My interest in gardening started last summer when I was determined to grow cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes on my balcony in downtown Toronto. I think all I got was a few cherry tomatoes, and the other plants were distributed among relatives. When I moved to London, I was inspired again to try my luck at gardening, but felt overwhelmed given my lack of knowledge and my small harvest of cherry tomatoes. I needed to learn more about gardening, which brought me to Linda at the LCRC. Last fall we went out to a few community gardens in London to do the year end clean up. The remnants of the harvest, and even through the browning foliage, I could see the beautiful blooming plants that once lived. Not to mention there were a few patches late harvest vegetables such as Swiss Chard yet to be picked.
Fast-forward 4 months to early spring and the first Fabulous Fall in the Garden planning meeting brought together a variety of community members. From Master Gardener’s to young students, we met with the common goal of planning an event to inspire our community and to showcase all the activities that take place in and around the garden in the fall. The themes of the day are: Dig and Divide, Plan and Plant and Harvest and Preserve.
(The Fabulous Fall in the Garden is taking place on Saturday, October 5 at Westview Baptist Church, 1000 Wonderland Road South from 10am-3pm, rain or shine)
I left each meeting wondering what happens next. Sure, we talked a lot about which vegetables to plant, assembling the “3-sisters,” (for those who do not know, and I was one of them, it’s where you plant squash, corn and beans together in companionship. The fuzzy nature of squash plants prevent unwanted guests, as well as retains water, and provides ground coverage. Beans use the corn as a trellis to grow up, while corn uses the nitrogen from dead bean plants. How perfect is that?) canning beets, and proper storage of winter vegetables, but what do we do to physically put this plan into motion? Unknown to me, Linda and her team would soon be in the gardens working the land (I think that’s how they say it).
We went into the gardens at Westview on a cloudy Wednesday morning, with the goal of preparing the land for our Master Gardener’s to be amazed. It started with weeding, and by weeding, I mean being pricked by thistles. I thought my garden gloves would protect me from everything! I eventually figured out the best way of working with thistles is to not touch the prickly leaves, but the roots instead. And who knew they had such big roots! Linda explained, before the LCRC transformed the area into gardens, it was overgrown with thistles. Although a treatment of horticulture vinegar removed the majority of thistles, it didn’t attack the roots of thistles yet to appear. After tackling the thistles we spent the rest of the day mulching the tomato beds, chipping the walkways and constructing a stone barrier around the squash beds. Very rarely do we know where our food comes from, myself included. I always knew potatoes are a root vegetable that grow in the soil, but that was the extent of my knowledge. It came as a shock to me when I saw potato sprouts. What can you do with potato sprouts? Are they edible? Can you cook with them? I recognized different kinds of lettuces and cabbages in the square-foot beds, like romaine, bok choy, and purple cabbage. Off in another bed, little beet sprouts were poking through the soil. No signs of the carrots yet, but I imagine their sprouts look very feathery, kind of like dill. There are still lots of plants we’re waiting on to emerge, but every visit to the garden is a surprise.
Wednesday was a day of many firsts for me. I had never weeded a thistle or hoed or mulched a garden bed. I went home exhausted but very satisfied with all that we accomplished. For a small team, I think we got a lot done!