Garden Gabs – Alex

Our series of interviews with local gardeners starts with me! Naturally, I want to let you know what I have growing in my garden. At the end of the year, we’ll check back in with my garden to see what went well, what could have gone better, and how I’ll be transitioning to winter growing.

We recently had new neighbours move in across the street. Lucky for us they gutted their kitchen and we suddenly had readymade planter boxes! We used cupboard doors to make large boxes, the drawers for herbs and flowers, and a whole cupboard for broccoli and cauliflower. We are even using the kitchen sink! There were also some glass cupboard doors from the kitchen, later in the year, we will discuss how to turn these into a mini greenhouse!

One of the main tenets of urban agriculture is sustainability, so it only makes sense to be using the waste of the urban environment to regenerate it. I’m sure you’ve driven by many commercial lots with old pallets outside. Go in and ask the owner, I bet they would be happy for you to haul those away. You’d be recycling and getting free lumber for your raised veggie beds. We’ve also used deep drawers from a broken plastic set of drawers, and our old bikes tires as border edging.

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My wife and I eat vegan at home, so we had a few main vegetables on our list of ‘must-grows’ to help sustain us through both the summer and winter. We love roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and they both freeze well to be used for stir frys later. We grew broccoli last year with little difficulty and it produced for months, so we have a few beds of different kinds of broccoli and cauliflower. We are growing from seeds we got at Summerland Ornamental Garden’s Seedy Saturday event, as well as a few from a commercial store leftover from last year.

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Another VIP (Very Important Plant) is the tomato. Tomatoes love a hot Okanagan summer. With 9 plants last year, 3 each of 3 varieties, we have been enjoying salsa, tomato sauce, and frozen tomatoes all year long. We had them in a very sunny patch last year but they got so big they started to fall over each other. This year we are putting them against a chain link fence, and hoping this will help counteract their heavy bounty!

Finally, we have two different kinds of squash. A red kuri winter squash from a grower in Lytton, and a patty pan summer squash from Naramata. We have these also along the fence to climb up but have the two kinds on opposite ends of the garden. Squash are very friendly with their relations and if you’re not careful you will end up getting new varieties. Which can still be delicious, but not what you were anticipating.

In amongst the edibles I have chosen a few companion plants that double as colourful pops in the garden. Marigolds and calendula, which are closely related, are both companion plants for tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, and squash (among others). They deter some pests and can enhance the soil, so I am hoping they benefit my vegetables and I have success stories for you at the end of the year. For references, images, and more resources head to my website.

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