Growing things

Our gardening guru planting his city plot

After being harangued daily by our neighbour—an avid urban farmer and retiree who has already staked his tomato plants and is nearly ready to harvest the first of his lettuce  —we finally planted our 10×6  veggie patch this week. (It used to be considered normal to wait until May 24 in these parts—thank you global warming.)

Last year our main product was kale (due to an over-enthusiasm with seeds rather than a love of cabbage) so this year we’ve branched out with cukes and tomatoes, beans, eggplant, broccoli, leeks, onions and more.

It’s only our second year with the plot but our neighbour is always ready to help (and tease us about our ignorance, something we tolerate because we are ignorant, and beneath his bluster it’s clear he quite pleased to be the local guru).

This connection to our neighbours and community is one of the best—and most surprising—things about our garden. People we’ve never seen before (and, of course, friends from the area) always stop to talk when we’re digging in the dirt. They offer advice, or memories of their own homegrown veg and they often ask questions we’re ill-equipped to answer, given our ignorance. Still, we’re proud as new parents to show them the first little green tomato or tiny tender shoots of beans coming up through the soil.

It’s something teachers and kids who get involved in planting veggie gardens at their schools also report. Jennifer Bain at The Toronto Star recently visited a school in Jane-Finch in the northern part of the city where high school kids are starting to get their hands dirty. Last year, the school lent the plot to a group of Karen refugees from Burma who tended the garden and fed themselves with the produce.

This year the kids will grow the food for themselves, donating what’s left to a food bank. They aren’t so sure about the eating part of the project—one girl told Bain how disgusting it is to eat roots that grow in the ground (hello french fries!). But I hope the reporter will follow up with the kids through the growing season, and especially at harvest time. I can’t imagine there are many people, even at 15 years old, who wouldn’t burst with pride seeing all that work turn into fresh and delicious food (tubers notwithstanding).

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