Now let me just start this post by saying I am by no means a gardener nor do I know very much about plants. However, this summer I decided to learn.
I wanted to get my hands dirty and start my own fruit and veggie garden. So, I did. One quick decision made by spending gross amounts of money on mediocre produce from the grocery store, followed by indulging in copious amounts of farm-picked, fresh, Okanagan, fruits and vegetables, it seemed obvious that if I wanted quality I should take measures into my own backyard. Now nothing ever goes quite as planned so of course I encountered a few hiccups along the way. First, like I said in the beginning, I am not a gardener. Surrounded by strong gardeners like my parents and grandparents, yes, but did I take the time to learn from them when I was a child? Not exactly. Instead of getting my hands dirty I jumped around in the sprinkler and instead of taking the time to understand why we went to garden centre after garden centre I dreaded every trip. Second, I live in a basement suite so being able to dig out a dirt patch in the backyard wasn’t exactly an option. Lastly, living on a student budget means I did not have tons of money to invest in this project.
Soon it was April, my focus shifted from class readings to summer vacation plans, I got serious about starting my own little garden. I began by consulting my absolute favourite website… Pinterest. Looking at options that could work for me. I found a couple ideas – planters or a community garden plot. While the community garden plot was a great, low-cost, idea (and perfect for people who do not have access to an outdoors space), my schedule was already looking quite hectic without the added drive to and from my dear little veggies every day. Fortunately, I have a good relationship with my landlords and when I present them the idea of making a little planter garden they said I could fill my boots – as long as it was me who was taking care of it. As for most people, time was also a huge contributing factor into my decision. As my schedule switched from full time classes to full time employment I wasn’t too eager to devote all my time to this garden. So it became obvious, making a small garden out of planters seemed like the way to go!
Next was the fun part – deciding what to plant. Because it was my first time I went simple; sticking to vegetables that were relatively low maintenance, hardy, and resilient (turns out Basil is not any of these). We went with carrots, green onion, spinach, kale, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, beans, asparagus (even though it doesn’t start harvesting for two years after first planting) and a herb pot filled with mint, oregano, cilantro and parsley (RIP Basil). Along with the plants I bought various planters to plant them in. Adding up to a total of $67.32, which equates to about a week’s worth of produce from the store.
Besides the herbs and the strawberries – everything else started from seed.
The process of planting and watering then checking on the little sprouts every day has been so rewarding. Seeing something so little and still become full of life and colour is such a magical experience – I can only imagine how parents must feel. What I thought would be a chore has become a time of relaxation and complete happiness, watering my little plants sometimes is the biggest highlight of my day. While I may not be talking to them yet (although sometimes I say encouraging words to help them grow), I am slowly becoming what some would consider a ‘crazy plant lady’. What used to be a place of boredom, garden centres have now become one of my favourite places to visit. My spare time has become devoted to researching more about plants and taking care of them while my discussions with friends and family have become rooted around how the little sprouts are doing.
Having a garden has also had me thinking a lot about what it must have been like back in the day when grocery stores were few and far in-between, when factories didn’t exist and a time when shipping foods wasn’t even a consideration, what it would have been like to grow all your own food – the good and the bad. I think about how different our relationship to food would be if everything we ate we had to harvest and make. How many things we would stop eating because they didn’t come at the same convenience as they did now. Things we would miss out on and the things that perhaps we would have been better without.
Planting and (soon) harvesting my own vegetables has made me more conscious of what I am putting into my body. It has made me appreciate the higher cost of local produce as I can only imagine the amount of time and labour that goes into large crops and the devastation that occurs during a year of unfavourable weather. It has also inspired me to continue to plant and grow my own food. To make more than I buy and to build a better, more organic, relationship with my meals. I also hope to encourage others. To show it doesn’t matter your skill level or the amount of time/money you have, let alone the space, growing your own produce can not only be simple but also ameliorate your health and relationship with food for the best.
While this is a blog that focuses on a positive outlook on health and fitness I wanted to share my story of my little garden because I think the way we see, think, and interact with food plays a vital role in our healthy behaviour patterns. And while planting a garden may not give you the muscular strength you have been after (having said that pulling weeds and true gardening can burn insane amounts of calories and help build muscle), it can help create an environment where it is possible.