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February 7, 2022

Portland company offers customers home-gardening bounty, the easy way

Courtesy / Fresh Food Gardens It may be a while before Mainers see garden produce like this, but Fresh Food Gardens is already gearing up for the season.

While Maine is under snow and ice, Roberto Rodriguez is already busy planning customers’ gardens and preparing seed orders.

His Portland company, Fresh Food Gardens, creates and maintains organic vegetable gardens at the homes of Maine customers, who can enjoy the bounty of their own produce — without the sometimes back-breaking work.

“You get all the vegetables and fruit you want. All you have to do is harvest and enjoy,” Rodriguez told Mainebiz.

smiling man in black tee shirt next to garden plants
Courtesy / Fresh Food Gardens
Roberto Rodriguez offers organic gardening services to clients who want the joy of a garden without the hassle.

Customers vary in age and level of garden experience, but most are families with young children. Fresh Food Gardens also will be available as an amenity at Solaris, a luxury condominium project under construction in Portland. Customers sign a one-year contract, and almost every client has returned season after season, Rodriguez said. Fresh Food Gardens’ reach currently extends from Saco to Yarmouth, but the bulk of customers are in Portland.

“Every year we want to empower clients and teach them to be self-sufficient. After three years, we want them to be so self-sufficient that they don’t need us anymore, but some just like having the service,” Rodriguez said.

While Fresh Food Gardens doesn’t have any direct competitors in Portland besides some landscapers who install garden beds, other garden-tending services abound in cities such as Boston and Los Angeles.

“We’re teaching folks our way of gardening. How to use small spaces to grow an abundance of food. Organic methods, careful planning and drip irrigation systems can produce a bounty,” Rodriguez said. ‘We really grow a lot of food in a small home garden space.”

Rodriguez is currently collecting vegetable selection forms from clients to design their garden plans. Rodriguez will be ordering seedlings from Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham by the end of the month.

“It means so much to be able to support local farms with our work, so this is an exciting relationship we want to continue growing,” Rodriguez said.

The spring planting season is the most intensive, followed by the fall cleanup season. After planting, any excess seedlings get donated to local organizations in Portland, such as Cultivating Community, Rodriguez said.

Fresh Food Gardens offers three garden plans that vary according to size and the timing of tending. A medium garden with two 4-foot-by-8-foot beds costs about $130 to $180 a month for weekly or biweekly visits during the season, which runs from April through October. Rodriguez also publishes a monthly client newsletter throughout the year with information about organic gardening and help for selecting crops.

Rodriguez, who learned his profession through workshops and a lot of trial and error, grew up in Miami as a self-described city kid with limited connection to gardening. He got interested in the field about 10 years ago and his career evolved from a physical therapy assistant to a full-time gardener.

Rodriguez and a garden maintenance coordinator currently juggle about 30 clients.

Some customers want weekly tending, while others just want him to install and establish the garden in the spring and do a few checks throughout the season. Other clients have established gardens and need restoration work or garden rehabilitation help. He also provides education and coaching for customers who want to try to do some of the work themselves.

“We want to let people see and enjoy gardening without stress or hassle. And we hope to teach and inspire them along the way,” Rodriguez said.

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