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Gardener works to create ‘edible landscapes’

North Barrington-based Smart Gardener has helped clients grow tomatoes kale zucchini squash jalapeños peppers berries asparagus rhubarb  snap peas

North Barrington-based Smart Gardener has helped clients grow tomatoes, kale, zucchini, squash, jalapeños, peppers, berries, asparagus, rhubarb, snap peas, beans, basil, cilantro, parsley, carrots and radishes. | Photos courtesy Carl Alguire

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Updated: June 24, 2013 6:58AM

The rapid growth and popularity of the local, organic food movement is on display in North Barrington resident Carl Alguire’s backyard.

About 16 months ago, Alguire took his backyard gardening skills to a new level by creating Smart Gardener, a unique garden planning service.

Officially launched in January, 2012, Alguire said the service has been growing at a faster pace than the crops.

“We have an online website that teaches people to plant, plan and manage a garden,” Alguire explained. “It started with the idea that so many people wanted to learn to do this. People are concerned about the quality and integrity of their food.”

In addition to the website, Alguire also offers a customized planning service in which he personally visits a client’s home to complete a gardening survey. Based on sunlight, family size and other factors, Alguire drafts a plan for an optimal garden.

“Even in low-light conditions, we can customize it,” Alguire said. “We can grow something anywhere.”

Alguire said he has built customized gardens for clients throughout the North Shore and the northwest suburbs. He noted that tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are the most popular homegrown foods, but many clients also grow berries, lettuces and herbs as well.

Wilmette resident Kate Henn said Alguire helped her customize a backyard garden in which she grows heirloom tomatoes, kale, zucchini, yellow squash, jalapeños, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb, sugar snap peas, beans, basil, cilantro, parsley, carrots and radishes.

“And that’s only half my garden,” said Henn, who works full time and has four children. “They figure out how to get the maximum production for the limited amount of space that I have.”

Alguire said Smart Gardeners’ full-service approach is what sets his company apart. The service also includes advice on keeping chickens and bees, and pesticide-free gardening tips to enhance the nutrient and flavor value of foods.

He calls it enhancing your food footprint.

“We take people from an ornamental landscape to an edible landscape,” he said.

Alguire said Smart Gardener also provides a service in which professional, organic gardeners harvest a client’s garden on a weekly or monthly basis. There also is a vacation service in which a client can have their garden harvested while they are away.

The crews pick the fruits and vegetables and leave them in a basket by the door. As an extra, they will throw in some recipes.

“What we’re trying to do is make this as easy as possible,” he said. “It’s fun. People are so excited to have this.”

Alguire, who has a degree in horticulture, said he and his wife moved from the Jewel Park subdivision to North Barrington several years ago so they could have more space to garden. He explained that he came up with the idea for Smart Gardener when neighbors began asking him for gardening advice.

The idea also came from studies that suggest population growth will create the need for more food harvested in the next 50 years than the last 500 years combined.

Alguire noted that $10 worth of seed has the potential to produce about $100 worth of food.

“It’s a win all the way around,” he said. “There’s really no downside to this.”

Alguire reported that people from all over the world have visited the Smart Gardener website. Although most of his clients are local, he said he has a franchisee working for in Denver.

“Gardening has just taken off,” he said. “We have expectations of expanding across the U.S.”

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