Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Urban Garden

In the Beginning...

I was so inspired by the farmer's markets last summer that I knew I wanted to do something this year to help provide fresh food for my family.

I got a book on Square Foot Gardening from my mother in spring and the inspiration grew and the confidence to make our garden grow. We have a very small back yard and I just couldn't see us having the room back there to grow much of anything. I considered building raised beds on the concrete that covered half our back yard. The thought of taking room away from my children's already small play area seemed cruel for us all; never mind I would have no control over what they took from the garden daily.

My cousin mentioned something about planting in our front yard and the light bulb went off! I have a perfectly useless front yard of rough grass and ant hills. Why not plant there? The really great thing about square foot gardening is that you can get more plants in a much smaller space. The added benefit is that it looks pretty. The perfect fit for a front yard garden!

After a day or so in May I had the yard measured and the plots planned on graph paper. I just couldn't believe how many plots I had. We were able to plant 32 plots in a 12'x22' front yard. I killed the grass and then broke up the soil a bit with a shovel. My Dad brought over the tiller to help turn up the soil and mix in our compost. There was a day or so of "weeding" to prepare the soil for plants as we sifted the large clumps of grass out. Thanks to our neighbor Megan we got this done much faster! After another day of outlining the plots using kabob sticks and string, we were ready to plant. Some plants were from seed, while others I picked up starters from the local garden centres.

We had some landscaping rocks left behind from the previous owners that made a beautiful paths for walking on. I bought some lattice and put it up after planting, by using stakes as support. Here is what we planted: Potatoes, Broccoli, Carrots (2 kinds), Peppers (4 kinds), Tomatoes (4 kinds), Beets (2 kinds), Lettuce (3 kinds), Sage, Cilantro (which did not thrive), Oregano, Radishes (didn't do so well) and Cucumbers.

We did grow some plants along the side and back of our house. We have a chain link fence in the back that was perfect for growing green beans, spaghetti squash and pumpkin. Hard to believe that in a 18"x10' line along a fence you can grow so much!

Oh, How My Garden Grows...

This is a typical daily picking from our garden from mid-summer. I could go out and pick so much every day. It was great to eat so much fresh food and to know that we grew it with our own muddy hands.

Unfortunately, I left the bulk of our beans on the vine too long so many just went to seed. Live and learn!

Graeme, enjoying our little garden. I am glad to have planted some carrots along the side of our house. They were the sacrificial carrots the boys would pick as they played. This way the food in the front was left to grow.

A HUGE spaghetti squash growing on our fence. We were able to grow 5 in total, but this one was the most large (still way larger that the store bought ones). They didn't go as yellow as the store ones, but I figured that was just because the store ones are ripened so long after they are picked.

The 1st sign of a thriving pumpkin. We ended up with three large pumpkins and a baby one (one for each of the children). I LOVE cooking & baking with pumpkin so the kids only get to have it carved for a day and then they are mine to cook up! Hopefully I can get an update on those posted soon (before they get carved).

The pumpkin plant took up a lot of room, but I really didn't think it would thrive so much in only a small patch of dirt along the side of our concrete parking pad.

I love beets so much. Be it raw in salads or cooked, so I grew purple and golden varieties. They are so beautiful on the plate. I will certainly plant more of these next year (maybe in replacement of the broccoli). I freeze the leaves for soups & pasta (kind of like swiss chard).

We also grew two kinds of carrots, orange and purple. The purple just look so pretty sliced into a colorful salad, or roasted along a yummy organic chicken. They are orange on the inside and purple on the outside.

My favorite garden meal this year was blanched new potatoes, beets, leaves & beans, lightly saut├ęd in garlic butter, topped with feta cheese and served with Citrus Basa and a cold cucumber tomato & red onion salad. YUM!

The garden grew very well and surprised many family and friends. It opened up a lot of conversation with my neighbors and generally made my house look better than it ever had before.

I While I have grown broccoli before, this batch was very bitter right from the start. I took up a lot of room so I think I'll trade it out next year. Does any one know what you can do with the leaves? It seems such a waste to just throw in the compost pile!

Aside from a few yellow peppers, we only grew the spicy variety of peppers. I was most interested in the peppers that are harder to find here in Winnipeg. Ancho, tobasco & habanero. A neighbor mentioned that they use the pepper leaves in soup. I will certainly try that one out!

Hopefully I can add more photos of the actual harvest, but times are busy in the fall preparing for winter, so I will do my best!