Sustaina-Mini: Vegetable Garden Edition (with a Special Contribution from Kate)
Updated: Jun 9
Getting back into the garden to weed and plant seeds is a much-anticipated spring tradition for a lot of people. But for our family, this is our very first time planting a vegetable garden! Before I tell you all about it, I have a letter to share, which Kate wrote and submitted to a Chickadee magazine sustainability contest (with some help from Dad/Jamie). I was thrilled when Kate said I could include it on the blog! Here it is:
Is it just me or is kids' handwriting absolutely precious? I also love how much both kids (Kate, 7 and Andrew, 5) have been into caring for the garden and watching it grow.
In a way, I'm surprised this is our first time growing veggies considering how well this hobby fits with our values and interests (i.e., eating healthy, eating local, sustainability, being outdoors, observing nature, etc!). Then again, I was pretty intimidated by the whole idea of starting a garden. Luckily, some of that intimidation waned after I had the opportunity to volunteer for The Working Centre Market Garden last year, which is where we've been purchasing CSA veggie shares from for several years. In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture. Customers sign up in advance for fresh weekly bundles of veggies during the growing/harvesting season. Having fresh CSA veggies each week was such a game-changer to our eating habits! We discovered tons of new vegetables and herbs that we had never tried and learned to prepare them in all kinds of delicious ways, from steamed, stir-fried, or roasted vegetables, to salads, to pesto, to smoothies, to muffins, and more! I loved that what was for dinner depended on what was currently growing that week just a short drive down the road from us!
Unfortunately, that was the garden's final year, as the property changed ownership and they no longer have that space available to them. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to learn from them when I did! The team was so knowledgeable and passionate about their work, and yet so patient with beginners like me! I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to gardening!
Come this spring, when I knew I wouldn't be getting my hands dirty at the CSA garden anymore, I just had to have my own garden! Luckily, Jamie was eager to put his handyman skills to work and construct a raised garden bed out of some wood he found in the attic! With Andrew (my 5-year-old) at his side, they had it together in no time! Over the past few weeks we've also added chicken wire around the garden to keep rabbits out, and some homemade lattice for the beans and peas to climb.
As Kate mentioned, we also bought a refurbished rain barrel from the kids' school fundraiser, through RainBarrel.ca. I'm super pleased with how easy it's been to water the garden with nothing but rain water! We've also been using a homemade watering can: a plastic jug with holes drilled into its lid. It's nothing fancy, but it does a good enough job in our little 5' x 3' plot!
So far we've planted peas, beans, kale, radishes, lettuce, and carrots from seed. We also added some chives that were already thriving. Did you know that chive plants have pretty edible purple flowers? I had no idea! I also planted mint, but a wise friend told me to get it out of the garden asap before it took over, so the mint is now in a window box on the side of the shed, where it is growing happily. (I couldn't get a good photo of the mint without being in it, so you'll see me smiling awkwardly in the reflection.) All of the plants have sprouted, so I'm encouraged by the progress so far!
We've been eating the herbs for a while already and just this week I picked my first few radishes! I'm not sure if there is anything quite as satisfying as pulling food straight out of the ground after planting it from seeds and diligently caring for it with your own hands. I'm sure this summer will be a learning curve for us as brand new home gardeners, but I'm excited to see what will (or won't) grow and what we'll learn along the way!
Do you have any gardening stories or tips for newbies like me? Feel free to share in the comments or on social media!