The plates of fresh greens and vegetables served regularly at Patagonia Park’s Restaurant El Rincón Gaucho are often a pleasant surprise to visitors. A seven-hour drive from the regional capital and surrounded by dry Patagonian steppe, the park’s remote location and rugged landscape seems an unlikely place for cherry tomatoes, kale, and fresh mint. Just a five-minute walk north of the lodge, the greenhouses at Patagonia Park supply staff and visitors with an array of tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. Our dedicated gardeners and volunteers are responsible for the dozens of vegetables, fruits, and herb species available at the restaurant austral spring through fall. The goals for the Patagonia Park gardens, as well as all of our garden projects in South America, are simple—grow food that is organic, healthy, and beautiful.
Beyond supplying organic fruits and veggies, we hope to inspire appreciation and action for organic gardening in each visitor who walks through the rows. Purposeful thought, care, and design have been put into every aspect of the greenhouses and gardens, with as much of an emphasis on beauty as function. We believe the art of producing beautiful, healthy food and the art of creating a beautiful garden, when taken together, speak a hundred times stronger than either one by itself. Similar to the entire Patagonia Park project, we see our gardens as an opportunity to inspire visitors and gardeners alike and to serve an as example of what is possible. Made from simple wood frames and plastic coverings, these greenhouses can be easily re-constructed in a variety of environments and settings.
With guidance from a similar farm in Argentina, our head gardener Francisco Vio has a detailed schedule for planting and harvesting. Throughout the season the greenhouse team carefully plants a variety of species at specific intervals, timing harvests to ensure the restaurant receives a steady stream of fresh produce. The greenhouses and gardens are home to approximately 50 garden beds, which play host to over 35 varieties. The variety of vegetables serves a larger purpose than expanding the menu—soil can build up resistance to certain plants, so species are rotated in and out of the beds to prevent the growth of resistant bacteria.
Inside the greenhouse the garden beds are double dug, meaning beds are dug twice as deep as normal so that roots can grow deep into the soil. Supported by loose dirt and extra oxygen, roots can easily grow further down into the ground rather than out to the sides, allowing us to plant plants closer together—an ideal situation for a greenhouse with limited space. Kale that usually must be planted 40cm apart can now be planted 20cm apart, allowing us to use the allotted space more efficiently. These beds are dug 60cm deep, all by hand. Though the initial work is quite labor intensive, these beds can be used for several years before they need to be redone.
Visitors are encouraged to visit the greenhouses in action! Tucked away at the base of the La Vega trail, a stone’s throw from the lodge and a short walk from the restaurant, the gardens and greenhouses are an oasis of color at the base of our grassland covered mountains. The outside of the garden will eventually be lined with tall trees, which will block the wind and prevent the plants from drying out. We invite you to walk its rows, smell the flowers, and taste the crunchy, fresh, and sometimes sweet fruits straight from the source.
Vegetables: Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, arugula, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, carrots, beets, miniature native corn, cucumber, zucchini, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and chives
Fruits: Sarsaparilla, red currents
Herbs: Basil, fennel, dill, mint, thyme, rosemary, lemon verbena, sage, plantain, and chive
Flowers: Roses, hydrangeas, sunflowers, amaranth, peonies, and poppies