(If you’re more of a hands-on learner, worry not my flower pots, I got you. I will link to sites, videos, and photo walk-throughs,)
When people think of “going green”, and ultimately decide on making their own garden, they probably start with the thought of recycling, re-using, and, most importantly, REDUCING:
-the amount of plastic packaging used
-the time and energy spent planting, harvesting
-the use of harmful pesticides should be goals for every gardener to follow, new or old.
We, the gardeners, follow these ‘reduction’ guidelines, more respectfully than religiously, for the greater health of this giant orbiting ball we call home.
As we’ve shown before, we could be doing a whole lot more for the environment. By making a backyard vegetable patch, you not only save tons of money, take control of your food supply, personally insure it’s quality, and contribute to the weakening of industrial farming, but you save the planet in the process. Even to the botanically challenged, a veggie patch isn’t as hard as it sounds.
With a compost bin, your garbage output will get a whole lot lighter– and speaking of lighter, we should mention that organic farming, done right, involves no chemical pesticides, insecticides, etc. Growing your own fruits and vegetables also saves the planet from excess packaged (packaging), and imported foods (transportation-related pollution). Establishing a renewable source of local, organic food right in your backyard takes you out of this pollution cycle for up to 6-8 months a year.
[Fab fact: Many commercially-produced veggies/fruits are selected and grown for their shelf-life, and how long they will preserve, as, they must often be transported very long distances. Factors like taste and nutrition content can, for these reasons, get overlooked.] – Carol Weightman, environmentalist.
A couple things I’d like to walkthrough in this article are the benefits and DIY instructions of compost bins, local farm co-ops. I’ll also show how starting a backyard garden can bring you closer with your family or local community.
Remember, a garden is supposed to feel beneficial, and not take up every ounce of your free time. So before you start, here’s a checklist of things to consider:
- Think of the size: A great size to start with is a 100 sq. ft. garden. A larger one would be about 500 sq. ft. for a family of 4 with extra for neighbours.
- Sunlight & Shade: Typically you want a place with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight, facing south. (There are various “sunlight calculators” that are quite useless so BEWARE.)
- Trees roots: Aside from the obvious effects of shade that trees give, their roots will become an issues when planting or harvesting food. Try planting at least 10’ from the tree’s drip line.
- Sloped land: If the land is sloped, think of raised beds to eliminate the possibility of uneven water distribution and soil erosion.
- Preserving soil enrichment through crop rotation and soil protection: Cover exposed soil with manure, dead leaves from the fall, grass clippings or compost to get extra nutrients for your next year’s crops, although mulch should be used all year round to keep the soil nutrient dense. Avoid walking on wet soil as this will contribute to soil erosion and compaction.
What you can grow in MTL:
Of course, we all have our favourite vegetables in mind when envisioning our soon-to-be gardens, but below is a list of easy-to-grow, store-expensive plants to get the most out of your garden space:
- Peas (edible pods)
- Onions and leeks
- Swiss chard
- Bush cucumbers
An important tip when getting your green thumb on is to ALWAYS READ THE SEED PACKETS. Check how long they need direct sunlight, if they need shade, what temperature is best, etc.
Once all the prep work is done, the therapeutic part can come into play. Simple garden maintenance is an extremely relaxing hobby, and quite profitable.
Besides that, your main focus is watering, which should be done earlier in the morning because water evaporates less. Watering in the evenings isn’t the end of the world but leads the way to pests like slugs inhabiting your garden. Weeding should be done before weeds are mature enough to produce seeds and invade your garden further. The last and most vital thing to remember once seedlings are sprouting is MULCH! (what exactly is mulch?)
a material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil.
treat or cover with mulch.
(most basic definition from google’s search engine)
Mulch is the best thing a gardener can use to keep the maintenance of their garden to a minimum. It’s used to keep the soil moist, inhibit weed growth, and fertilize your plants in the process. Mulch can be compost, dead leaves, grass clippings, manure or even straw, or alfalfa hay.
This is a basic overview of how to get your backyard garden started! For a more detailed outline, there many sites that could prove helpful such as
Words by Grace Karam, edited by Carol Weightman & Nick Zdan. All photos are of our backyard garden in Pointe-Claire.