Spring is in the air

There may still be snow on the ground here on Prince Edward Island but when the seed catalogues start coming in the mail, my focus turns to spring. This year, I am particularly excited. We’re in a new place, which means a new garden.

Jarrod and I have been avid gardeners over the years. Every where we have gone we have grown a garden. As university students, we had a balcony garden complete with window boxes full strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes and patio planters full of vegetables. We even had a raspberry plant in a large planter.  We planted raised beds in Fort Frances, Ontario (a climate comparable to Winnepeg) and grew an abundance of fruit, veggies and flowers. We experimented with “Square Foot Gardening,” fruit trees, and an “edible landscape” complete with a front yard planted with corn in BC (our best growing climate yet). When we came to PEI in 2010 though, we didn’t move into our home until July (too late to start a garden) and last summer with a new baby due in May, we opted not to plant a garden. That’s two summers in a row that I didn’t get to experience the joy of growing my own food and getting my hands dirty in soil. So, now I have the itch and I have it in a big way.

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I’m really excited about this year’s garden and on so many different levels. For starters, we haven’t had a garden in a while, so this feels like a fresh start; a chance to incorporate ideas of old (and new) into an awesome space. Also, I really feel like I’m in my forever home. We’ve moved around a lot. Since I met Jarrod in 1996 (at the ripe “old” age of 18) we have moved a total of fourteen times! Honestly, it’s crazy how much we’ve moved, but that’s the life of a university student (which accounted for the first seven moves through nine years of school). The other seven moves can be chalked up to, “itchy feet” (and I’m talking about the feeling of needing to see the country before settling in one spot, and not a fungal infection!). A little part of me was always so sad to move away from the gardens we planned, planted and nurtured in all of the various places we have been. So, knowing that I’ll get to reap the rewards of my gardening labours for decades (hopefully) is extremely exciting. Plus, investing in more expensive plants, trees and gardening structures (like a greenhouse, cold frames, trellises, etc) seems more realistic. Lastly, but not leastly, I feel like I have the perfect spot! We have 5 acres of our own to do what we want with. We live on a South facing lot beside a lake on some of the most fertile soil in the country.  It’s really a gardeners Mecca! If you remember the feeling of being a kid with the Sears Wishbook at Christmas time, then you know how I’m feeling right now….PUMPED!

So, I’m starting to plan and a book I’m finding extremely useful is Niki Jabbour’s “The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.” (I read my Mother’s copy and then thought it was so great that I ordered a copy for myself). Our hope is to incorporate raised beds,cold frames, mini hoop tunnels and poly tunnels, cloches, and hopefully a greenhouse (although, that probably won’t make it into this year’s budget). I’d love to get back to the point of growing a lot of my own food. From a health, budget, and common sense standpoint growing your own food makes sense. Forget the 100 mile diet.When you grow your own food, your practicing the zero mile diet. You know where your food came from, what it took to produce it and I strongly believe you can taste the love and care you put into the effort.

While this year’s plan is to start with some veggies and fruit, the sky is the limit. With a little bit of work and some luck I’d really like to grow most (if not all) of our produce, grow some grains to mill into flours (although these are temperamental….we grew grains in BC, which has a much longer growing season and even there, it was only moderately successful), raise chickens for eggs, and work up to a semi-sustainable system that we can survive off of. You may think that I’m a back-to-the-lander, and while I respect those values immensely and love the idea, it’s not practical for me. I still cherish the finer things in life (like chocolate and cheese). I can’t ever imagine getting into a full scale dairy production and cocoa beans simply don’t grow on PEI (sadly!). Additionally, as an animal lover who still eats meat, I don’t think I could raise my own livestock for consumption. It’s hard to eat your pet cow or pet pig, and sadly they’d all become pets with names to boot. I know and appreciate where my steaks, bacon, chicken and chops come from, but it’s one of those situations where ignorance is bliss. Rightly or wrongly, if I don’t personally, know the animal who gave their life for my dinner, then I’m happier to eat them.  So, I’ll still be frequenting my farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and food boutiques, but with an open mind and total respect for where the food came from, what it took to make it and the animals and people who played such a huge role in bringing it to my plate.

Happy growing to all and here’s to a plentiful 2012 gardening season!!!

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