This month as part of my “live green” project, I decided that I would plant my first vegetable and herb garden. Before I go into any further detail, I want to acknowledge my loving parents for giving me the space to create this garden in their backyard and my amazing fiancé for agreeing to help me with this labour intensive project.
The following photos, and accompanying text, illustrate the steps we undertook in this gardening process, as well as the obstacles and successes we encountered along the way.
Phase One – Purchasing, Ploughing, and Planting
Considering I started this project a few weeks late into the gardening season, I thought it would be best to pick up seedlings from local gardening centres rather than plant seeds. I was so excited to get this project going that I ended up purchasing quite a variety of vegetables and herbs. I purchased organic plants, whenever possible, and discovered it was easier to find organic seeds vs. seedlings.
Here is the exhaustive list of plants and herbs I purchased:
- Lettuce (Ithaca, Mesclun, Boston, Radicchio, Spinach, and Romaine)
- Heirloom Tomatoes (Pineapple Tomato and Black Krim Tomato)
- Cucumbers (Garden and Baby Dill)
- Peppers (Sweet and Banana)
- Kale (Dinosaur)
- Greek Oregano
To begin, we removed existing weeds, ploughed the soil, and added fertilizer to the garden bed. If you look closely in the first image below, you will notice a nest that we found during this process. We decided to plot out where we would actually place each vegetable based on the suggested distances for optimal growth and left some space between the plants and the nest since we found 2-3 duck eggs. We realized very quickly that I had purchased too many plants (a bit too ambitious!) and moved the herbs to another location next to the garden bed. We planted all of the seedlings, watered the lot generously, and then covered some of the vegetables (mostly lettuce) with a light weight net to protect them from being eaten by rabbits.
Phase 2 – Watering, Weeding, and Waiting
This phase took weeks and was a lot of work! There were periods of no rain during this time so it required us to be mindful of the moisture of the soil and to water the plants accordingly. We also spent a number of evenings and sunny weekend afternoons pulling out weeds (see image below) that would grow back within a few days of being plucked. During this time, the duck ate and used our cucumber, banana pepper, and spinach plants to hide and refine her nest. It was amazing to see this development and to wake up each morning to find the duck sitting on her eggs. A few weeks later after some rain, we found the shells of the eggs in the garden bed with no duck or ducklings in sight.
Phase 3 – Flourishing, Freezing, and Feeding
This started off as a very exciting stage for me because we had so much initial growth in both gardens. After much contemplation, we removed the light weight netting to allow the lettuce and other vegetables grow freely. I was able to trim the plants and feed both my family and friends herbs, kale, and lettuce. I froze some herbs and hung some sage and oregano to dry as well.
Unfortunately, within a week our garden became a buffet for the local furry community. We built metal fencing to protect the lettuce shortly after this occurrence. As frustrating as this stage was for us, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out how we were going to protect the plants without restricting their growth due to the containment. Despite our differences of opinion about how to manage the issue, my fiancé helped me tackle and overcome this difficulty (thank you! <3). The images below are of the Radicchio that fed (what we suspect was/is) bunnies in my neighbourhood and the fencing we built around the lettuce.
End of Project Reflections
This was a fun-filled intensive project that uncovered outcomes and learning such as:
- Being able to exchange homegrown produce and/or photos of the garden with colleagues, family, and friends.
- Learning a lot about my fiancé and the way we communicate. I really enjoyed spending time with him in the sun. Although, I recently learned that he does not like gardening, I believe that this project helped to strengthen our relationship in many ways. 🙂
- My curiosity about where my food comes from has increased and inspired me to make an immediate change regarding where I purchase my produce from. I am now enrolled in a local and organic front door delivery program in my community called Front Door Organics. Every two weeks I receive seasonal fruits and vegetables to my home in a reusable bin. The food is fresh, colourful, flavourful, and crispy. I also feel great knowing that I am reducing the amount of processed foods I consume and I am reducing waste from food packaging too.
- Garden growth requires patience, commitment, and care. After an hour and a half commute from work, it was sometimes hard to find the energy to maintain the garden (specifically weeding, watering, and managing some of the problems we encountered). What kept me motivated, however, was the continued growth and support from my gardening buddy.
- The Internet has an overwhelming volume of forums and resources which has been helpful for troubleshooting problems. Gardening is a lot of trial and error too!
- I learn best from doing, so I plan to take a course next year in February/March at a local garden centre or college to learn more about gardening.
- I love being in nature. 🙂
More recently, some of the Ithaca lettuce has turned brown and one of the Heirloom Pineapple Tomato vines has begun to turn yellow. If you have experience with gardening and have suggestions about how to manage such an issue, I would love to hear from you (please comment below). Thanks!
Stay tuned for more photos as the garden matures.