Reflections On My Garden Experience

PHOTOGRAPHY: PAULINE BOLDT

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I will be the first to admit that starting your own garden is a lot of work! To be honest, when my husband and I were just beginning to develop our green-thumbs, we definitely had a few moments when we both felt overwhelmed and were wondering what we had got ourselves into! However, those feelings quickly dissipated as soon as we were able to see the first little green sprouts poke out of the soil. We were literally able to watch the fruits and veggies of our labour slowly grow! It was such a fulfilling feeling and brought so much joy to our hearts. Every evening we go for a walk to the garden to water the plants and enjoy picking fresh veggies to eat; what an incredible way to end off the day. This ritual quickly became part of our nightly routine and before we knew it, we couldn’t imagine life without our little garden. Needless to say, we are definitely planning on planting a garden again next year. With that being said, there are a few things we would do differently the next time around that I would like to share with you today.

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What did we learn? 

This experience taught us a lot about wildlife, which may come as a bit of a surprise considering we live in the middle of the city!  Not only did we love snacking on our veggies, but apparently so did the deer and rabbits! We would frequently fine them in our garden, chewing on lettuce leaves and shaving the tops off of our beans. Cute? Yes. Good for the crops? Not so much. I reached out to some elders in my life and inquired how to effectively animal proof the garden in an eco-friendly manner. Through these conversations we learned effective methods for keeping deer out of gardens, one way being to build a partial fence. If a partial fence is put up around your garden, it will actively steer deer away because when deer don’t easily see a source of exit, they will avoid that area. Easy peasy! When I plan the layout for my garden next year I will strategically plant high plants around the space to keep all unwanted visitors out.

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What would I do differently? 

First of all, we would change what we planted and where we planted it. Vegetables such as lettuces, which are very delicate and typically harvested quickly, should be planted in an accessible location in the backyard, possibly even inside big planters. Planting in the backyard allows quick access from your house for harvesting greens for your meals. In my yard next year I would like to plant more varieties such as romaine and butter lettuce, and I would also love to add more tomato plants. The only downfall with tomatoes, is that they are quite needy. They need to be watered diligently, which is another bonus for locating them close to home for daily waterings.

Potato bugs were a real pain for us this year, unfortunately, resulting in the majority of our potatoes being damaged. If I were to plant them again next year, I would make sure to be more attentive with removing the bugs from the plants as soon as they appeared. We have already started to be more attentive to these little critters and are making a point to remove the leaves with eggs as soon as they pop up. We practice a green approach to our yard and do not use any pesticides and sprays, as we prefer a to use natural and organic techniques whenever possible.

Our Summer Harvest:

This year our bounty consisted of dill, zucchini, Swiss chard, kale, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, beets, beans, and lots of onions. (Quick note on onions: they store really well for the winter, so don’t be shy when planting this veggie!). We also tried to grow radishes this year, but unfortunately they ended up rotting. A few fun surprises that popped up in our garden were garlic bulbs! Garlic needs to be planted in fall, so the bulbs must have been planted before the previous gardeners moved, and we were left with a pleasant surprise this summer to enjoy!

The star of the show, and also the fruit that I am most excited about harvesting, is my watermelon plant! This is one of my favourite sweet treats, which is made all the more sweeter due to the fact that I have grown it in my own soil. (Fingers crossed!)

I could go on and on about all the joys this garden project has brought us, and i’m curious if this is an adventure you are interested in too. If you are on the fence, I would highly encourage it! And, if you are in Winnipeg and looking for an available Community Garden close to you, reach out to communitygardens@winnipeg.ca to inquire!

If you already have embarked on this journey, then I am also curious to hear your gardening tips - do you have any recommendations on plantings for next year or tips on how to achieve your best possible garden? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

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Carly Minish