In a well-manicured backyard in Southold, Paul and Kirsten Kesicki are showing off their raised vegetable garden. Four beds in sleek wooden boxes hold myriad plants. The tops of carrots, the beginnings of radishes, the start of cauliflower all popping their green leaves out of the damp soil. Netting supports the curly tendrils of pea shoots and in the back, there’s a strawberry cake, as they call it — a multi-tiered garden bed of strawberry plants. The new blossoms hang off the side to prevent rot.
Despite their excitement over the garden, this isn’t their house. In fact, none of the three gardens they visit that afternoon to water or pull weeds or harvest are theirs. They all belong to different clients. The Kesickis plant, grow and maintain the beds as part of their business, YardCrop.
“Every garden, every person has different needs,” Kirsten Kesicki said. “Every gardener has different levels of interest in being involved.” It starts with the husband and wife team coming to do a yard consultation to see where a garden would best fit in your yard. Then you determine the size of the garden with a crop menu. From there, the Kesicki’s have builders make the raised garden beds and they do the planting. A client can choose to be as involved as they want, from giving complete maintenance to YardCrop to completely taking over themselves.
“So many people have these beautiful backyards and they’re just growing grass and some annual flowers,” Kirsten Kesicki said. “After people built their quarantine gardens, there’s this return to the homegrown, really utilizing your space as much as possible.”
Paul and Kirsten met at the University of Miami in Florida, where Kirsten is from. They moved to New York after graduating and started camping on the North Fork around 2007.
“We just fell in love with the North Fork and kept coming out here, doing camping, then we rented and then ultimately bought a place [in Southold],” said Paul Kesicki, who is from Dix Hills and works in commercial real estate.
They both really got into gardening from their families growing up and started gardening themselves in 2015. Eventually, they helped out friends and family with their gardens, and in December 2019 wrote a business plan for YardCrop. That, of course, was postponed by the pandemic, and this season is their first official season running the business. Since the beginning of spring, the two have planned, built and planted about a dozen gardens around the North Fork and currently maintain three.
“While I think [the pandemic has] set us back a year, it’s probably gonna propel us into the future because a lot of people couldn’t do anything but be at home and got into vegetable gardening,” Kirsten Kesicki said. “They enjoyed it, but realize they may not know as much as they thought they did.”
And that’s where YardCrop comes in.
At the Southold garden, Paul and Kirsten Kesicki planned the needs of the client around the crops of the garden.
“She’s really into canning, so there are cucumbers. She makes jams, so we built that strawberry patch over there for her,” said Paul Kesicki, who took the Master Gardener course from Oregon State University.
They use succession planting, which is planting seeds in increments so all the carrots don’t come up at once but in waves, and a square foot gardening method, which is planting a lot of crops in a small space. Their business ranges from Jamesport to Orient.
“High density growing in smaller spaces reduces maintenance and waste,” Paul Kesicki said. They get many of their seeds locally from farms like Herricks Lane, Deep Roots, Garden Fusion and KK’s the farm.
“Each person has a different reason they’re doing these gardens and a reason they’re connecting to it,” Kirsten Kesicki said. “Whether it’s something like honoring a family member or something they want to do with their kids to connect, in a lot of ways it’s like you’re investing in your landscape, your backyard, your home.”