One of my earliest memories is sitting alongside my mother as she weeded her vegetable garden. She probably has similar memories of her own childhood, as her parents were farmers as well. So it was just a natural progression that I would eventually follow in her rubber boot footprints, pick up my hoe and rake, and get down to it.
Five years ago for my birthday, I received the gift I asked for ... the services of a professional backhoe operator and a truck load of topsoil. I am one lucky girl! Next came plenty of composted sheep manure from my friends’ sheep farm, followed by lots of tilling and raking. My mom and dad helped me lay out my first garden and although it was relatively small in size (~13’ x 20’), it provided ample space for me to plant. I used no chemical pesticides, instead I planted a marigold at the end of each row and spread crushed egg shells to keep away insects and pests. Throughout the summer and early fall, I had an abundance of carrots, yellow and green beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and pumpkins. My children loved watching the veggies grow and enjoyed helping me bring food from our garden to our table. Nutrition education in action!
The following year, my birthday gift (to myself) was a small but powerful Mantis tiller that I ordered from Vesey Seeds in Prince Edward Island. That purchase enabled me to till my own garden – I love being self sufficient. Each year I till some backyard compost, sheep manure, and garden greens such as beet and carrot tops into the soil. I have a rain barrel near my garden which I dip into between rains to water the veggies. I read gardening tips on different web sites and consulted local gardeners to find out what works for them. One of my neighbours grows his potatoes entirely in seaweed!
Over the past few years I have planted several other veggies such as spinach, beets, potatoes and turnip. I did not know turnip is prone to worm infestation... - that was not a successful planting experience! I also had limited success with asparagus as they are perennials and need a dedicated gardening space to mature into a hardy crop. I did not have the space nor the patience to wait for them to produce; so I sacrificed those plants. On the other hand, cilantro has been a great success, which helps to season my fresh tomato salsa and numerous other recipes. I chop up the cilantro and freeze it so I can use it all year long. It is a great money saver.
I live on beautiful Isle Madame where my garden and I are surrounded by water. It can be cool and windy at times, but my little garden still grows. Except strawberries - the unfavourable weather conditions made me give up on those. This year I planted several herbs in pots inside my glass enclosed patio, where temperatures are warmer. I will have to wait and see how that works out.
Home vegetable gardening has many perks and benefits:
Allows the peace of mind of knowing your food was grown pesticide free.
Once the cost of initial start up is recovered, growing your own food can be money saving. Yes, there is the ongoing cost of seeds, fertilizer and water - but a single plant or seed can produce a lot of produce.
Your neighbours, friends and family love you even more than usual when you show up at their door with fresh vegetables.
You get lots of fresh air and vitamin D. I love the tranquility I feel in my garden – tending to the needs of the garden is a great way to reduce stress and improve one’s mood. Simply put, gardening brings me great joy. Yes I sunscreen and wear an awesome wide brimmed gardening hat!
You can get a great physical workout! All that tilling, shovelling, raking and hoeing helps to keep me buff!! Some studies are claiming that gardening can reduce one’s risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. How amazing is that??
There can be a spiritual component to gardening as well. Yes, you can move the soil and ensure there is adequate nutrients and water to feed the garden, but in the end, you are at the mercy of the weather. When you think that a tiny little seed or starter plant can produce such a volume of fresh produce, it is very humbling, and one can ponder how it all came to be.
There is a deep satisfaction obtained when you harvest your own delicious vegetables. It’s a great feeling … a job well done!
If you are considering gardening, just start small and work with the space and resources you have. Do a bit of research and have fun. I hope your gardening experiences bring you as much joy as my little gardens bring to me.
The Joyful Gardener
by Lisa DeWolf, RD & CDE