Thursday 5 October 2017

Garden Love: Past, Present, and Future

 Chadwick and I have lived in rentals the entire 5 years that we have been dating and now married. We have been so fortunate to have some form of gardening space in almost all the places we've lived. Its also worth noting that I. Love. Gardening. In the deepest part of my soul I love gardening. Its one of those hobbies that gives us that instant feeling of relief and calm when we start even if it takes us a lot of self-motivation to get up and do it. I think we can all relate to this feeling in some way with some hobby.

I didn't realize how much I need some kind of garden in my life until a few rentals in when building a garden was slightly out of the question.

But let's start back in our first rental. When Chad and I first started living together I moved in to his tiny attic apartment in Waterloo, ON. This was an attic of a detached home with a yard in a historic district of the city. Naturally all of our neighbours were minimum 40 years older then us and kept their yards immaculate. And we were not about to be the obvious renters with the ugly yard. I had dreams of galvanized pales brimming with lavender, calendula, and chrysanthemums sitting around a couple of aderondak chairs on our backyard porch. While some things (like this scene I just painted for everyone) didn't quite work out, here's what did.

We laid out our first garden and I read a lot from a book called The Urban Farm. This book was one of the easiest resource books to read cover to cover. The author covers so many ways to fit a full (and I mean full) garden into a very tiny space. She also talks at length about creating community co-ops for buying local/organic wholesale, and breaks the book up by season. I learned so much from this book. 

 So one of the first things we did was make the already existing garden much bigger, added good soil, and used natural fertilizers to prep the soil for our seeds. I then learned the difference between the space you think you need for certain plants and the space you actually need (i.e. planting 6 zucchini plants in a 3 foot square is not the way). This garden gave us an idea of how things will grow, spread, climb, and which plants the critters will go for. I even caught my first gopher in a trap which we promptly let go a ways away from our garden. We also grew everything from seed either straight out of the ground or under lamps indoors starting in February. We learned how to 'harden off' plants and understood quickly how much of your indoor seedlings you might lose in this process.

I honestly expected nothing with this first garden. I didn't know what the climate would do, I knew that some thing should grow pretty easily. But I was shocked to see that every vegetable we grew came up in fair abundance. This included zucchini's, 3 types of lettuce, onions, garlic, bush and pole beans, snow peas, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers (regular and hot), egg plant, carrots, beets, broccoli, and butternut squash. We also learned a lot about certain diseases like blight and what to do about that.

 This was the last of what we pulled before moving across the country. I don't know why, but I really expected nothing out of those carrots. Now it just seems so silly to me....I plant carrots without thinking at all.

The gardening picked up again when we moved to northern BC although it was initially dismal. We were renting a home that our friends owned and they were away for only 6 months. So we weren't able to plant a full blown garden and had to focus on container gardening. I do really love container gardening, but as long as its purposeful to whatever I need. As in, I don't love container gardening exclusively. But that's what we had to do.

We also didn't invest in containers that actually felt inspiring to grow in. We used old buckets and poked some holes in the bottom for drainage. We had use of our neighbours greenhouse, but we found it to be fairly unregulated in terms of the temperature it would hold.

What we also learned was that because Kitimat is on the north pacific coast, the temperate climate and mild temperatures make it difficult to grow high yields. Also, the sun comes about around 4 am and sets around 11am. So most plants end up going to seed very early in the season before they produce fruit.

The last 2 seasons we've been living in our current home that we rent, the gardening has been much better. The home owners were avid gardeners so they left raised beds for us. We also have a small sort of greenhouse which has been lovely for transplanting and seedlings. Again, I have been trying everything and anything when it comes to the garden. I have such a curiosity to see what will grow and then have been trying in the following season to do research on the individual plants to give them a bit of a boost. It still has been a huge struggle with some things (like sunflowers oddly enough) growing really well and others (like tomatoes) not growing at all.

Our hope for the future is to have lots of space (acres) to expand our gardening to a small fruit orchard, bee keeping, maybe some animal husbandry, and really spend time learning about how plants grow where and when. There is always endless learning and lots of time to see how our needs may change our gardening habits. Updates to come!


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