Spring has sprung, and it is great time to get going on a garden. There are a ton of things you can grow at home to supplement your diet and reduce your dependence on grocery stores. My wife and I have jokingly named our property UF1510 (Urban Farm 1510). Our street address obviously is 1510, and our garden is the only one on this street fully devoted to food production.
Planting seeds for this summer.
When we bought the house over 10 years ago, the front yard had a small patch of St. John’s Wort, a spindly ornamental shrub, a sizable Laurel tree, an isolated Camelia bush and a dodgy coniferous tree. But the majority of the front yard was a flat expanse of lawn. Everything but the Laurel was removed quickly, and over the years, the lawn has been eliminated. We have dedicated a third of the front yard to bare ground for potatoes, beans, carrots and a few other crops. The remaining two-thirds is a “food forest.” We planted blueberries, sour cherries, apple trees, hazelnut bushes, asparagus and a range of flowering plants to attract pollinators. Don’t forget the bees—if you want tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, squash—you need pollinators.
Alexanders (left) and Salad Burnet (right) are available in winter as a supplement to salads.
The back yard also was a monoculture of grass when we moved in. It now is changed to a series of raised beds and we grow many varieties of tomatoes, kale, chard, onions, leeks, chives, cucumbers, squash, blackberries (a thornless variety) and raspberries—to name just a few of our home-grown food items. Many of our plants self-seed and effectively are edible weeds (cilantro, salad burnet, alexanders, arugula, kale, leeks and chives are weeds in our garden). I also eat dandelion leaves.
The back yard with its raised beds just waking up from the winter. Oregano, chives, raspberry canes and leeks are going strong—we will have to wait for the raspberries of course.
This change in gardening practice took us from a flat lawn which needed to be mowed regularly (wasted energy, in my opinion) to a garden we can walk around and pick fresh produce for our daily meals. Even in winter (because we live on southern Vancouver Island), there is food available in the garden. We also leave the deadfall from the previous summer in place all winter. Why leave the deadfall in place?
1) I am lazy.
2) it is habitat, shelter and a source of food for overwintering birds.
Our garden is chemical-free so there also are insects—but thanks to our local birds (and the invading wall lizards), we get free pest control, entertainment and a dash of colour as they flit about.
Rhubarb, kale, chard, rosemary, and winter cress seem to look after themselves.
This year I am going to post a series of blog articles to show the progress in the garden—this early in the spring it looks messy—weeds have grown, and last summer’s deadfall has yet to be cleared away. But the garden is full of life—birds are everywhere. Lizards skitter around on the warmer days (they invaded in 2019 from a small population to the north of us). We welcome spiders, but we do draw the line at rabbits and deer – they are not permitted.
Strawberries, a potted peach tree and some early flowers.
This month, we will clear out the dead stems and weeds. The dead stems go into the compost—they form the dry brown material that alternates with wet kitchen scraps. We don’t eat meat, so everything from the kitchen goes into the compost. And in the kitchen we have light stands to start seeds. Once the risk of frost is gone, the seedlings will be planted.
This summer’s tomatoes will be started indoors.
I hope this series inspires people to change their gardening practices and replace lawns with food plants. Even a deck or apartment balcony can provide a small mountain of food. You can even grow your own sprouts in your kitchen to add some home-grown greenery to a sandwich. Our garden is a green security blanket, a source of exercise, entertainment and also nourishes us with food and a sense of pride.
Tonight, we are having homemade soup which will have diced leaves of home grown kale, chard and alexanders. To kick the series off, here is the recipe for the soup.
2 chopped carrots
1 chopped medium sized yellow onion
2 chopped celery stalks
3 cups of vegetable broth plus 3 ½ cups of water
1 pack of simulated shredded chicken
about 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning (I never measure exactly, this is cooking not chemistry)
about a 1 cup of pasta or 1/3 of a package of spaghetti or linguini
1 cup or so of frozen peas
We sauté the carrots, celery and onions in a large pot on medium heat for 5 or so minutes. Then we add the broth, the 3 ½ cups of water, fake chicken, and seasoning and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes – maybe more – until the veggies are cooked. Then toss in the pasta and peas and simmer until the pasta is to your liking, and then we add a handful of chopped kale, alexanders, and chard at the end. Season with salt, pepper to taste. I also add a few drops of a decent hot sauce to my bowl.
Thank you garden.