This was my third summer self-learning organic gardening.
Though the physical work required surpassed my expectations, it has been deeply gratifying. It has also been eye-opening to the wonders of nature from what started as, a patch of wild, deep-rooted grass and weeds.
My favourite part is eating the tender, young produce but there have been lessons learned through the different failures.
Year 1: Dig, weed and cross your fingers!
The first spring encompassed painfully clearing a rectangular patch of grass 6’ x 18’ that was deep rooted! My team of ‘voluntold’ kids and girlfriend spent hours using sharp shovels, digging and removing the top layer.
Once almost devoid of grass, we hand-picked all the remaining roots and weeds we could visibly see and added bags of triple mix. Since I was homeschooling at the time, the kids helped to plant and grow seedlings indoors, weeks before. When our patch was ready, we happily moved to the new garden.
The tomato and bean plants remained small, the spinach did not grow at all, and the carrots and cucumbers were stunted. You can try to research the type of soil you are working with to enhance success. Ours had a sandy base, but talking to neighbours with a green thumb, I now know that is the best source!
Year 2: Weed, add nutrients, experiment.
We churned the earth and painfully cleared more fine weeds and grass that were threatening to come back full force. I realized that the sandy base was not good for all vegetables so I decided to add more top soil and changed up the seedlings. Chicken manure or ‘chicken poop’ though a bit ‘stinky’ at first is natural and potent, and seemed to help immensely. Eggshells from breakfast were also a regular contributor to the garden nourishment.
Wow, radishes and kale flourished! The beans and tomatoes improved and the squash did quite well. I also learned which vegetable leaves and flowers were edible. Radish leaves are hearty and tasty with gentle frying, and the large squash flowers make the tastiest soup.
Year 3: More water, more nutrients, keep some weeds!
I have learned how important watering is. A soaker hose turned on during dry spells and vacation time has saved my garden many times. With more soil and chicken manure, the production of beans, tomatoes, radishes and lettuce have been more than our family of 6 can eat! This year, I decided to strategically let certain weeds grow so we could add them to our morning shakes. They are free, with no need to grow them indoors as seedlings! Clover, dandelion, and the lesser known “lamb’s quarters” grow so well in Ontario. I am filling my freezer for the long winter ahead.
Other organic gardening adventures include picking wild apples and brewing up cinnamon cider, dunked fresh and hot, or later on ice. And my little herb tea garden, but that will be for my next blog!
~ Tanya Salituro founded CanPrev in 2005, after 3 separate breast cancer diagnoses. She enjoys organic gardening when not skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, running, playing tennis and hitting the gym.