Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Garden in Every Yard

Edited to add: This is another weekly column :)

A Garden in Every Yard

So you are home more these days…perhaps you are looking for hobbies to pass the time but are realizing that a new hobby can cost quite a bit. Or perhaps the high cost of produce has you wondering how you can reduce your grocery spending while continuing to eat healthy. Have you considered a garden?

my very first garden ever

During both world wars, “Victory Gardens” were encouraged as a way to feed the population at home and free up trucks, boats and trains for shipping goods and weapons to the troops that needed them. Whether the small city gardens contributed much to the war effort is a matter of opinion (farmers were already growing most of their own produce, and many still are) but undoubtedly they boosted morale and taught a generation to grow their own food—something the area could still benefit from today.

It’s Not Exactly Free

It could be argued that gardening won’t save you that much money. If you have a south-facing balcony you could have some containers but the pots and soil will cost you. Garage sales, kijiji and second hand stores are a less expensive way to find pots and gardening supplies. You can direct sow seeds or visit a locally owned nursery to purchase seedlings, or purchase an edible mix already planted for you. If you have a yard and an area that you would like to convert to garden space, ask neighbours on the block if anyone is interested in rototilling a spot for you. Whenever possible, barter and trade to find a mutually beneficial reward for labour. If you happen to have a tiller and the time, you might consider doing some tilling for hire but find out where phone lines are buried before you start. Although any other lines should be buried deeper, you might want to “call before you dig” if you decide to relocate fences or start working on a water feature!

Plant A Row

If you are already a gardener, plant a row for the food bank or for friends that would appreciate some home grown food. It would be very generous to offer some of your garden space to a family that would like to have a garden but doesn’t have a yard, but do this very carefully. The idea of a garden might sound thrilling in spring but, when the flies and heat set in and the real work of weeding and maintaining the space become a reality, you may find yourself doing all the work so that weeds don’t go to seed in your garden. 

Discuss your expectations and set some “ground rules” before you agree to such a plan. Although a risk, there is also the possibility that you can help someone learn to grow their own food and develop a lifelong love of gardening. They may go on to help feed themselves and many others with the knowledge that you share. That is a huge contribution to your community and one that should be commended.

Depending on how you go about growing your own food, you may not notice a bunch of savings (at least in the first year). But by endeavouring to grow some of your own food you are removing yourself from the consumerist trend where people are too busy working (and playing) to know where their food comes from. Gardening is a distraction from other costlier pastimes. Rather than a weekend of shopping, clear a spot and get to work. Many people find gardening relaxing, and good exercise. It is also a way to afford organic food, and composting your vegetable scraps eliminates waste. The fresh air doesn’t hurt, and it is entertaining to watch for plants sprouting up. Sunflowers, pumpkins, beans and peas are especially rewarding for little gardeners to grow. Teach your kids that they can grow their own vegetables—it might encourage them to eat more green stuff!

Gardening is a hobby that leads to a healthier and, often, more frugal lifestyle. Visit the library to learn more, and shop locally to source your seeds and plants. Visit local u-picks and greenhouses and take a stab at a 100-mile diet. Learn to prepare freshly picked food, and preserve your harvest whether by fermenting, drying, pickling, freezing or canning. Use social media to share the excess or donate to the food bank. Take this opportunity to learn new skills and visit neighbours while you work outside. Notice how you feel after time spent working in dirt as opposed to a day at a desk under fluorescent lights. Although it might not be for everyone, and to each their own, gardening at home might be the hobby that keeps you busy, entertained and fed all at the same time. Can’t complain about that :)


4 comments:

  1. Food is so expensive these days that after the initial investment many (many...) years ago, it's much less expensive to grow my own vegetables now. And pulling weeds, well, that's how I solve the world's problems, thinking about too much and pulling weeds.

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    1. I agree Robin, pulling weeds is very meditative and it's rewarding to see what you have accomplished with your efforts. I'm hoping to keep better track of my grocery spending throughout the summer to see how much I save. Gardening also saves me money on a gym membership and I don't have time or the inclination to go out spending when there's so much to get done at home. It works for me :) thanks for reading!

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  2. I found myself nodding along to this article and when I got to the end I thought, "Yup I am never going to have a garden" :-) It's not me. But I want friends who have gardens!!! As a child we had gardens (some fruit/veg, some just flowers/non-edible plants) and it is a ton of work (we had a gardener for one of them and I did no work but a lot of observing). It is so important for people to *know* what they are getting into. Your article pointed out a lot of good things people need to know.

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    1. Haha! It is totally fine that not everyone have a green thumb--and also fine that some people enjoy growing beautiful, inedible plants. To each their own, definitely. The purpose of these articles is basically to give local families that are experiencing unemployment some ideas--frugal hobbies, what to do with all this new found spare time etc. Although gardening might not save them a pile (not when they are worrying about making the mortgage) it might be a happy distraction and something to teach the kids. But you're right. Gardening is a commitment and not for everyone. Giving non-gardening friends some vegetables from my garden is as much a pleasure for me as it is for them :)

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