“Anyone anywhere can have a garden…”
Sound familiar? I was shocked when I heard the first line spoken by Carol Bowlby in this National Film Board of Canada film on urban gardening from 1984. Separated by birth and about thirty years, she and I. Watching the film was like watching myself go through my own garden chores and routines.
And just look at her usage of recycled wash buckets, milk jugs, and assorted “garbage” in building a thrifty and organic garden well before it was in the vernacular (or minds) of any of us new-style URBAN HOMESTEADERS. Carol had it going on back in 1984. I salute you, lady.
Carol’s yard is slightly larger than mine (I think. Still need to work out the math), but hearing about how self-sustaining she and her family are within the confines of this space makes me even more enthusiastic about achieving the goals we have for our new yard. The first is to never buy another leaf of lettuce or salad green, again. I’m absolutely confident we can achieve this as I have done very well in much smaller and harsher growing condition. And where Carol has set aside room in her yard for kids’ space, I will be making room for the many non-edible plants that I am passionate about.
Spring can’t come soon enough! I just want to be out there, hunched over and digging in the soil with the sun on my back, chirping birds and urban sounds as my soundtrack.
Addendum: Davin says that our yard is larger… at least what will end up being the growing portion. In the film, Carol says her total garden (the entire yard itself is larger) is 260 square feet. We just did the math and our entire yard is approximately 700 square feet. Friends, that is the size of the apartment we just left! Putting numbers to it really drives home how different the new space will be. This is very exciting, indeed.
Special thanks to reader Marie-Louise who sent in this link!
This isn’t the sort of thing I normally post, or would make public so early in the process, but I need some help so here it goes…
I am working with a team to create a new television program (I am the host) and we need to shoot some footage. Unfortunately, it is winter here in Toronto, which means it is very cold and there is a lot of snow. To make matters worse, I moved late last fall and my new garden is nearly non-existant at this point… a blank slate minus the pear tree and a bunch of garlic and flowering bulbs we put in before the snow came and the ground froze. Our yard is not even remotely flat so we need to wait for the thaw before we can attempt to level it out enough to build raised beds, cold frames, and the like. As a result we have absolutely nothing of interest (at least in the garden) to shoot and we need to start in the first week of April. Oh and to top it off I will be on the road book promoting through much of the month of March so we’re stuck there, too.
The show is about urban food production, but not exclusively gardening or growing, although it will certainly feature growing.
Here’s what we’re looking for:
- Someone WITHIN urban Toronto (as in, I have to be able to bike there from my home or it doesn’t count. I think we might be able to extend it out as far as Scarborough/Etobicoke/Mississauga because I *could* in theory bike there if it were not the winter and I was in better shape! Ha!) who is growing or producing some of their food over the winter.
- You are passionate about the subject. Passion is good.
- You are willing to appear on camera and what you are doing must be “camera ready.” This doesn’t mean perfect, shiny, or glossy…. just that there is enough of interest to capture. We want the audience to be wowed and transformed about what is possible in the city or their own homes.
- We’d really like to feature urban chickens but of course it is winter (off-season) and illegal in Toronto, so you must be aware of the possibility that being on camera with chickens could result in negative consequences. We wish this was not the case but it is still the situation here in Toronto right now.
We are interested in other modes of food production, too, including but not limited to:
- Maple syrup production (possibly too late by April)
- Mushroom growing
- Ice fishing
- Growing indoors (large scale/commercial production or feeding your family), but must be organic
- Cold frame, seasonal extending, etc if you happen to have something going by some form right now.
- You name it!
Please feel free to comment here or if you’d like to be private, just email me through the contact form. I will see it and get back to you.
Thanks for your help!
Do you become absolutely insufferable through the last dregs of winter? Do you cry, bitch, and moan that spring will never come and you will not make it out alive, not this time? Well then you and I are in the same boat my friend, and this post is for you.
Last April I spoke at the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore in Montreal to promote my book, Grow Great Grub. While there, I took the opportunity to visit my favourite botanical garden, the Montreal Botanical Gardens. If you’d like to see images of the gardens and greenhouse at different times of the year, I have an archive of images from past trips. You can not visit Montreal without visiting the garden!
Magnolia trees in bloom. Enough said.
I love the way the hardy sedum trails over the hard edges of the concrete border, and the little muscari flowers that are popping up within it.
Grecian Thistle (Ptilostemon afer). My love for thistles is expanding.
To the average person it’s just a gigantic, oversized nail, or a weapon of intimidation (who needs to carry a can of mace when you’ve got this up your sleeve, am I right?), but to me this is the perfect tool for making drainage holes in things that were not manufactured to function as plant pots.
A dremel or cordless drill, and a masonry bit is your best friend when it comes to making holes in terra cotta and ceramics, but a gigantic nail and a hammer is exactly what you need to effortlessly put holes into the bottom of recycled tin cans, metal buckets, busted watering cans, and creepy doll carriages.
Cost: $.89 brand new at my local hardware store. Or free if the roofing guys are slack and leave a bunch lying around where you could step on them and possibly develop tetanus. That’s how I acquired my previous giant nail. Fortunately, the part about stepping on the nail and developing tetanus is not true, but it COULD have happened.
Narcissus cantabricus in my friend Barry’s greenhouse last month. Here’s what was blooming in his greenhouse last year around this time.