Garden Plan

I have been really interested in food lately. When I started this new green journey a few months ago, I could not stop thinking about garbage. Now it is food. Go figure.

But I really believe that we need to develop a different relationship with food. I am not talking about counting calories or the downfalls of emotional eating. I am talking about having a deeper respect and appreciation for food, knowing where it comes from, and the miracle of nature that brought it to us.

I was always amazed, watching tiny green shoots in the spring grow into a blaze of green by summer. Where did it come from? Does it come straight from the ground, rearranging the soil particles into a 2 foot bush? Does it come partly from the sky, drawing carbon from the air and amassing it into an organic structure? I have a huge spruce tree in my front yard; it must be about 50 feet tall. I look up at it and wonder, how far down do the roots go, given how high up the branches reach? Do they sprawl underground, across my whole yard, under the road even? How did this massive thing come to be, here?

These days we are so disconnected from this growing process. We know that food is grown, in general terms, but we really don’t think about it too much when we throw 5 tomatoes into a plastic bag at the grocery store and then move on. Where were they grown? Who was involved? How did the sun shine upon the plants? What was the soil like? Once picked, how long was the journey from farm to table?

I want to reconnect with this process. I want to see my own food, growing. I want to pick my own tomato off my own vine, and cherish the shiny red globe that it is.

So, I am planning a brand new garden for spring.

What precious agricultural land is employed so that I may sit down to eat 3 times a day, and feed my family? What if I used some of my own land, right in my own backyard, to take up this cause? What if my food did not have to travel an average of 1,500 miles to the plate, but instead made the journey in a mere 15 feet?

So yesterday I braved the weather and climbed among the snow drifts with my measuring tape, figuring out how much room I had and what I could plant. This was no small task, as we are still very much within winter’s icy grip. We are facing yet another cold snap, with temperatures hovering around -30ºC (-22ºF) with the windchill. My body hurts when I go outside! My 2 year-old daughter cries when the cold wind whips her face, so when we go out I carry her, rushing, holding her face towards me, being so cold myself, groaning under the task of trying to walk-run while carrying her, hoping not to fall on the icy, snowy sidewalks, while still trying to coax my 5 year-old to run run run it’s cold hurry hurry run!! We are all sick of it and longing for spring. What better way to beat the winter blahs than by planning a garden?

So here it is:

  1. One 3 x 8 foot bed on the east side of my house. This is a bit shady, but will get some direct sun for some hours of the day. I will grow veggies that can tolerate some shade, such as lettuce, certain herbs, carrots and radishes. I also plan to install a compost bin here as well. This is what the site looks like right now:

  2. Another 3 x 8 foot bed on the west side of my house. This area is decidedly more sunny, and should get 6 – 8 hours of sun per day. I will plant cucumbers, beets, onions, leeks, carrots and potatoes here. This is what the site looks like now.

  3. On the north end of this area bed above, I will plant a dwarf apple tree. It will be pollinated by my crab apple tree in my front yard, as well as by my neighbor’s apple tree. The dwarf variety will only grow 5 feet wide and high, so hopefully I have room!
  4. Space in an existing bed in my backyard, where I will grow peas and beans up the fence. Raspberries already grow here as well, you can see some of their canes sticking out of the snow:

  5. 2 beds that measure 1 x 4 feet each, that will go on the patio, facing south with full sun. I will grow tomatoes and peppers here.
  6. 4 hanging window boxes that will hang on my fence facing south, where I will plant sun loving herbs.
  7. 2 container beds that will measure 2 x 3 feet each, that will go in my sunroom. The sun room takes up a lot of my backyard, so I decided to use it as a hot house and will grow tomatoes, cucumbers and possibly sweet potatoes. I can also use the sun room to start many of my plants early; I am hoping to use it as kind of a greenhouse.
  8. A space in my existing perennial raised bed in the front yard, covering an area of 5 x 3 feet. I plan to plant a strawberry patch here. This is what the perennial bed looks like now (you can barely tell that it is a raised brick bed about 2 feet off the ground):
  9. A space in another existing perennial bed in the front, in an area covering 2 x 5 feet. I plan to plant beans, peas and a two blueberry bushes. Here is what it looks like now (again, the brick raised bed is covered in snow):

It is crazy to think that I will be putting seeds and seedlings in the ground in just over two months, when it is still so cold outside and the mounds of snow still so high. But it will happen! Spring will come, new plants will grow, and this year, hanging among the leaves will be fruits and vegetables.

What about you? Are you thinking about growing some food goodies in your garden this year?

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15 thoughts on “Garden Plan

  1. Well done, Sherry! You’ve really put some thought into this. I’m so happy that you are bravely taking back control over your food. Earlier this week, in response to the question, “how did you get involved in food system issues”, a friend of mine replied, “I eat food every day”. Making the switch from waste issues to food issues is normal once you realize that half of the stuff in landfills is food and food packaging.

    Please continue to post pictures of your garden as it comes together. I’m so jealous – I live in an apartment above a store, nestled between other two-storey buildings and up against a street to the north and a back lane to the south, so my only option is container gardening on the windowsill of my enclosed balcony.

    This is so exciting, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    • I will for sure post pictures as I go along. The before and after shots should be quite interesting, given how much snow we have now! I really hope it melts quickly, and doesn’t delay spring planting. However the forecast is still looking pretty grim for the next 2 weeks… Sigh.

      Have you come across the Urban Organic Gardener blog (http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/)? He set up a fire escape garden in NYC using containers, and then moved to LA and set up a balcony garden. He uses self watering containers and has lots of videos on how to build them. Also – have you heard of http://www.earthbox.com? These are also great for rooftop and balcony gardens. I am going to be using the square foot gardening method, which has some applications to balconies as well.

  2. Brrr! Looking at your pictures makes me cold. I love your big plans for the garden. It will be a terrific adventure in reconnecting with the Earth. I have a blog friend who did a cost analysis for her very small community garden plot and reckons she saved a bundle compared to shopping at farmers’ markets, so it could be a practical venture as well. Please keep us updated!

    • It IS cold here and we are all hating it. But it is amazing the transformation we have, how different the seasons can be! I hope I do save some money, and grow enough to perserve some food for next winter as well!! One of the blogs I follow weighs each and every fruit/vegetable that comes out of her garden, and keeps track of it all. It is amazing how much she gets out of it, and how much more she got out of it in 2010 as compared to 2009. Sky is the limit!

  3. Haha, I love how your photos are just masses of drifed whiteness. That is our world these days, hey? I have photos of the biggest snow heap I have ever seen in my life (it’s where the county stores the road snow) that I’m going to post on my blog soon. It’s incredible.

    Anyway your plan looks good! Making use of all patches of green space you have around your house. Nice. 🙂

    • I can see one of the sites where the city piles snow from my office downtown, clear across to the north west end. Craziness. I would not like to be the guy who drives the grater up the steep banks of that mountain!!

  4. It’s great! Plant your own vegetable is fun and it’s healthier too because the vegetable will be organic hehehe.. Less pesticide, insecticide, etc…

    I have some tropical fruit trees in my backyard. Rambutan, Jambu, Mango, Banana, Jackfruit, Starfruit, Cassava… those fruit originally from Indonesia and we don’t need a lot of effort to grow it. No fertilizer, no pesticide, nothing. It almost grow by themselves and produce fruits on their own.

  5. Wow. That is an amazing amount of snow. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in -30C.
    Wonderful that you are going to start growing edibles. Very exciting! I’ll look forward to seeing you transforming your garden beds. Happy planning 🙂

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