13 May 2012

The backyard plans

One of the ways that our family is already fairly sustainable is that we've been growing a vegetable garden for the last few years.

Let me back up a little. 3 years ago - No... I need to go further back.

My husband, by trade, is an electrician. He was working for a company that had him working away a lot, and while our daughter was really wee, sometimes it was everything I could do to manage to vacuum the lawn (for whatever reason, that's what my husband and I have taken to calling mowing. Sue us, but it makes us laugh and it's always accidental). As Girlchild got older, I started to want to grow things. However, I have a determined and decidedly black thumb. Manthing, on the other hand? Green hands, his thumbs are so green.

So 3 years ago, when the economy took enough of a nosedive that Big Oil even started slowing down, and he was laid off, we decided that we could save a lot of money if we grew our own vegetable garden. Because it was June before we had this brainwave, our initial outlay was fairly significant, but we both worked hard at it (him more than me, refer back to black thumb comment), and we had fresh vegetables and strawberries by late August.

The gardening bug hit Manthing hard, and we started planning early for the following year. Manthing expanded the garden, and we decided to try for squash. We also adopted some flowers for the front from a friend who was pulling them out of her garden. We chucked them into a rubbermaid tote and brought the whole thing home from Kelowna, where she and her husband live, and then transplanted them into our front garden. We also added a lavender to the front, and a gooseberry, although the gooseberry has never given us any yield. Our veg garden in the back though! Peas! Carrots! Lettuce, rhubarb, strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, potatoes.

We learned loads that second year - like why not to plant tomatoes and potatoes beside each other.

The significance of the arrows is that they point to potato fruit, which are potentially fatal if ingested.
Last year, Manthing revamped the garden again. We hadn't really had any success with our squash, which is crazy because even our zucchini didn't grow, and zucchini get as big as minivans around here. He did some research, and I started our seeds (see? we were evolving and thinking), and I decided this was the year my black thumb turned green.

Most of our forced seeds died because my thumb is truly that black. I have some other fairly significant excuses that I think allow for me to think there is rehabilitation available for my thumb, but last year was a bit of a wash.

Girlchild got into the swing of things last year too. She chose Pea Knights and Cucumber Dragons to seed, and we actually got cukes from her plants. And we had more peas and carrots than we knew what to do with, although the carrots were all terribly small last year. We had horrible weather, so our already abbreviated growing season was even shorter than usual (we can't plant outside any earlier than the May long weekend. For the non-Canucks reading, that's the 3rd weekend of May). We got 4 teeny pumpkins, another bumper crop of strawberries, rhubarb, beans, peas, carrots...I know there was more, but I got angry at my camera and didn't document it all.

You may have noticed there were no tomatoes in last years crop, and I've never once mentioned onion. There's a reason. I was bothered by the loss of my tomato crop to the deadly potato fruit the previous year, and didn't want to put it in all the work again. That makes me sound bitter and stupid, and maybe that's true. But I'm also allergic to tomatoes, so while they grow really well here, there's a lot of work that goes into processing them to a point that I can actually eat them (they need to be cooked to death). And we don't grow onions for the same reason. Allergies. Except that my onion allergy is significantly worse - there's no way for me to eat them, so why bother growing them?

This year I would like to put garlic in though. Because NOM.

I digress. Today, we went to the botanical society plant sale, and learned a valuable lesson. Be there a half hour before it opens because WOW. We got there a half hour after it opened, and they were stripped almost bare. So we continued on to a local nursery and picked up some plants there. I also ordered plants from Girlchild's spring school fundraiser (tomatoes, strawberries and herbs).

The latest addition though, which I'm most excited about, is a gutter garden. I first saw the idea on Pintrest, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Last year I tried to plant a medicine garden, and it just. didn't. happen. Partly because the weather was crap and partly because it was poorly planned, tended and arranged. So when I saw the gutter garden idea, I knew it was the answer to my prayers. This morning we went out and bought 3 ten foot lengths of gutter, and Manthing mounted them on the shed, which gets good sunlight all summer. Next weekend, we'll fill them with dirt, and plant my medicine plants! WOO! I have all kinds of exciting things to put in there, I can't wait!

I'm really looking forward to the garden this summer. With Manthing out of town for work, I know I'll be putting a lot of work into it, but with my new regular schedule, I think a half hour in the garden after work every day while Girlchild plays on her fort is totally within the realm of doing. So hopefully there will be a huge harvest and excellent bounty this year.

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