“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and “taco shells”, and pretty maids all in a row.” One of our kids’ favorite nursery rhymes, and I love how they add their own Mexican flair to it!
Seriously, though, let’s talk about raising your own food.
Growing up, I HATED tending our vegetable patch. Planting, weeding, bugs, dirt, heat, I detested it all. I was so happy when my parents built their business and workshop on what used to be our garden – it meant freedom! Now that I’ve matured however, I realize what an asset a garden really is. There are so many benefits! There’s knowing where your food is coming from. There’s the taste, homegrown is just so much tastier and fresher than the grocery store. There’s saving money when you’re at the market. There’s exercise that comes into play when tending the garden. And one of the most valuable benefits – teaching our children what it means to be self sustaining.
Our Suburban Garden
The first opportunity we had to grow our own food was when we bought our home in Calgary. We were so proud of our little suburban garden! Not only did we grow veggies, but furthermore, Gaby built me the most beautiful raised flower bed! I also planted many bloom-filled containers around our little yard.
I dreamed of all the food I would grow, to preserve and provide for our family. Well… our garden did grow, but only ever enough to nibble on throughout the summer. For the most part we grew lettuce, carrots, peas, beets and green onions. Oh, and rhubarb, oh do I love rhubarb! I was forever running out before the end of summer, no matter how much it grew, I always had a recipe for it, ready to go.
The Country Plot
It was a dream come true to be able to move to our new home with all of its land and possibilities. You can imagine my disappointment when we came to the decision that we wouldn’t plant a garden this year. Instead, we would spend our time getting the dirt ready, adding compost, manure and peat moss, working it all into the soil, creating nutritious growing ground for the following spring. It was a good decision, but still frustrating.
Not one to give in to my discouragement, I decided I could still provide my family with fresh food this year. It wouldn’t be a lot, but at least it would be from my own hands. Thus, our “pot” garden. (No, not that kind of pot!) It took some begging and pleading, but I was able to get my hands on seven large containers thanks to my sister and stepmom. I had originally planned to fill them with dirt from our newly cut garden, mixed with a little peat moss, but decided that it was still too chunky and heavy to make for good growing soil (hence why we’re working it for a year). So, I bit the bullet and bought a huge bale of potting mix.
The Planting Process
- First, I filled each pot with soil. Then, it was time to get my hands dirty. I got in there and loosened up all the lumps and clumps, making the loam nice and soft. I added some water, and massaged the dirt again so it was moist.
- Next came the planting. Boy, were the kids excited to help! They weren’t as gentle as I would have been, and we did lose a few leaves in the process, but we got the tomatoes and cucumbers in without too many issues. We also planted from seed: carrots and beets (I didn’t know you could plant root vegetables in a container, but was really excited to learn otherwise!), as well as lettuce, radishes and green onions.
- Finally, it was time to water. The kids really wanted to help with this job as well, but I didn’t want them drowning the seeds we had just planted. So, I took care of it this time, though I did have to promise that they would be able to help me out with the watering once the veggies are established.
For those of you curious about varieties, we planted the following:
- Better Bush Tomatoes
- Roma Tomatoes
- Orange Zinger Cherry Tomatoes
- Early Burpless Slicing Cucumbers
- Little Finger Carrots
- Ruby Queen Beets
- Cherry Belle Radishes
- Multiplier Green Onions
- Mesclun Greens Lettuce Mixture (includes Arugula, Endive, Red Kale, Red and Green Romaine, Salad Bowl and Lolla Rossa lettuces)
What About Canning and Preserving?
Because of our limited growing space for this year, I’ll be heading to my local farmers market to get everything I need for canning, including more tomatoes and beets, as well as onions, peppers, and strawberries. I plan on making salsa, stewed tomatoes, pickled beets and jam this year. All I need now is patience for our newly transplanted rhubarb to grow (generously given to us by people in our community). We received so many shoots that we just planted a whole 28-foot-long section along the side of our house!
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