New soil to till.

I was tossing sizzling olives, garlic, and chilies in a hot pan at the stove when the phone rang last night. Nick handed it to me, and I jabbered on for a few minutes, squealing intermittently and so excitedly that Nick and his brother-in-law, Nathan, were certain something amazing must have happened.

“Did they offer you that job?” Nathan asked, as I had an interview recently that I thought went not too badly.

“Did we get into that co-op?” Nick asked, as we were told we’d have an interview for a place in Chinatown that’d cost half what we’re currently paying for rent each month.

“No,” I said, “and no. We DID get a community garden plot, though, over on sixth – aren’t you so excited?!”

And I was very excited, and while they both claimed to be very happy for me, I think they underestimated how riled up I can get, especially about little things like a plot of dirt beside an abandoned train track. They ought to know by now I’d be downright screechy about the job or the co-op – the subtle difference between sound-effects is very important.

Anyway. Last summer, the lady who gave us a spot in her yard let us know she’d be moving, and so we’d be losing our plot. I never got to see my butternut squash mature, as she moved away before the last harvest of the fall. I had gotten us on a waiting list for a few community gardens, but was told there would likely be no spaces in 2012 and so had fallen into a bit of a sulk, as one does.

And then, just like that, someone gave up his space, and this morning I signed a contract and promised not to be negligent and abandon my plot to the weeds. So we have a garden – and it is beautiful in the way I imagined The Secret Garden was when I read the book as a child – and there will be picnics there. There are communal lettuces, berries, rhubarb, and flowers, and birdhouses containing chickadees and bushtits (which made me laugh through my nose because I am, like, nine). Our plot is in need of some work, but all the tools are there for us and it’s already been given its allotment of fresh compost.

Now we just have to figure out what we’ll grow. Of course we will have radishes, and as many as possible. But what else? What seeds would you suggest to a pair of would-be gardeners on the west coast who want a high probability of success and do not desire a challenge?

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8 thoughts on “New soil to till.

  1. Every year I have high hopes for my garden but then it never really turns out as I planned, so I change it up. This year I decided to go out to westcoast seeds in ladner and have a chat. Upon their advice I am going with spinach (a varietal called Vancouver!), swiss chard, sugar daddy snap peas, beets, cucumber and of course the herb garden, which seems to be the one thing I can always count on to do well! Congratulations on the plot & happy gardening!

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  2. I also enjoy using west coast seeds as they’re local and many of their seeds are designed to do well here.
    I always grow radishes, beets, carrots, parsnips, beans, shelling peas and tomatoes. I see your plot has some cages which are great for supporting tomato plants. I’ve always bought my tomato plants already sprouted, I haven’t had alot of success from seed.
    Sadly I’ll be working up in Haida gwaii for the summer and miss out on all the fresh veggies 😦
    But I am planting as much as I can in my dads backyard….I guess creating more work for him since I won’t be coming around to help out lol.

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  3. I’ve always found tomato cages more useful for bush beans and use stakes for the tomatoes. With your beets pick a variety with edible tops and you get two treats for the price of one. The trick is to remember to not take all the leaves off any one plant. The consequence of eating the beet tops is that you also end up with smaller beets but that’s tastier eating and canning (if you have that many leftover) at the end of the season.

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  4. So I’m going with radishes, zucchini, peas, beans (because we’ve been lucky with those in Poco) and carrots (because there’s nothing better than eating them straight from the ground after a little hose wash). Tomatoes have not been my friend.

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  5. I had a little container garden in the backyard last year and the highest success came from:
    Basil (both sweet and normal – yay pesto!)
    Parsely (learned how to make salsa verde and chimchurri to use it up)
    Cilantro (but try to keep it from being in the direct sun – once it bolts you don’t have much time left and yes the sun in the Vancouver summer was enough to make it bolt unfortuntely!)
    Green Onions (they also stayed around for a long time so I didn’t have to use it all at once)
    Lettuce (I think it was grand rapids or something but if you have communal lettuce you won’t need more)
    Rosemary (apparently it can be tough from seed but we kept it indoors until it was hearty enough)

    Tomatoes were ok – both cherry and a beefsteak variety but cucumbers were poor though I’m not sure if it was where they were situated or what.

    Good luck and enjoy! Can’t wait to hear about the delicious meals you create from it!

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  6. We are in Northern California, so not sure if that’s exactly your zone, but we have great luck with radishes, garlic (we use it green), carrots, brussels sprouts, arugula, tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, artichokes, yellow summer squash (patty-pans), english peas, red thai chilies, and some melons. I recommend squeezing in lots of herbs (lemon thyme, chives, oregano, cilantro, basil, lavender and lemon verbena are the ones I use most) and some flowers – because they make things so nice to look at. I like to grow dahlias because they have great colors and are expensive to buy cut, but I’d put in a flower plant of whatever is your favorite. Also, a stand at our farmers market sells seedlings very very cheaply ($2 – $3 per container of 6 plants) so I decided to mostly stop planting from seed – it is faster, and for me, the roots seem to develop stronger and more quickly, even though I start my seeds indoors and you’d think it would be the same. The exceptions are radishes (very easy to grow from seed – we like “easter egg blend” since they are super easy, mature very quickly, and my kids love pulling them up and finding all different colors) and carrots (which you cannot really transplant). Sunset magazine has some terrific squeeze-it-all-in garden plans that I’d recommend checking out online. … Most recent issue also had a “put in your garden in one day” article that was timely.

    Oh, and when you thin the radishes – rinse and eat those radish sprouts! You probably know that, since it seems you love radishes, but – yum.

    Happy gardening!

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  7. These are all helpful suggestions, thank you very much! I am going to the garden store tomorrow with a list – looks like we’re going with beets, carrots, radishes, beans, and greens, for the most part. (Maybe cucumbers too? I don’t know!) We’re going to try growing tomatoes on the roof of our apartment … we’ll see how that goes.

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