by Tina Kelly –
Sold out! Not a single fruit tree was available at garden centres across the country. This made Wellington, New Zealand headlines in 2008. I was living abroad, the recession was in full swing and rising food costs were impacting everyone. Suddenly self-proclaimed non-gardeners were interested in growing their own food, or at least some of it.
Could our current increasing cost of living encourage more of us to do the same? Aside from the money-saving factor, growing our food has other benefits: it minimizes the resources used in food travel, avoids packaging and provides a sense of satisfaction in growing something ourselves. For children or grandchildren, growing food provides a great learning opportunity – the science of plant growth and a better understanding of where food comes from.
Yes, it’s only February and based on historical weather patterns we could still receive another dump of the white stuff. Considering a garden for the summer might seem silly right now, but it’s not too early to start planning and plotting the what, where and when you’ll tackle growing herbs, fruits or vegetables.
If looking down at your hands you notice your thumbs aren’t green, it’s OK: help is out there. Garden centre staff can provide direction according to your wants and needs, skill level and the amount of sun exposure your plants will receive. Plan it right and certain plants can be harvested into the fall and winter. With a successful summer bounty, you can preserve by drying, canning or freezing and add to the pantry.
No yard? That’s not necessarily a barrier. I have a small deck and have had success growing rosemary on my north-facing balcony. It would grow faster with southern exposure, but I have enough to snip for any recipe. It also means I have no need for plastic-covered rosemary from the store and there is no waste because I only cut what I need. For a beginner, herbs are an easy way to dip into edible gardening. They grow well in pots and having access to fresh herbs adds a lot of freshness and flavour to cooking.
Local resources for help with yard or container gardening:
Growing Together (www.growingfood-together.com). Free educational resources including videos, webinars, blog posts and more.
Compost Education Centre (www.compost.bc.ca). Advice and workshops on composting, soil health and gardening, including two upcoming workshops – “Grow Your Own Groceries” and “Growing Vegetables in Containers.”
Capital Regional District (www.crd.bc.ca). Watch for their free workshops; pre-pandemic I attended one focused on growing edible plants in containers and on patios.
Planting starters is less effort but if you go the route of germinating seeds, consider sharing your seedling success with friends and neighbours and get your community growing. Sharing the plants will make life a little cheaper, tastier and greener.