Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Abundance

You know that saying, "As you sow, so shall you reap?" I feel like we sowed our garden with a lot of energy and good intentions, and our garden is responding in kind. Our produce is not large, glossy and perfect, at least, not for the most part. Mostly it is on the small side, sometimes oddly shaped, often with a few insect bites or sun spots. We have mutant carrots and zucchini, and the tomatoes seem to be having it a bit rough.
Okay, so this tomato actually looks pretty good. Yah! I don't take pictures of the ugly ones.
Our spring mix lettuce and snow peas are picture perfect though, and the beans are generally pretty good looking.
I believe that snow peas and their curlicue tendrils are some of the most fascinating, intricate and beautiful things on this earth.
Now, you may be judging me based on my judgement of the vegetables solely on their aesthetic. But aesthetics are important to me. So yes, the weeds are running rampant in our garden, but I barely have time to keep up with watering and harvesting everything, let alone fight a losing battle against weeds who have decided to take up residence. So the garden itself is not incredibly aesthetically pleasing, unless you happen to go for that wild, overgrown look. So I don't think it's unreasonable to look for aesthetic pleasure on a smaller scale, in the beauty of the plants that are supposed to be in the garden and their fruits. I'm not going to go all Oscar Wilde and start proclaiming "Gardening for art's sake!" I haven't mentioned the way the vegetables taste because it's a given. Eating something that you have planted, watered, watched, nurtured and harvested becomes an incredible taste experience. You can simply taste the freshness, be it real or imagined. When you pick a tomato off the vine one second, and the next second it's in your mouth, it's very easy to understand how you are being nurtured by the energy of the sun, and the nutrients of the soil, and you become incredibly grateful to this plant for doing all of that hard work of gathering the energy and nutrients and producing this luscious and delicious fruit for you to enjoy. So no matter what the vegetable looks like, once it's in your mouth you're happy and grateful.
I know what you're thinking: Those beets look pretty darn good! Those aren't ours - they're a gift from a garden friend that had too many, as are the carrots and some of the peppers. If you can't/don't garden yourself, just hang out with gardeners, they love to share, and they'll be especially happy if you ooh and ahh over their produce.
Our garden is giving us an abundance of produce. I come back every week with my bike crate full to bursting of fresh vegetables. I feel like such a happy hippie as I ride my bike home with beet greens and carrot tops trailing behind me.
The bottom shelf of our fridge is devoted to garden produce, which makes its way into things like salade nicoise, Lao cuisine, zucchini brownies, stirfry, and onto the grill. Although we didn't sow our garden with an incredible amount of skill, knowledge, or forethought, it is reflecting back to us our abundance of enthusiasm and hope in its bountiful harvest cornucopia.
La salade, made with our very own lettuce, tomatoes and green beans (we haven't started raising chickens yet) and my lovely friend Janna.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Garden VIPs

Today the garden had some very important visitors.

My brother, Femi and sister, Rachel,
and my parents, Lynda and Rod.

They journeyed here from Indiana to spend a weekend with me at the lake house of some good friends on Lake Erie. On Friday we went to Fort George, and on Saturday we visited Niagara Falls and took a ride on the Maid of the Mist (or perhaps Maid of the Deluge would be more accurate, as my father pointed out). I've talked to them so much about this garden that they decided to take a little detour on their way home to check it out (and eat some delicious Ethiopian at AM Africa). But this is not "my" blog (although I have noticed that I'm the most avid blogger among our gardening group), so if you're interested in my family time you can read my personal blog

Along with important visitors, some new new citizens have arrived in our garden as well:

Madame La Courgette Verte
Mademoiselle La Petite Courgette Jaune
Señor brécol

We at Groovy Roots KW are thrilled to have these new friends with us and are looking forward to having them for dinner quite soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

hard work x expert help = Garden goodness

Okay everyone, it's been awhile. Many things have happened in the epic saga of our community garden. Bad news first: there was a period of about two weeks where everyone was gone/busy/didn't have transportation. Which equals not a lot of time spent in the garden. Add a lot of rain and that equals.... a meadow of weeds. Literally. Here's the equation for you math people:

ppl gone/busy/no transport=no time in garden+rain=WEEDS

I hope that's clear. It does make sense if you think about it. However, when John, Sarah and I showed up after that period of neglect, it was a bit of a rude shock. I just wanted to sit down and cry. You couldn't even tell that we had a garden. However, John was positive to the point of being ridiculous. He was the only reason that I didn't burst into tears. (Thanks, John.) We went out and bought some hardcore weeding implements (one of which is currently missing... if anyone knows where our hoe is let us know). And two weeks after that, here we are. And let me tell you, we are in a good spot. This is how we got there: people's dedication. Thanks to Sarah, Jess, Leena, Angie, John, and anyone else who has been out recently working hard. Another big thank you is due to Clem and Glen (cute, huh? they rhyme). They were our tomato saviours last night. I honestly don't know where we would be without all of our expert gardeners, but especially Glen. (Garden Party in his honour - let's start planning).
Clem, Glen, and yours truly as the lovely assistant

We're getting into the exciting part of having a garden. Eating! So far we've harvested lettuce, sugar snap peas and nasturtiums.
Or nasturtiums, peas and lettuce, if you want it in the same order as the pictures. They are all delicious. And I hate peas. But garden peas do not equal normal peas. Garden peas are good. The cold peas that my aunt made me sit at the table and finish when I was three years old that have led to my hatred of peas were not good. But I digress. Oh, so, this is what I learned yesterday: Nasturtiums taste sweet. And then spicy. It's an incredible taste experience. If you've never eaten a nasturtium, I strongly encourage you to do so. You'll be surprised. Or you could eat a pansy if you like. Those taste exactly like Wrigley's Spearmint Gum.

And there's the promise of these to come...
especially since Glen taught us how to make our tomato plants "happy." This means staking them properly, cutting off the suckers (one of the most confusing gardening lessons ever - Glen taught it well, it's just difficult) and cultivating around the plant to aerate the soil and let the water get in more easily and make it easier for the roots to expand. Glen has the happiest garden ever. He shared some of his peas with us. And a head of lettuce bigger than any of our heads. (No picture - the camera batteries ran out!)
Leena and Angie practice their gardening zen
John is a machine. The friendliest, most huggable machine I've ever met.

I think that last night we discovered exactly what we hoped this summer garden would bring us - learning, hard work, new friends, good friends, laughter, beauty and delicious fresh veggies. And there's lots more in store.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Weed Fest and Non-Violent Protests

I couldn't resist making this post sound like we're hippies. Well, we are hippies, it's true. Honestly, we're growing our own organic garden. And we have weed fests - you know, the kind where you pull stuff that you didn't plant out of the ground. The first weed fest was tonight, and we're going to have to have a lot more of them. A group of six of us weeded a grand total of three beds. Granted, some of us were planting tomato and sunflower seedlings. Ah yes, remember how I wanted sunflowers but we didn't get them (I forget why)? Well, our lovely garden-neighbour Donna gave us some for free! Yay! So we now have a row of sunflowers next to the corn in sprawl fest. You know how tall yellow things just go together? So that's exciting.

The learning in the garden continued as we decided what was or wasn't a weed. These are the general rules we've established for determining if a plant is supposed to be there: 1. There are a bunch of other plants that look kind of the same. 2. These similar-looking plants are in some semblance of a row. 3. It's not grass. The Golden Rule: If it looks like grass, it's grass. Sure a beet seedling, a few bean sprouts and maybe even a whole row of onions (!) may have been sacrificial victims for our learning experience, but now we know. (Onions and garlic are the exceptions to the rule about a plant being grass if it looks like grass.)

"Okay, so there's the weed, what about the non-violent protest?" you may be asking. Well. This is where this blog post gets dramatic. First a bit of geography: Our garden plots are located behind the Williamsburg Cemetary. The Cemetary has decided that it needs more land. Consequently, the plots are going to be destroyed after this year. (Okay, so I know that this story would be better with an evil corporation taking over the plots in order to build a factory to pump toxins into the air and groundwater so that all the wildlife dies and people start getting cancer. But bear with me.) So there's a petition going around the garden to ask the cemetary to reconsider their need to expand now (since they really still have a lot of empty land) and if it is necessary, ask the city to provide another site for community gardens. There's a city council meeting on June 29 where a bunch of gardeners are going to present their requests to the city. People love to see young people involved in politics, putting their opinions out there. So if some of us could show up at that meeting, it would just make the Kitchener city council members' days. And demonstrate our support for community gardening and the environment as well as getting to see how our community makes decisions.

Okay, so to try to balance out this very hippie post, here is proof that we may be more traditional than we sound.
Lukas with THE CLAW and Jess with the, well, let's face it, we might as well call a spade a spade.

- Mimi

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Two garden visits in three days

I've become rather attached to our garden. It's to the point where I want to go visit it every day. Although this is not quite possible, it made me really happy to be able to spend Thursday and Saturday afternoon out there. (And I have a sunburn to prove it!) Thursday John and I went out to water, and then after watering we just laid on the grass and talked for an hour. That was lovely. Just hanging out at the garden is a lot of fun. As soon as we start getting some produce, I think we should have picnics out there in the evenings.

I went out by myself on Saturday, staked out the tomato plants in preparation for all the rain we're supposed to be getting, and did some weeding.
We need to do major weeding (I'll send around an email.)
There are some points where the little plants coming up are being choked out by the weeds, so much so that some rows aren't coming up at all. (This is the same bed apres wedding.)
I think we may have to reseed them. I also found some baby carrots, and the cutest little bean sprouts you've ever seen!
We have tons of stuff coming up, we just can't see it for all the weeds. A new friend I made on Saturday commented that it looked like we had abandoned our garden. That made me sad. I think we need to give it some love.

- Mimi

Saturday, May 30, 2009

saturday fun!

deliciously planted pepper and tomato beds!

janna, our watering angel
mimi and leena giving the tomatoes lots of love (i.e. three-way mix of compost, peat and manure)
emma demonstrating "the asian squat"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

manure tea!

Since we are going to be transplanting our tomato and pepper plants on Saturday, I thought it might be good to know some basics around transplanting and caring for these plants. I consulted John's handy "All New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening" and took note of the most important points.

I think it would be in our (and the tomato's) best interest to get a few bags of compost for transplanting the tomatoes. Tomatoes are HUGE bottom feeders, they need rich composty soil, and if we "spot-compost" as we transplant, it will save us compost (because we're localizing it) and probably give us much greater yields. I'll get a few bags to take out to the garden on Thursday.

The thing that kept getting mentioned in the book was this delectable concoction called "MANURE TEA". Check out the recipe below.

Manure Tea

To make manure tea, place one or two shovelfuls of fresh or dried manure in a permeable bag. (Burlap is best, but perforated plastic or mesh will work too). Tie the bag closed, then place it in a barrel or other large container filled with water. Make sure the bag is submerged. Allow your "teabag" to steep for about one week.

Apply at full strength for periodic feedings or dilute it and use it whenever you water your plants. Do not apply undiluted manure tea directly onto plant foliage - it will injure plant tissue.

I was thinking that we could use the sheep manure that Ed Janzen promised us for this. I am on the lookout for an appropriate bag, and I have a rain barrel that I found on the side of the road, that I will bring out in Matt's truck on Thursday. I am also trying to find us some MULCH (either straw or lots of newspaper) to put around the peppers and tomatoes. The mulch will help keep down weeds, and also protect the tomato vines from the soil if we let them sprawl.

Alright, that's me for now!