May 27th, 2011

Sharing it all…

It is an interesting time for me. For the last four years it is Monica and I who have taken care of the flower gardens. Now that the gardens are twice the size I have quickly come to realize that it is difficult to work full time and take care of them as well. Decisions need to be made…. And it is simple…nature does not wait. I have hired myself an amazing assistant, Sarah, for the office that is taking a huge load off my shoulders…. Freeing me up to get out of the office during parts of the day to tend to the gardens…

seedlings on tableAnthony in the garden... his favorite place

I don’t consider the gardens a chore but I do consider them a responsibility. There is the obvious chatter that goes on between my plants and I (we all talk to our plants right.) watering, weeding, tying up plants and mowing the left over lawns. I have bushes that need pruning and still have my front flower planters to fill.
I reflect on what my intention was when I said “community garden”. It was to provide a place for people to come and enjoy the space as they see fit and share in the harvest…. Why am I having a hard time asking for help? I have no problem giving things away… but in the true spirit of “community” should we not all work together and then share in the rewards? “Come and join me in the garden… help me tend to them, watch them grow as you work away… come with a basket and take home what you would enjoy”
I will spend the next couple of weeks seeing who would like to come and help with the gardens in exchange for FREE produce.

A Handful of seeds and Left Over Plants

The gardens are planted full… and there are still leftover plants.  I have just brought a table out front of the house to place the “FREE to Good Home” plants on when the phone rings… My son Mike, who is currently living in Toronto, tells me that a few people and himself are planting a community garden and they are wondering if I have any plants left that I might want to donate….  I am ecstatic!  Here are all these plants that we grew from seed that are now going to a new Toronto home!
 6-4seedlings on table 2
I pack up the plants (6 flats of assorted Vegetables and herbs) some tomato cones, wooden stakes, lettuce seeds, and coconut hair peat, and jump in the vehicle… In less than an hour I am greeted by 5 enthusiastic people anxious to unload and to get things started.  When I ask about soil they mention that Loblaws will be giving them the bags of black earth…. Wow .  Now this is community…
 6-4Mike and I
It is raining when I arrive back home… I will take the remainder of the plants and place them in small pots and put them out front tomorrow.  I think that the 6 bean plants that I have left I will put in larger pots with stakes and see if the two families with small children would like to have them and watch the beans grow….
My day ends with a smile….

The Planting Has Begun

May 21, 2011

We were getting everything ready for planting on the most traditional planting weekend of the year…May 24…. I thought I would get ahead of the rush and go to my favorite garden center (Kingsway) during the week.  I would purchase anything that we had not seeded ourselves…
5-1herb garden !
I purchased the onions, leeks, cabbage, a few carrots mine looked a little thin J…my annual herbs I use a ton of basil so I bought about 50 plants… (next year I will try start these as well), Buying them is not cheap….cauliflower and broccoli (found out that they grow really fast from seed L).  Nasturtiums for their edible flowers, and marigolds for around the tomato plants to keep the ants away…
5-2aniek smile new herb garden
I looked at the plants we had grown and having never done them before I was not really sure how they were doing…
A week or so prior I had visited Walter from Pingle Farms… and he smiled and said “ if they are still alive now then they will be fine”.
I set out this weekend to visit the various people/gardens  that I had befriended for the Documentary and I quickly learned that my plants were doing just fine and that they would harden up very quickly once they were placed outside.

5-4janet and cucumbers raised beds! 5-3beans on the bean plants!

One thing for sure  is that I have spend way less money this year than all the previous years when I was purchasing flowers for the beds.. Growing 17 flats of various vegetables from seed certainly goes a long way.. Lots for the gardens and left overs to give away to friends.
I have used what ever I have in the garden shed to trellis the plants…Bamboo stakes tied into a tripod for the eggplants, wooden stakes from the burlap wall used to protect my roses from the harsh winter temperatures, last years bean trellis’, the fence along the compost area for the zucchini… Amazing how many treasures are in the shed after 9 years of gardening…
As for tools… more gardens, requires more help… I simply ask people to bring along a shovel. Why buy what we can share. 8 people- that includes the 2 cooks… got to eat and eat well!,  2 hours of planting on Saturday and 2 hours of planting on Monday that pretty much covered the bulk of the planting… I will continue filling in spots throughout the upcoming week.  THE REWARD…. We all know that we can come during the summer and autumn and pick to our hearts content.
5-5Aniek prepares lumch for all

The Garden as a Healing Garden

Meditation, being present, peaceful

April 30th, 2011

4-1-rose garden and bench
It was through my morning mediation that the vegetable patch was inspired… but there were a few more instructions… The garden should be one that was to be shared with the whole community expanding into a healing garden. How does one open their back yard to a society that loves to wall up or fence up all personal properties… to protect it… to delineate what is mine versus theirs.  How do you explain that the gardens and yard are there for all to enjoy… that it is not about money, that it is simply a space for people to feel free to retreat to…. That it is ours…
4-2pond

4-3path to roses 4-4birch perennials

“Why?”
Why, would be the first question  asked.
“This is yours, you bought it, earned it, created it…” How can it then be “ours?”
Some people recommended finding a public plot…. But there are so many rules…
“This is not public property…. Someone asks … “what about insurance, what about the fact that there is no lock on the gate (not that there ever was) what about attracting the “wrong people”? (what do they look like)… Am I being naïve.. should I know more before I pursue this? Or should I know less… ask less… and follow my heart?  Guess…
     I want to bring things back to the simplest form…Nothing is really ours… we get to use it while we are here on this earth…. Enjoy it, take care of it, live communally with it.  To live without attachment or ownership is the ultimate freedom…
4-5lilies
Give with love… with no attachment… no expectation….Come to the gardens to sit in the midst of its newness…come sit by the modest pond, on the individual stone meditation benches and listen to the water, come work and share your love of the gardens… come share your knowledge and know that it will be heard and embraced…. For this is my first attempt.

Building the Raised Beds

April 18th 2011

Today we begin the building of the raised beds.
As I mentioned earlier we won’t be cutting any more gardens, breaking the ground.  Instead I found this great idea on line… lay the area that is going to be the garden with layers of newsprint.  Water it down until saturated and cover with 8” of soil… garden ready to go…
I am curious to see how that works. It seems so much simpler than the backbreaking task of pulling up sod.
3-1
My brother made quick work of building the beds at the east side of the house. We built a two tier garden… This will house some of the plants that have deeper root systems and another one along the fence. …. Then Kelly built the eight 4’ x 4’ boxes in the back yard.
Now what to do with the grass between the boxes?  Enough space was left for the lawn mower to get in between but I can see that this will quickly become annoying where the grass grows up along the walls of the raised beds…. More edges!  This will become a new project throughout the summer.
3-3
 3-2I have garden soil being delivered.  It will be mixed with my compost that is almost a year old now… I struggle with the fact that all soil that you buy, bagged or bulk seems to have peat in it.  This is a product that I have tried to avoid buying since the peat bogs are not  sustainable. Peat bogs take hundreds of years to replenish.  Coconut hair is available and is sustainable but I haven’t seen it in bulk and the brick size pieces are pretty expensive.
We will fill the new beds and give them a chance to rest for a month or so before planting begins…
 3-4
Yes… I am going worm shopping…. Even though I know that the worms will naturally migrate to this wonderful spot I thought I would create a resort for our new guests.
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A Night of Seeding.. good for all ages.. Fun!

April 14, 2011 Seeding

Purchasing all of the seeds that I would need took a few stops. I could have bought all of the organic seeds on line but I would have been defeating buying local. So I set out to the various local garden centers. Interestingly enough they all had “some” organic seeds but not everything that I felt would make for a complete garden. So, what I could not find organic I bought seeds that had been recommended.

2-1-Seedling

I  gathered up  all of the flats and small planting containers, that I had left over from last year and bought a few additional ones.  I also bough domes to create little greenhouses.. I love Lee Valley!

2-2-Seedling 2-3-Seedling

Never having done this before I tried 4 different types…
1.    Pellets of coconut hair that expand to 2” little pots to house the seeds… These can be planted directly into the garden without transplanting.  The nice thing about these little pots, are that they are made from a renewable resource. (But still imported from afar… another struggle).
2.   4” pots for the more substantial plants… I did the tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash in them.
3.   smaller deep pots for the root vegetables like carrots and beets
4.   newspaper pots that I made using this cool little wooden tool. Again the seedling can  be planted right in the paper pot
 I invited over my parents that are 80 years old; my niece Janet and her daughter Paige; and my grandson Anthony… We began with mixing our own compost and some garden soil. I didn’t consider the amount of space that 17 flats would take. I can tell you that my kitchen was full!
2-5-Seedling
As they all seeded,  I took pictures to document the moments.  There was so  much laughter as they floor got muddier and talk of how great it was going to be to watch the seedlings sprout.
Within 2 days tiny little sprouts had begun…. This was it… Living things that I was now responsible for….
Anthony, Janet and Paige have visited to watch the progress.  The kids absolutely were in awe of these tiny seedlings while they discussed with pride which ones they had planted. My parents came over 3 days and took care of the watering the delicate seedlings while I was away.
It seems that each person coming to the house immediately gravitates over to see how the plants are doing….  What a wonderful family and community event!
2-4-Seedling
I feel blessed..

Compost expansion

April 15th, 2011 Compost expansion

1-1-compost-3-bins

When I decided that the backyard would become a vegetable patch it came to stand that the one large compost bin and the two domestic black compost bins would not produce enough compost to service all of the gardens.  I immediately had two additional bins built.   Garden waste builds up quickly  and so I have  a building pile which will be used to layer with the kitchen waste and grass clippings as they come in.
To date I had kept it fairly simple… layers of leaves, yard waste, grass clippings, and food waste… water to keep it most and a long stick and pitch fork to stir things up.. I loved how the heat could have cooked an egg.
Generally I have  emptied the bins twice a year; enough for a nice layer on all of the beds.  Now with double the gardens I have decided to take the compost more seriously.  My personal kitchen waste along with the yard waste will no longer be able to sustain the amount of compost that I will need so I have spoken to Chef Beth (from our banquet halls at OCTAVIENS) and Chef Kumar, the owner of Pelican Catering to collect all vegetable matter which I will pick up every couple of days.  My parents religiously save all of the compost material and bring it to my house….We laugh… some guests arrive with a bottle of wine and my parents come baring the back of kitchen waste…. I love it!
An old food processor will be used to chop up all the kitchen waste and all leaves will be mulched before being thrown in…
This will speed up the composing process…  My goal is to increase to three batches per season.