All posts in category “In the Garden”

  • 5 Steps for Growing the Ultimate Vegetable Garden

    Thanks Shutterstock.

    This story about how to grow a vegetable garden was originally written for Niagara Life magazine. 

    Seed companies have mailed their catalogues. Green thumbs have gathered at local seed exchanges in search of their next prize-winning squash to plant. And now grow lights are being turned on in homes to get the 2017 edition of backyard tomato crops started.

    They all mean one thing: gardening season is approaching. But if you’ve never grown anything more than a hosta — heck, if you’ve never grown anything at all — those pre-season gardening rituals can seem downright daunting.

    It’s true, gardening isn’t for the faint of heart, what with having to rely on Mother Nature and her temperamental ways.

    It can be incredibly rewarding, however. Few things are sweeter than that first homegrown cherry tomato we pluck off the vine. Garden rules dictate it must be eaten immediately.

    Gardening gets us outside and active, offering physical and emotional benefits. That connection to other living things can boost moods. It can help us relax and be in the moment. Even better, plants never judge. So don’t sweat it if your Wellies are a little skuffed or you mutter to yourself while plucking your mustard greens.

    Here are five steps for growing the ultimate vegetable garden and reaping many cherry tomato feasts to come. Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , ,
    Category In the Garden

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Get growing: Find a community garden in Niagara

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    Call me a keener, but soon after the calendar changed to Jan. 1, I bought myself some squash seeds to grow in my garden this summer.

    I got a seed catalogue in the mail the week before, so I figured I had the all-clear to start planning what I’d like to do months from now with my tiny patch of earth.

    I won’t be planting those butternut or bush delicata seeds in my backyard, though. That’s the domain of a big, old silver maple casting shade over my postage stamp lot. It’s heavenly if you’re a human sitting outside on a hot July day, but not so much if you’re a tomato plant clamouring to catch some sun rays.

    Those squash, along with a handful of tomatoes, perhaps a melon, and most definitely some kale will take root in my own 10×20-foot plot behind Grantham Mennonite Church in St. Catharines instead. My tiny tract is part of a sunny swath behind the church that’s used as a community garden run by Links for Greener Learning.

    This will be my third summer as a community gardener with Links for Greener Learning, an non-profit dedicated to providing newcomers to Canada with experiential learning opportunities. Links is one of a handful of local groups running community gardens in the region. It’s currently taking applications from green thumbs who need a place to plant this year.

    Selfishly, Links fulfils my need to feel like a master gardener with every vegetable I successfully harvest. (I hoist each haul skyward like baby Simba from the Lion King and celebrate by snapping a pic.) But that community garden has given me more than fodder for Instagram and fishing hole-type stories about giant tomatoes I’ve grown.

    It’s given me one of my favourite ways to while away a lunch hour, take a break from writing or spend an evening outdoors. I get to be in the company of ambitious amateur horticulturalists who have a whole world of experience growing eggplant, tomatoes, sesame seeds, corn, herbs and leafy greens.

    It was the highlight of my summer last year to pull weeds around my peppers while my gardening neighbour from China tended to her sesame plants, the family from West Africa tied their prolific tomatoes, and a couple from the Middle East raked between fertile rows of inky black eggplant.

    We broke ground together in our fertile mosaic, and broke bread together at potlucks and other events Links held to celebrate the growing season.

    Read the rest of the story and find a community garden in Niagara.

    Labels , , , , , , , ,
    Category Food Security, In the Garden

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • How to preserve herbs like you and basil are BFFs

    I originally wrote this post for Niagara Life magazine.

    Most herbs would agree — I am probably their worst enemy, alongside a lawn mower.

    Save for chives and lavender, I struggle to grow herbs in my garden. The heaps I get in my weekly vegetable baskets from a local farmer are really just flavourful races against time to use them up before they disintegrate into brown liquid in my fridge. Oh, the guilt that comes with wasting them. But how much dill, parsley and thyme can one human possibly eat in a sitting?

    The antidote to my careless ways was to get smart with my sage and be more thoughtful with my tarragon. I’ve started preserving herbs to use when the garden is another summer memory, and to spare having to dart out, last minute, to the grocery store to buy a clam shell of coriander from far-off places.

    Here are three simple ways to alleviate guilt, save time, and preserve that bounty of parsley, those mounds of mint and loads of lavender:

    Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category In the Garden, Recipes

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Bombs away: It’s seed bomb season

    seed bombs

    It’s around this time of year that I start to miss being a downtown daytime dweller.

    When the snow gave way to grass and those perpetual grey clouds parted to reveal that the sun did indeed still exist, it was a sure sign that I’d soon be able to forgo lunch al desko for noshing al fresco on the library steps.

    When I worked downtown, the library courtyard was my favourite spot to take a break from the demands of the office and revel in the sounds of my city: the chatter of the other average bureaucrats enjoying their midday break, the cacophony of traffic, the harmony of singing birds.

    And then there were the sights, most notably the yellow flowers — lillies, I think, but I’m bad with blooms — that emerged from the bed at the base of the library’s water fountain. I often daydreamed of sneaking some rainbow chard into their midst to break up their golden monochrome. I gave thought to planting a tomato or two that would creep up the sides of the dreary grey edifice of the police headquarters across the square from my spot on the steps. Lavender, chives, which are such beauties when they flower, oregano, and basil would add something to those plain municipal gardens, too, I figured. Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , , ,
    Category In the Garden

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest