Learning To Garden

My mom was an accomplished gardener. Our house sat on half an acre in the suburbs and there were gardens everywhere. Heaping flower beds in front of the house and around the back deck and a vegetable garden larger than my current yard. Her gardens were always impeccably tended and store-bought vegetables were so rare that I actually envied my friends whose parents purchased greens from the grocery store. Weeding and harvesting were obviously part of my brothers’ and my summer chores. Like normal children, we hated it.

Once I moved out on my own, my gardening adventures were limited to the occasional potted plant from the grocery store that survived long enough to need water a few times. Oh, and a basil plant I grew from a seed and harvested regularly for about a year. I gave it away to a friend when I left for the Epic Journey. We don’t speak of it, but since I don’t see the plant in her house, I would guess the ownership transfer did not end well.

It wasn’t until I was working for a farming family in Australia and found myself kneeling in the dirt, surrounded by weeds that I discovered that somewhere in me, buried really deep was an urge to grow my own stuff. Not have a garden (let’s not get too crazy here!), but you know, grow more basil. And tomatoes.

We bought our house too late in the season last year to consider growing anything outdoors. And I was pretty overwelmed from the move and going back to work. And we mostly get our sun in the front of the house. And, most importantly, our lot is tiny. (Well, actually, it isn’t, but the usable lot is tiny.) If we cut away any of it to accomodate a garden, we’ll have like 3 blades of grass left.

So my mom, the ever helpful gardener, send us a book about growing vegetables in containers.

Brilliant! Now I don’t have to rip up what exists of my lawn, I can use the front deck sunlight and I can move my plants indoors when the frost hits! I started paying closer attention to my neighbours as well, and it turns out everyone gardens in containers. One of my neighbours is even so hardcore that she dedicated her entire front yard to wooden boxes. So it turns out that getting beds and planting food instead of flowers isn’t weird at all!

Planting the herbs

I started on my last days off. Ed helped despite having yet to overcome his childhood gardening hatred. The book says to go slow, so we figured we’d start with the herbs we wish we could get fresh.

We bought one of those coconut lined thingies you can hang off your balcony, along with thai basil, cilantro and green onions (yes I know, not an herb).

We had no idea what we were doing – had forgotten the gardening book at home while shopping for supplies – so we filled it with this seeding soil that looked really fancy. We are seeding, yeah?

Then we totally ignored the directions on the seed bag about plant spacing and hoped stuff grows.

Add some water.

Finally, pray. If all else fails, we have a nice decorative pot on our deck.

Taking it further: Planting spinach, garlic and onions

Since this is our first summer trying to grow our own food, we wanted to keep it small. I figured I could grow onions and garlic in a former kitty litter bucket.

I drilled holes to drain excess water. My first drilling experience! We had bought it shortly after buying the house but I never got the chance to use it since Ed always hogs it.

I cut a larger hole in the center, mostly because the book told me too. I think you only need the bigger hole if you’re making a self-watering container but I wanted to be safe… Plus, we might have to make this improvised planter self watering in the future.

All filled up with soil! I did notice that the planter is way too small to grow a useful quantity of garlic or onions, so I ended up planting spinach instead. Apparently, spinach does better in self watering but we do get a lot of rain, so we’ll see if I have to convert the bucket.

I ran to the store to find larger containers for our garlic and onions, particularly ones that could nicely line the front of our deck but the selection was atrocious. Even online, planters that would fit the bill are rare and expensive. Almost feel like my next project will be wood working. But anyway, in the meanwhile, we’ll have to make do with this cool find:

Still a bit small to grow any substantial quantity, but it’s a start. And it looks great.

All that’s left now is to keep watering and hoping, I guess. Oh and composting! I bought a composting bin off Amazon, should arrive tomorrow. It’ll hardly be the giant composting troves of my childhood, but maybe we can make some good stuff for next year.

I doubt I’ll ever reach my mom’s level of gardening proficiency, but it’s a start, right?

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