CORINNE MINTZ – In my life I have had many gardens, in many varying circumstances and conditions. I have carved out a small patch of earth for a garden by the side of the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island. I have worked on organic herb and vegetable farms. I have grown tomatoes and zucchinis in buckets on my balcony and driveway. Let’s keep in mind I grew up as a city kid with little to no experience growing food. One thing I have learned is that one can grow food anywhere with a bit of ingenuity and a bit of perseverance.
My latest garden started as a huge lawn in a residential neighbourhood in Peterborough. When my husband and I were looking to buy a house, my husband would go and look at the house, and I would look at the yard to see if it was appropriate to fulfill my permaculture dreams. Permaculture is a gardening philosophy that sees ones garden as a comprehensive whole. “Permaculture is a set of design principles centered on whole systems, simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems” according to Wikipedia.
When I step out my door I have several large pots of my favourite cooking herbs and the potted plants that need the most watering attention. A few steps away we have kiwi vines providing shade to our front porch, creating privacy and delicious grape sized kiwis. On the south side of our house four varieties of grapes climb an arbour providing shade and coolness to our house, as well as an abundant supply of grapes.
Having reclaimed half of the lawn, I discovered my kids need somewhere to play. I created the annual vegetable garden using techniques such as sheet mulching, raised beds, companion planting, rain collection and ‘crop’ rotation. The garden provides a large part of our family’s fresh fruit and vegetable needs in the summer months. This year I have grown asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchinis, beans, ground cherries, currents, peas, lettuce, carrots.
Surrounding the house, I have planted perennial food crops that take less constant care. We get to harvest, cherries, apples, peaches, gooseberries, Jerusalem artichokes, hazelnuts, rosehips, service berries, etc. Flower gardens surround the yard to promote pollinators.
All this has not been without challenges. Permaculture recommends recognizing your challenges and figuring out how to make them work to your advantage. I can’t say I have been completely successful in that regard. Some of the challenges include invasive tree roots, racoons with a taste for not yet ripe grapes, and extremely hot and dry conditions. This burgeoning ecosystem brings birds from far and wide to gobble up any fruits in season.
That being said, benefits of an urban garden far outweigh the challenges. It has been incredible to watch the increase in biodiversity in our yard – bees, birds and butterflies to name a few. As well, there are community benefits, such as making fresh food deliveries to appreciative neighbours, people anticipating the ripening of the peach tree, the many curious folk who stop to ask questions or smell a flower. My favourites are the great pleasure of biting into a fresh homegrown fruit or vegetable and educating my children how to grow their own food while spending time together in the garden. All the while keeping in mind that growing your own food means less gasoline and resources are being used to feed you. Anyone can grow their own food almost anywhere. One bucket of earth with a tomato plant is a great place to start. One of my friends once said when looking at a seed ready to go into a pot, “What if it doesn’t grow?” I say chances are it will; why not give it a try.