Posts Tagged 'vegetable gardening'

Garden Review – Best and Worst Gardening Decisions

The garden is officially done. We’ve brought in all the veggies and our pantry and freezer is packed. It’s funny how finishing a project makes you reflect on how you could have done things differently. Here are the best and worst gardening decisions we made this year.

Best decisions we made this season

– Nasturtiums. Call me old-fashioned, but these are my new favourite plant. They grow quickly from seed so there’s no need to start them early inside. There are dozens of varieties – vines, small flowers, large ones, and many different colours. They bloom all spring, summer and fall. The best thing about nasturtiums is that they keep away the pests. We have two grape vines but for some reason I only planted nasturtiums under one of the vines. The one without nasturtiums got eaten by aphids, the other vine looked great all season.

– Sunflowers. So easy and so much fun for the kids. I put them everywhere and they all grew tall and magnificent. I will plant sunflowers in our back alley next year so that I can cut the blooms and have them peek over the fence.

– Growing our cucumbers vertically. I attached the cucumber vines to a trellis this year. This saved us a great deal of space as we only needed a bed that was a foot and a half deep by five feet wide. The cucumbers grew upward and had no problems producing.

– Growing loads of tomatoes. I know that we overdid the tomatoes. And I know that I have been complaining about how long it takes to make salsa. But seriously, nothing really compares to homemade salsa and tomato sauce. The effort was so worth it.

Worst decisions we made this season

– Having no faith in the raspberries. Why, oh why did we not cut back the raspberry bush in the spring? Some plants just go crazy. The raspberries quickly got overgrown and drooped over the lawn. I’ve already cut the stalks to about two feet tall so we’re ready for the spring.

– Forgetting about the annuals. I did it again; I get so focused on the veggies that I neglect the annuals. We had some annuals, but I never get too excited about flowers. Shame on me because I know that they are good for luring bees and butterflies.

– Growing the variety of tomato called ‘hundreds and thousands’. Sure, they taste great. But because they are the size of a small berry, you can’t do anything else with them except eat them fresh. This might sound great for the first couple of weeks. But we seriously have hundreds and thousands of tiny tomatoes sitting on our counter top and we’re sooooo tired of them.

– We had the bright idea of planting all our tomatoes in pots so that we could reserve the veggie bed for root vegetables. Unfortunately, the pots didn’t have drainage holes in the bottom. With all the rain in July, I spent a great deal of time protecting the tomato plants from getting too much water. Such a foolish mistake.


Show What You Grow

Photo Credit: aidswarrio on

Looking for a family activity this weekend? You might want to check out the Show What You Grow event at Fort Edmonton Park.

This event is put on by the Edmonton Horticultural Society to celebrate the end of the growing season. This is a great way to get inspired about local food and see what others grow and preserve from their own garden. This year, the show has made a special effort to demonstrate how gardening can be fun and interesting for both parents and children.

Saturday, Aug. 27 from 2:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 28 from 9:00 – 6:00 p.m.

The event is free with admission to Fort Edmonton Park. AND everyone who enters the show gets a complimentary entry to Fort Edmonton Park during the harvest festival weekend!

Slow Saturdays (or Sunday!) – Time to Grow a Veggie

Slow Saturdays is a weekly challenge related to slow parenting. The challenges are intended to break down a large project into smaller, more manageable pieces. Try it for yourself. You are, as always, encouraged to post comments. Tell us your story.

The Challenge – Inspired by last week’s post on vegetable gardening, it’s time to plant some seeds. If you’ve never grown a vegetable, this is the week to start. Pick something easy like tomatoes in a container or strawberries from a hanging basket. The challenge is to plan for an edible food this summer for your family to enjoy. If you’re a seasoned gardener, maybe this is the year to expand. For the beginners, here’s a quick overview about how to start.

Vegetable Gardening Attempt #4

The Bear helping me start seeds.

The Bear helping me start seeds.

Well, I missed the boat on posting a Slow Saturday challenge for this week. I’m going to consider this spring break and take a week off!

Instead, I’ve been thinking about gardening. The Bear and I planted our first seeds this week. And, oh joy, they have already started to sprout. Then, this past Saturday, my mother and I attended a seminar on growing tomatoes. We learned lots of new tricks and ideas (did you know that mixing cinnamon into the soil where you start your seeds will prevent damp off?) I now have six different tomato varieties sitting in warm earth on the windowsill.

But this post isn’t about the merits of gardening. I’m going to avoid a Birkenstock-inspired rant about why children should learn to grow veggies. (But if you are interested, check out this WSJ article on why 2011 should be the year of the vegetable). Nope, I’m wondering about us – the parents. How many of your/my generation learned to grow food as children?

When MJ and I moved into our house, I was intent on having a yard with easy maintenance. Gardening was what you did when you were retired. Me? I was too busy to maintain a garden. But then, to our surprise, old raspberry canes impressively took over a corner of our backyard. With absolutely zero effort, we had been given an amazing gift. These berries tasted nothing like those from the supermarket and there were LOTS of them. We couldn’t possibly eat all the raspberries and I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting them. How could I preserve them for later?

So began my learning curve with growing and preserving food. With a few more experiments, I discovered the joy in going into my backyard and eating what was growing there. But I had never been taught a thing about growing vegetables or fruit. This was never something that was part of my childhood. In the eyes of most Westerners, growing a vegetable garden isn’t a necessity; it’s merely an interesting hobby. In just a couple of generations, we’ve moved from having intimate knowledge about growing our own food and persevering it to little or no knowledge at all. It’s fine to proselytize to families about the advantages of growing food, but one needs to acknowledge that many people today don’t have a clue where to start.

Slow parenting is about slow food, and therefore growing vegetables is a reasonable fit. But then what? Consider this a call to learn a little this season. The benefits for the kids will come later. For right now, it’s about the parents gleaning some basic gardening knowledge.

In an effort, not to inspire you, but to humbly expose my learning curve, here are my personal top five ‘learning-to-garden’ disasters:

1. Starting tomato seeds at the end of January. But June, they were four feet tall. Even though they were intended as outside plants, they spent most of their life in our home awkwardly blocking our back door.
2. Growing veggies in the shade. I know, ridiculous, right? But I had never been told that they need full sun.
3. Not watering. Huh? Veggies need water? I only left them for a week, but that was enough to kill them.
4. Being excited about how well my lettuce was doing when it was three feet tall. I hadn’t yet learned the term bolting.
5. Overdoing the veggies and ignoring the role of flowers. Until I had a sudden memory of grade five science – plants need to be pollinated, so that means bees and butterflies, oh, that’s why people plant flowers with their veggies!

Growing with vegetables

“What’s a person called who takes care of plants?”
“Like a gardener?”
“How about a botanist?”
“Oh, yeah! I’m going to be a botanist when I grow up”

Our kitchen counter is currently an experiment in botany. Cradled in the vast sunlight of the afternoon are just over 60 tiny seedlings. All of them are tended by The Bear (with some supervision). This is the first time that we’ve planted from seed.

The snow hasn’t fully melted and I’m already filled with a great sense of satisfaction watching our vegetable plants and annual flowers fill out their first leaves. The experience has been enriched by The Bear’s involvement. She has taken care of the watering and monitors the surface of the soil for new buds. Daily, we look at our little chart that tells us which seeds are in which starter pot. We examine the soil to observe what came up quickly (the cherry tomatoes) and which seeds have taken weeks to surface (peppers).

It’s no secret that involving children in the growing of food makes them both knowledgeable and appreciative of where food comes from. Not to mention that The Bear is learning to love vegetables rather than see them as an adversary on her dinner plate. There is value in her knowing the simple science that goes into growing plants and in experiencing the wonder of a tiny seed turning into a cucumber to munch.

Growing our own food is an inexpensive way to feed ourselves while slowing us down and bonding us as a family. Our kitchen corner is becoming a little hub of discussion about different shaped leaves and speculation on how much lettuce we will have this year. As a family, we are talking about and creating our own food. This has a powerful effect on our relationship to food, to the earth, and to one another.

And who knows, maybe it has also set the stage for the career aspirations of a little botanist. Then again, she wanted to be a bicycle repair girl yesterday…

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