This year I wanted to attempt the 1000 Hours Outside challenge as a way of nurturing my mental health as well as having new experiences with my daughter. We didn’t have any travel plans, so we decided to turn half of our corner lot backyard (that we didn’t make use of anyways) into a garden to learn to grow our own food! It was the perfect way to drive us outside more through summer and enjoy our space.
Strawberries, raspberries, haskaps. Potatoes, peas, golden beets, 3 carrot varieties, leeks, sweet onion, cabbage. Tomatoes, kale, spinach, rocket, chard, radishes, beans, and rhubarb. And numerous herbs! We had roughly 40 various plants tried out this year.
Haskaps were our first harvest – a blissfully sweet 1/2 cup of tart blue berries. We were lucky to pick strawberries almost daily all summer. There’s nothing like a sweet backyard strawberry – they just don’t compare to store bought.
Raspberries were our final harvest. I actually thought we were going to have to pull up all of the canes we were gifted, because most of them died. But as we were yanking dead ones, I saw some flowers and let them be. My daughter was thrilled! Picking raspberries became her favourite thing to do at grandma’s house and so they were lovingly labeled “Boppi’s Yummies”.
The carrots grew beautifully, but I learned next year to mix sand in the soil. Some of them really had to be dug out! We tried orange, red, and purple carrots, but the classic orange were everyone’s favourite. Our toddler who never touches carrots loved eating them rinsed right out of the dirt.
At the start of the season, I didn’t think my tomato plants were going to grow. I gave them two doses of magnesium spray (1/2 tsp epsom salts + 2 cups water) 10 days apart. They grew and produced like crazy after that! Unfortunately, they didn’t ripen on the vine quickly enough so we pulled them inside and plan to can tomato sauce with the ones we don’t eat fresh.
Potatoes! These were the bulk of the garden this year, as I put 16 plants in the ground. 8 golden, 8 red. I would always find my daughter wandering through the rising leaves, giving them gentle touches and sweet kisses. I think they turned out so beautifully because of the love she gave them! We used them to make potato-leek soup, gnocchi for the freezer, and French fries of course.
My peas were a slight fail. The adorable teepees we set up with bamboo poles weren’t near tall enough to support the plants. They ended up falling to a tangled bush, but we still got a decent amount for our first year. Snap peas didn’t really take off, but the shelling peas were delicious. Our daughter doesn’t usually eat peas off her dinner plate, but she loved cracking them open off the vine and enjoying them garden fresh!
Beans were a tough grow. I planted several times before they finally sprouted, but ended up with a few dinners worth! While they’ve never been my favourite veggie, we sauteed them with vegan butter, garlic, and salt and pepper – they were like delicious green candy.
These beets were my pride and joy. We don’t eat many beets to be honest, but I think this golden variety are one of the most beautiful veggies out there. I dehydrated some for quick adds to soup and blanched the rest for freezer storage to roast with winter meals.
These were about the only successful radishes in the two rows I planted. They grew tall and flowered, but produced very little root bulbs.
Ahh, rhubarb. The fruit that always goes to the freezer to die.
We were blessed with this plant when we moved into our home, gave it virtually zero care until this year and let it grow like a weed we harvested twice a year.
You can see it in the before picture dead center where we have the ground bed. We moved it out of the way into it’s own little bed during the build, and we’re thankful it survived the move. Rhubarb pie is my hubby’s favourite, and I like to bake it for him at least once a year!
The leaves made for really great garden mulch too. I simply laid them through my tomato and raspberry beds and let them decompose into the soil.
Greens: I planted arugula, spinach, curly kale, dino kale, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, and a spring mix. The arugula was fast devoured by bugs, but the rest did okay. Next year I will cut out the arugula, curly kale, and chard, because we enjoyed the rest more!
Leeks were the only successful onions I got from the garden. I planted a couple rows of sweet white onions, but they didn’t grow. Scallions were weak. These leeks were gorgeous to look at and was just enough for a delicious batch of potato-leek soup.
I attempted a variety of herbs this year, all dispersed between the veggies as companion plants. Dill, basil, thyme, parsley, chives, rosemary for savoury cooking herbs. Peppermint and lemon balm for tea leaves. It was my first time ever trying lemon balm, and oh was it lovely to smell and to sip.
We didn’t do much in the way of flowers, but the flowers we did do BOOMED! The sunflower garden we planted outside our daughter’s window provided the enjoyment we wanted them to – they grew all the way up to the roof of the house. Big, luscious yellow heads, we are waiting on the seeds to dry up to harvest!
2023 plans: plant fruit trees, experiment with growing bags, try backyard wheat and chickpeas!