Spring. It’s my favourite time of year. And with the North Saskatchewan River now freely flowing, my enthusiasm for the season has only intensified. I see Superstore has erected the green house and I look around my house at the seeds waiting for me to plant them and I am so excited to start gardening again.
For many of you reading this, I am very late in the growing season already. Unfortunately, I have the worst green thumb for growing seedlings from seed. My plants get to the two-leaf stage and then perish. I hang my head in defeat every time. I think back to my father, who seemed capable of looking at a seed and having it not only grow but abundantly produce fruits or vegetables over and above what one would expect a plant could produce. He always ended up giving his harvest away and had more than enough to supply his family and friends with food well into the following growing season.
Over the last two years, I’ve devoted myself to teaching my children where our food comes from… no, not from the store and definitely not from the frozen food section. One of the most unique plants we’ve grown is called a cucumelon. Imagine little watermelon type fruits hanging off of the delicate vines of a plant. The fruit itself looks like the classic watermelon rind, and it’s only about the length of an adult thumb, from knuckle to thumb nail. But when you bite into it, it’s a lovely combination of juicy cucumber with a subtle hint of lemon. So delicious I’ve never had the fruit ripen to the point of falling off the vine. As long as I can beat my children to the plant, I have a good chance of tasting at least one cucumelon a day during the height of growing season.
I’ve also tried growing tomatillos with great success. This time in containers. I had more than enough to make salsa and it was really interesting to watch the fruit grow inside the husks that cover them. We also grew celery, roma tomatoes, cantaloupe, grapes and a pumpkin in containers on the deck. I won’t lie, my deck looks like a jungle when everything is growing but I think it’s so worth it. I use plastic milk crates that I affixed wheels to so that I can move it around the deck to take advantage of the sun. I grow strawberries in it. And last year I used chicken wire and landscape plastic to grow potatoes in a ‘raised’ bed. On the sides of the bed I planted onions and shallots. I also did a raised petunia bed.
So what am I trying that will be new for me this year? I’ve been researching gardens of my ancestors. While I won’t be able to create a Red River Lot with long lines of land and water on one short end and road access on the other, I will be able to use traditional growing methods Aboriginal people have found success with. I’ll be growing some raised beds using the foundation of the “Three Sisters”; squash, corn and beans. The corn grows tall, providing a stalk for the beans to grow up and the squash provides moisture and ground cover to help control weeds. I’m hoping that will work.
Each month I’ll give you a garden update on my container gardens and let you know what I’ve tried that is new to me and how successful I’ve been. As you plan your gardens this year, I do ask a favour. Please plant to attract and feed the bees. We are losing them, and we really do need them to survive. For myself, I am deathly allergic to the sting but I find I’m even more opposed to losing these insects, the plants they pollinate and the foods their hard work allows us to harvest at the end of the growing season. And don’t even get me started on their delicious honey! Mostly, I wish for all of you a green thumb of success and happy planting as the weather warms up. Let me know your gardening adventures and I will enjoy sharing some of your stories in the coming months.