I’ve always wanted a garden. I mean really, really want one. A place where I can grow vegetables, work the land and savour the fruits of my labour. Unfortunately, it never really works out for me. Most of what I plant dies. But every spring I start thinking about the garden and have visions of me with my garden gloves on, wiping the sweat from my brow as I till the soil, nurture the plants and do whatever it is a gardener is supposed to do. I love the idea of it, it’s the implementation and maintenance that always gets me in the end.
But I’m off to a good start this year! I’ve taken my little backyard garden plot, tilled it (with a lot of help from my dad), added peat moss and manure (or “sheep shit” as the guy at the garden centre so delicately calls it) and I’m keeping a garden journal to track my progress.
Lots of things I want to try this year. Growing the herbs and vegetables are one. After reading the 100 Mile Diet, I’m excited to spend this summer thinking more about where my food comes from, about preserving, canning and to appreciate the process and not take for granted what is put on my plate. My own mini version of the 100 mile experiment.
Growing up my nonna Maria used to grow strawberries in her backyard and had a small plot to grow vegetables. She would sun dry the tomatoes from her garden, lining them up on a sheet of tin foil on top of a rickety wood table. My zias in Italy make their own sausage, prosciutto, rear chickens and have a massive garden.
They save their seeds, choosing the best tomatoes from the crop, drying them out and storing them for the next season. The tomatoes are used not only for salads and other dishes, but for making tomato sauce to get them through the winter. Next to the garden plot is a small vineyard. Enough to make their own wine. If you think about it they are actually, for the most part, living a zero mile diet.
Growing up my parents kept their own garden. Our lettuce, beans, herbs and a few vegetables came from the small plot. But as the years passed, the garden grew smaller. Maybe it was because having a garden was an “immigrant” thing to do and we wanted to blend in. Or maybe it just became too much of a hassle to do the work it took to tend the garden. So the garden eventually disappeared and, almost with it, the knowledge that my parents attempted to pass down to us.
But things are now changing. There are many of us out there that are bringing the gardens back. My parents still know all the tips and tricks of growing and they are now teaching me, and I’m actually listening. Even though our family garden disappeared and my dad covered it up with evergreens and flowers, my mom hung on to a small patch to grow a bit of basil, oregano and enough basil for when we make tomato sauce.
So here I am. As my garden adventures unfold, I’m going to write about them here and let you know how a novice gardener is doing. To bring you up to date, here are a few entries from the last week:
My dad and I rented out a rototiller and got to work. The guy at the rental place gave me a tip: In the fall, throw your grass clippings onto the plot to help your vegetables grow even better the next year.
Bought some peat moss and manure and added it to the garden. Now all I need to do is get me a few of them seedlings. Rumour amongst the garden folk is that the long weekend is the time to plant.
Headed out to Predawn Nursery on Provincial Road (right across from the airport). It’s the long weekend and I keep hearing that the May 24 weekend is the time to plant. All the Italians in the city must have known this as every greenhouse I went to I could hear a multitude of dialects being spoken between the aisles. “Ma guarda che bello questo rosmarino!” There wasn’t as much choice as I thought there would be. Yes, there were the staples of tomatoes, lettuce, herb and peppers. These were seedlings. There was a bit more variety if you were planning on sowing the seeds. I did end up buying seeds for spinach, lettuce and beans, so we’ll see how that ends up. Picked up seedlings for butternut squash, zucchini, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, white onions, hot peppers, green and yellow peppers, stawberries, parsley, cilantro, basil, and rosemary.
So there you have it. I’m managing to remember to water the garden every day so we’re off to a good start.
Have you started your garden yet? Let me know. Share your tips and tricks with us!