Growing your own produce – An Introduction

22 Jun

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. Life has a funny way of happening, and time just flew by. Please enjoy this fabulous guest post, written by my friend Natasha. On a side note, Natasha was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I was thinking of starting up this website, and she helped to name the site as well.

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Hi everyone! I’m trying something new this year, and my friend Sharon thought it could be an appropriate topic of conversation for her blog. I’ve never guest posted before, so I’m excited to “meet” a whole new group of people! I’ll share 2-3 posts over the summer, so you can see how things are progressing, and decide if you want to try it for yourself next year!

After living in an apartment condo for several years, I’ve been really missing having some dirt to play in. I can live without the flowers, but there’s nothing better than the taste of fresh garden veggies. After only a little bit of research, I learned that there’s a community garden not too far from my home. And as a special bonus, I could ever-so-easily make it on my way home from work too!

I had heard rumors that there’s sometimes a waiting list, but I managed to score myself a plot almost right away: a 15’x15′ piece of land that I could (almost) call my own, for the low price of only $25 per year! This is a HUGE garden for us! There’s only my husband and I in our home, and the last time we had a garden it was only 4’x8′!

When you sign up for a community garden plot, you basically get what you see. You can invest as much (or as little) money as you want to make your garden as pretty or functional as your heart’s desire. Some people in our community have built raised beds, trellises, compost bins, and other features to make it their own. One lady even brought in several concrete pavers and a lawn chair, so she can sit and read in the sunshine. Our garden organization will arrange deliveries of garden soil and manure, we just pay a small fee for whatever we use – usually just a few dollars per wheelbarrow.

Initially, our little plot wasn’t much to look at… the front edges are marked with the rocks, the back corner is right in front of that black compost bin (that belongs to my neighbour).

The family that used this plot last year only used one little corner, so I basically started from scratch… Though, starting from scratch here is still a lot easier than in a back yard, where I would have had to rip out a bunch of grass first!

After only 10-12 hours of work (and a couple weeks of growth), it was starting to look like something pretty special. What I like about gardening is that, while it’s pretty intensive work to get it up and running, the ongoing maintenance can be done in just an hour or two per week. It’s so easy and the reward can be so bountiful.

These community gardens are scattered throughout the Lower Mainland. Here’s a page, maintained by City Farmer, that provides a list of the gardens around the Lower Mainland, with pertinent contact info. Usually you’ll need to provide some kind of ID to prove you live in the general area.

The garden I’m a part of is on the lower end of the price range, but most aren’t much more than this. The part I really like is that my annual fee includes access to a fully stocked toolshed, with shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows and even a powered tiller.

The rules tend to be a little different from one garden to the next, so if you’re thinking of joining a garden, be sure to get a copy of the full membership agreement. For example, in my agreement we need to take all garbage home with us for disposal since the garden site doesn’t have a regular pick up. We also have to agree to 5 hours of general maintenance of the common areas of the garden. We have a rotation for who cleans the kitchenette and washroom, but there’s also a lot of weeding that needs to be done along the fenceline and aisles. But, if you think about it, 5 hrs of work over a 12-month membership year is hardly anything at all. They also schedule periodic work days where you can get a good chunk of your hours completed while also meeting lots of gardening friends.

I went to a work day (work morning, really) in early May and don’t regret it at all! The work wasn’t too hard, and a lovely lady gave me a bunch of strawberry plants that were starting to overtake her garden plot. There was also a huge box filled with all kinds of Mackenie seeds, free for the taking.

The season is still young, but we’ve already been able to enjoy countless radishes, and several batches of lettuce leaves. For lettuce, I tend to pick just the oldest leaves on each plant, rather than harvesting the whole head all at once. This allows for continued growth, and seems to work well here on the west coast, where the summers don’t typically get terribly hot.

In addition to radishes and lettuce, I’m growing nantes and spectrum carrots, broccoli (given to me from a lovely co-gardener!), marketmore cucumber, green and yellow summer squash, assorted snap peas, green and yellow bush beans, 3 kinds of winter squash (butternut, spaghetti & hokkaido), spinach, welsh bunching onions (green onions), beets and golden turnips.

We’ll see how it goes…

The yellow summer squash and cucumbers already seem to be fighting a case of powdery mildew, but I just learned that a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp vegetable oil and 1 quart of water sprayed on the leaves every 10 days should help treat it.

I’ve also noticed several little critters are trying to eat my radishes, beets and turnips before I do. A lady told me she’s had good luck treating these buggers simply by watering the roots (not the leaves) with a diluted soap mixture… basically made with a mild dish soap. I’ll have to give that a try too.

I’ll keep you posted with how these easy home remedies work.

In the meantime, I’m praying for lots of bright, hot sunshine so that my big batch of strawberries can turn red and sweet!

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One Response to “Growing your own produce – An Introduction”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Local gardening wrap-up « Feast and Fare - November 24, 2012

    […] Some of you may remember the gardening series I posted about this summer. There were going to be three posts, but life got in the way for both of us, so we are happy to bring you the final installment in the series today. Natasha’s first post is here. […]

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