How a Los Angeles chef slowly but surely built up an urban garden for his family to enjoy.

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Three years ago Timothy Hollingsworth, chef at Otium restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, began planting a terraced garden at his hillside home in the Washington Heights. Hollingsworth and his wife Caroline, social media director at Otium, dreamed of growing as much food as possible, raising chickens, and feeding their family impeccably fresh yard-to-table dishes. This was Hollingsworth’s first tour of duty as an urban farmer and he went all-in on a steep hillside plot that only had a lemon tree and rosemary shrubs when he first moved in: He put in some four dozen trees (in the steep “unusable parts of the yard”) an herb garden by the kitchen, a vegetable garden down the hill, and a chicken coop with a dozen hens. Some of the hens turned out to be roosters, some trees withered and died, but Hollingsworth pivoted and persevered, moving trees, experimenting with irrigation, and trying different composting techniques.

When COVID-19 hit, Hollingsworth found himself spending more time than ever weeding, trimming, pruning, and cleaning up after the chickens, and now the sprawling operation is finally coming into its own: The vegetable garden is on the verge of being productive, the fruit trees are established, and more meals incorporate fresh vegetables and eggs. Hollingsworth’s advice to edible garden newbies? “Start with herbs,” he says. “If you’re going to get into vegetables, allocate a small area and work with a few plants at first. I have nine tomato plants and the truth is I don’t need nine tomato plants.” Once you master one section, add another. “The main thing is: Do it slowly and do it well.”

Here’s a look at how he and his family make the most of their ever-evolving garden. (For a video tour of the garden, watch below. )