botanically it is a fruit, but vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, so it was necessary to define it as one or the other.  (Source: The Packer, 6/9/90). 

A beautiful selection from the garden of Susan Hess.
Bell & Hot Peppers:  There are two main types of peppers, sweet and hot.  The classic sweet green bell pepper is good addition to the pizza garden.  Both hot and sweet peppers are a great way to spice up the sauce.  I recommend Jalapenos for the hot pepper variety.  You may want to plant two or three pepper plants, depending on your taste.

I package peppers, onions, and sometimes tomatoes together, then freeze them so they're always ready.
Onions:  (Allium cepa) Onions can be planted from sets or transplants.  Select red, white, or yellow for your garden.  You can plant up to 30 onion sets or transplants in your pizza garden wedge.  You ask, what is the difference between a set and a transplant?  An onion set is a small bulb up to 1 inch in diameter.  An onion transplant is a plant between 8 to 10 weeks old that has not gone through the bulbing process, and if planted at the right time will produce large bulbs.  Onions are edible at any stage.


Continue to water and weed your garden.You may want to mulch your garden with any organic material such as straw or pine needles that will help keep the weeds from overtaking your garden.

With regular watering and full sun, in about two months, you can harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  The pizza sauce can now be made.  Buon appetito!  (Have a good meal.)


1/4 cup of olive oil
2 med. sweet onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves chopped garlic
2-3 pounds of fresh plum tomatoes, blanched in boiling water, plunge in cold water and peal under a stream of cold water.  Remove seeds.  In a large bowl, use your hand to crush tomatoes.
A small handful of fresh basil
A small handful of fresh parsley, remove bottom stem

A small handful of fresh oregano leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Regianno Parmeggiano)

Fresh sliced bell peppers or hot peppers rings sauted in olive oil to top the pizza.

 Directions:   In a deep sauce pan, add olive oil and heat to medium heat.  Add onions, half the garlic and simmer until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring up to a low boil and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.  Keep stirring from the center of the pan to prevent burning.  When the tomatoes are done, add the fresh parsley, the basil, oregano and remainder of the garlic.  Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes or so.  Serve on your favorite pizza crust or enjoy on your favorite pasta.

Website to check on the Hardiness zone for suggested plants

Kathy wrote this article to get us ready for the PA Herb and Garden Festival!  We'd love to see you there.  Tina will be talking about useful weeds, and both Tina and Maryanne will be giving a workshop (you must pre-register) on healing vinegars.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this thank you for sharing

Greg said...

Thanks for the great article!

Unknown said...