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Gardening Tips from Chef Kenneth Arneson

Posted on: November 2nd, 2011 by Amy Martin 1 Comment

Recently recognized as “Certified Green Lodging” by the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is dedicated to its eco-friendly efforts throughout the resort’s property. Executive Chef Kenneth Arneson has added a new level to the property’s environmental sustainability – adjacent to the patio at Rico’s American Grill, he’s planted a garden, growing a medley of organic fruits and vegetables that are used in dishes at the restaurant.

Chef Ken first planted the garden in October 2010 and created a composting plan. He spent time learning about gardening and carefully selecting fruits and vegetables to plant – each serving its own purpose. He partnered with Singh Farms, and began collecting compostable waste from Rico’s kitchen to send to the farm to make its own organic compost.

With a belief in companion gardening, Chef Ken embraced the Native American “three sisters composition”, making sure to plant corn, beans and squash immediately. “The three sisters composition concept creates a full cycle of benefits in the garden. The corn provides shade and protects the other plants from the sun’s rays, the beans produce nitrogen into the soil to create a healthy base and the squash, with its large leaves, protects the soil. They each serve a purpose.” explains Chef Arneson.

Today, the garden now has corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, basil, chili, mint, kale, and more. Much of the product has made its way into the dishes at the restaurant in the Chef’s daily feature dishes. And, the garden’s cilantro is used as the base to most of Rico’s dishes.

Chef Arneson’s garden at Rico’s

Chef Ken has inspired all of the restaurant’s chefs and cooks to tend to the garden. “The chefs and cooks all love the garden. They have a chance to connect with food in its truest form,” said Chef Arneson.

Recently, Chef Ken shared a few gardening tips with us. Check them out below:

  • It’s the perfect time to start preparing for fall seeding. Pull your plants from the last season you don’t want to keep, then till any compost you have into the garden. Give the soil a good watering and let it settle overnight.
  • Once your soil is prepared, you can begin planting. It’s important to plant the seeds according to the directions on the seed package because proper spacing can affect plant growth. When seeding, use your hands as much as possible. Your body conducts an incredible amount of positive charge, and when that’s combined with the negative charge of the Earth, it delivers the perfect amount of energy for the seeds to germinate. Remember: positive energy promotes positive growth.
  • When choosing what to grow, keep in mind there are plants that will do well until the first frost and plants that will do well through the frost.
  • Start planting now for plants that need an early harvest, like lettuce, radish, snap peas, peppers and herbs. Hearty plants like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are good to plant now as well. They love the cold and will do well throughout the winter for an early spring harvest.
  • All of these plants grow well together, but keep in mind that hearty plants like to steal sunlight and nutrients from the more tender leaf plants, so make sure to keep them separated.
  • During the fall, water and fertilize the garden in the morning so the plants can enjoy the warmer days and avoid the shock of cold, damp soil in the cooler nights.
  • In a few weeks you can enjoy fresh salads and sugar snap peas right from your garden.  The peas are nice complement to a basil-marinated whole roasted chicken with sweet chili, sautéed with mustard greens and Swiss chard and make one heck of a garden fresh sustainable meal (stay tuned for a recipe!). Always remember “Cook from the Heart.”

For more info about Rico’s American Grill and its menu, visit

Rico’s American Grill | 7677 North 16th Street | Phoenix, AZ 85020 | 602-997-5850 |


About the Author - Amy Martin

Author of Her Plate, Amy's love of food, cooking and all things culinary keeps her endlessly plotting what her next meal will be. Her pastimes include creating in (i.e. demolishing) her own kitchen and baking far more sweets than her tiny family could ever eat.

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