Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vegetable: Planning the Garden

Last year we were somewhat hurled into the gardening process. Having no access to a back or front yard and only a small west facing balcony we had looked to the roof to produce our beets and carrots. Using the old City of Toronto recycling bins gathered from around the neighborhood we had nice deep soil to plant root veg. Unfortunately, and understandably, our landlady didn't want us tromping around on the roof watering and planting vegetables. She kindly and generously offered us the front yard for gardening. This was a great opportunity but came a little late in the season, the end of May, well after the optimal time for sowing seeds. In order to make sure we had some production we planted with haste and with little planning. As Franka, our next door nonna, quickly made us aware we planted much of our veg to close together. We also didn't do any companion planting, or plant with garden cycles in mind.
This year is going to be different. We invested in some books to help us with planning our garden. One was given to me by my grandma called The Canadian Gardener by Marjorie Harris. Harris is one of Toronto's gardening gurus. The other we bought from Lee Valley, called Canadian Vegetable Gardening. I have only found books that specialize on dealing with the Canadian climate to be useful, other books don't address the long cold season or help with growing after frost.
This year we also have much more space to grow. This means a wider array of vegetables and the opportunity for more creativity in planting. Our little balcony will be used exclusively for herbs, such as rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and marjoram. In the front and backyard we will have mixtures of plants growing on trellises with shade-tolerant vegetables
growing in their shadows. We will also plant vegetables that have compatible root patterns next to each other such as cabbage next tomato and beans on trellis next to lettuces and carrots. In seeking a completely organic garden we will use natural insecticidal flowers such as nasturtiums and chrysanthemums. We may also scatter some Cannabis Sativa throughout the garden for, according to my grandmothers book, its soil improving pathogenic micro-organisms.
Last week we began sowing seedlings for slow growing herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano so that we can have a luscious herb garden for the entire summer and dry lots of herbs to get us through the winter. The simple process of merely sowing seeds in egg cartons got me really excited for the spring. Watching plants mature throughout their life cycle and produce their delicious bounty is a great pleasure for me. The fact that I can't wait to get out in the garden and double-dig all the soil, a grueling process, attests to how much I miss the garden and how difficult even this mild winter has been.

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