Sunday, 10 March 2013

My Garden

It's still much too early to plant things, so I thought that while we're all waiting for the spring thaw, I'll talk a bit about my garden and how it came to be.

For most of my life, I didn't have much of a garden. My family was living in a small house with a tiny little garden. My mom liked having a garden, but not the time and effort required to have a nice garden, so the majority of the already small space was filled with irises and Maltese Crosses (which are perennials). The remaining space was filled with about 6-8 tomato plants (everyone needs tomatoes, no matter what size your garden is, even if you don't have a garden), and depending on the year, we had grown beans, peas, carrots, and cucumbers. We never had much success, as the peas always became infected with a white, powdery disease (mildew? I'm still  pretty new with gardening, so I don't really know the names of the various diseases); the carrots were always eaten before they were fully grown, and our north-facing backyard was not sunny enough to produce cucumbers any longer than 5 inches (and we only got about 3 of those). The beans and tomatoes always grew well though.

These few vegetables (and a few herbs that we grew in pots) were not enough to satisfy my desires for home-grown produce, especially after I got interested in the whole sustainable agriculture, local and organic food, and efficient use of land thing. The twice a year trip to the farmers market didn't help much either. (The only farmers market I knew about is on the other side of the city; literally as far away as it could possibly be while still located in Winnipeg.) So when we started looking for a new house, my one request was that it would have a garden. After a lot of discouraging searching, we finally found the perfect house, and decided to buy it with no more than a moment's hesitation. The only problem: it didn't have a garden.

There was some space in the front yard, but it was mostly filled with bushes. The back had a patio, a little strip of grass, and the rest was covered with red wood chips, with a bunch of rocks separating the wood chips from the grass. I thought that I could just dig it up and plant in it. That didn't work out. After removing the swing, the rocks, and raking up the wood chips (about 10 black garbage bags full of them), I discovered that underneath a few centimeters of soil, there was only clay. So I was left with this and no possibility to plant in it:

The only thing I have to do this year is make a grid
The solution? A raised bed! I had been doing a lot of reading about gardening (because as I've mentioned, I don't have a whole lot of experience), especially square-foot gardening. I decided to give it a try. With the help of my brother, one of my friends, and her brother, we built a simple 5 by 10 foot square box, 1 foot high. We set it in the center of the yard, and I filled it to the top with many wheelbarrow fulls of dirt. I planted seeds, my mom but down sod over the patches of bare dirt, and this is how my garden turned out last year:
The grass chair was made by my brother, inspired by the artist Ewa Tarsia and her grass furniture.
After pulling the bushes out (which was no small feat, those bushes have really deep roots! Some of them I just had to cut by whacking them with my shovel) I planted thing in the front yard too. I planted tomatoes, herbs, and cucumbers, because the front yard is south-facing, meaning they'll get more sunlight. I was surprised that the cucumber actually grew, as the soil felt really dry, crumbly and depleted of nutrients after having the bush yanked out of it. Hopefully my compost will be ready to add to the soil this spring. Anyway, this is how the front yard turned out:

Just goes to show that you can plant thing anywhere! 

I've pretty much only been doing any real gardening for a year, so when I blog about my garden, it'll be more of me sharing my journey as I grow and learn about how best to grow things, than actual tips. Though I do have one: never plant giant pea plants in front of your carrots, and make sure your stakes are long enough! This year I'll probably have to tape/glue/tie two of my bean poles together, as last year my pea plants grew almost twice as high as their stakes! Oh well, it's a learning process, right?

I can't wait for the snow to melt so I can get my hands on some soil!

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