With the right mind set, growing food is very rewarding for my family and community as it reduces our carbon footprint, encourages seed and produce sharing with our neighbours, and gives my children the opportunities to develop strong life skills.
Home gardening is important to me as it allows me to be physically and mentally active almost daily. Growing a vegetable garden or even a few large pots gives me the opportunity to gain more insight about myself by teaching lessons of patience, anxiety and frustrations by learning from trials and error.
Starting a garden, whether a small garden plot, a vertical pallet or in some containers takes a small amount of pre-season preparations. I like to keep a journal and write up a plan to be more organized. In my plan I think about my seeds, my soil, the sun and shade patterns in the yard and pests. Everything needs to be thought out carefully to grow vegetables to fruition.
Firstly, I plan my wish list. What do I want to grow? How much space do I have? Is the soil the right pH? It is almost a science experiment learning to grow a beginner garden project! I think about the seeds I saved. I study the temperatures at which seeds need to be at to germinate.
I prefer to use the paper towel method for germinating most of my seeds. Then I can see what seeds spouted and can give them chance to grow pre-season (before last frost date) indoors by a large window or grow light. I prefer my method because I can grow a lot of seedlings which I can share.
I estimate that 20% of my seedlings won’t make it, so it’s my way of making sure I have something to grow. I start all my seedlings indoors except for peas and beans because I find it discouraging to plant seeds that may or may not germinate or just get eaten by a hungry critter!
The next step I do is create a planting log. I write the dates and comments of all the work I do. I like to look back and view my progress over the season. While I watch my seedlings grow in the window, I snuggle with a tea and browse through my collections of books about gardening and foraging and dream of the sight of spring. Hallelujah!!! Is that dirt I see? Hurry up snow banks and melt! As you can see, I need to work on my patience!
In the meantime, I identify any problems from the gardens past, should I buy a load of top soil this year? Did my plants get enough daily sunlight? Too much sunlight? Too much watering my garlic? Too little watering my melons? Why does my radish bolt? Trust me, it’s worth it to go above and beyond and learn all you can about plants and your dream garden!
Lastly, one other pre-season plan I never leave out is what to do about keeping the pests away from my transplanted seedlings once the temperatures are warm enough to grow outdoors. I suggest identifying your neighbourhood pests such as insects, birds, rodents, rabbits, squirrels and deer.
They are all very cute but they need to stay out of the garden and pots if your crops are to survive. I cannot tell you how much sadness, loss and disappointment I experienced over not protecting my plants. It is worth investing time and money in your fencing and cages.
I hope that this submission will help others adventure into gardening. Growing a family garden has given me much more joy cooking with more flavourful produce than I could ever buy at the supermarket.
We eat beans right of the stalk, peas raw, juicy tomatoes and I also include edible weeds in my salads and dishes. I let some beans and peas grow until they are big and swollen, removing the seeds to dry and store away. It’s an investment in next year’s garden. I use paper towel under my drying seeds then come germination time, all I need to do is soak it and the process begins again! There is little waste and less visits to the store when you plan menus with home-grown produce and wild ingredients which I love to forage.
Hopefully , I have planted the seeds within all of you to plan growing your own small garden to be more self sustainable.