how does your garden grow?

Organically, for starters. And well, thank you for asking. Very, very well, if I may be such a braggart.

Some people are born with silver spoons tucked into their arsenal for surviving the world. Some with horseshoes up their asses. Others are born with an artist’s eye.

Me, I was born with a green thumb. Two of ’em. And fingers, too, I suspect. The horticultural equivalent of the Midas Touch, if you will, minus all the curse-related nonsense and cautionary tales (I may rethink this if my giant zucchini plants ever start walking menacingly towards me).

I’m the girl always foraging in the market stalls for the most depressed, decrepit plants to take home. My apartments have always looked like rooming houses for misfit flora. People have always brought me their sad, dead vegetation and asked me to work my zombie magic, which I’m more than happy to do. But there’s not a chance in hell I’d ever return the abused specimen to their bloodied hands after I’ve nursed it back to health.

cherry tomatoes

first raspberries of the season

Growing up, I’d helped my paternal grandmother with her veggie patch. Immediately upon moving from Lebanon to Canada some 50 years ago she had started shoveling manure in order to grow anything and everything she possibly could that couldn’t be found at the time in her new country (like garlic, the lack of which is for me unimaginable). She turned her backyard in downtown Ottawa into an organic mini-farm, filled with wild grapes (both for the fruit and leaves), Lebanese cucumbers and zucchini, flat beans, tomatoes, peas, onions, garlic, lettuce, parsley, chickpeas, chard, mint, spinach, and even a peach tree. The garden’s still there, although now it’s tended by my aunts as my grandmother’s mobility is limited (but don’t think that stops her from sitting on the porch and directing operations).

Armenian cucumbers

baby green zebra tomatoes

incredibly phallic-looking zucchini

When I was planning my move out here at the end of last summer, one of my biggest requirements was finding an apartment with enough outdoor space that I could have a small vegetable garden, even if only a container garden. While phone-interviewing from Ottawa with my future landlord/neighbour, I asked if she’d mind me filling my porch to overflowing with vegetables. Mind? She told me that she and her husband had been wanting to put in an organic vegetable garden in their massive yard ever since they’d bought their house, but had no idea how to go about doing it.

mixed baby heirloom lettuces


The rest, as they say, is tasty tasty history …

I sourced out local and online organic and heirloom seed suppliers, and started my seeds indoors in late winter to be ready for the short growing season in our zone. In the spring we built three raised beds using non-pressure-treated cedar posts, figuring that would be a good start to expand on in coming years, and filled them with organic topsoil and organic composted sheep manure.


Genovese basil

yellow wax bush beans

For my first garden in this new climate, I decided to stick with what I knew. My planting list included 5 types of heirloom tomatoes ("tumbler" cherry tomatoes, green zebra, yellow pear, crimean red, and beefsteak), red peppers, 3 zucchinis (black king heirlooms), 2 Armenian cucumbers (sadly, I couldn't find organic Lebanese cucumbers this year), yellow wax beans (again, sadly, couldn't find organic Lebanese loubieh, also known as roma bush beans, in time), eggplant, 5 curly parsley (to feed my tabouleh addiction), green onions, carrots, mixed chicory, mixed heirloom baby greens, and various herbs (Genovese basil, oregano, coriander, mint, chives) to complement the garden's already established rhubarb and raspberry patches.

Next year, if I'm still around, we plan to expand and add garlic, red onions, sweet and red potatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and zucchini, loubieh, pear and cherry trees, spinach, romaine, and rainbow chard to the mix.

red peppers, still green

I brushed up on companion planting, get down and dirty with weeding and maintenance daily after work, and everything seems to be happy and thriving in the pesticide-free set-up. Also doesn't hurt to have a little helper --- the landlords'/neighbours' little girl gets a kick out of helping with the watering.

At this point, I'm harvesting zucchinis and raspberries, and cherry tomatoes will start being ready this week. All the herbs and greens/chicory I've had to harvest pretty much every other day for the last month, and I've been getting upwards of 2 pounds of parsley weekly (my iron levels, I'm sure, have never been higher).

So ... after all that --- how does your garden grow?


kittee said...

I have a garden that I put a lot of work into, but it doesn't produce the way yours does. I recently attended a great seminar on organic pest maintenance, which was really informative. I deal with a lot of really devastating bugs down here, and also the heat is hard. Right now I have some figs, baby kumquats, a curry leaf plant, burpless cukes, some creole tomatoes (suffering and not producing) and lot of herbs...cuban oregano, basil, stevia, purple basil, and fennel (for the swallowtails).

I really need to learn about organic soil additives. I've strayed away from manure, and my compost is full of thousands and millions of fat maggots. It just gets so wet, no matter how much brown I stuff in my bin...

I am jealous of your arsenal.

- L said...

You had me drooling at figs and kumquats (do kumquats inspire wc fields flashbacks in anyone but me and my dad?) and I love that you're growing stevia, i need to give that a shot some year.

I was looking at the pictures of your various crawlies the other day - gorgeous, but yeah, I imagine they'd take a pretty serious toll on the veggies. I'm sorry your hard work is being undone - that's always so disappointing.

As for your tomatoes and lack of fruit - you're growing them in-ground, I imagine? I know it's very hot there, but is it also very humid? The humidity can be a bit of a curse for tomatoes and will stop them fruiting. Have you thought of trying a glass/plastic shelter for them, maybe growing them in containers to make it easier? I've never had to deal with anything near to what your climate must be, but...

I'm still caught up on the figs, to be honest. All day now I'm going to be sitting in the office, dreaming about fresh figs...