If you are going to grow all your own food, then you’d better get a large veggie patch established. This, of course, can take years. For me, it meant years of whacking back cooch grass, not to mention weeds of nearly insurmountable proportions. The good thing about Bella Coola is you can count on a good growing season. The bad news is: the weeds never sleep.
Here is my first garden (below). We bought the place in April, so there wasn’t time to waste. Normally, I don’t like to use a roto-tiller as they kill worms and are basically cumbersome, noisy and you have to spend time behind them breathing in their fumes. It’s not a joyous task for sure.
The fence has been erected for two reasons: to keep out the deer and to keep the chickens in or out, depending on the season.
Normally, I like to beat grass back by letting someone else do the back breaking work. No one likes this job more than chickens, so why not let them? In the spring, I let them in to the garden patch and they happily help me get rid of the weeds, any left-over garden debris, and they turn the soil and scatter their manure. It is not the only job they do. I get them to do quite a few back breaking chores and, unlike children, they do it without complaint. Below, they are turning the compost pile–a task I utterly detest, whereas these gals volunteered to do the job.
Eventually, you do win against the grass and weeds and then it is time to plant. This part is exciting: deciding what you want to eat (something that can elicit passionate discussions with your spouse), figuring out what grows well in your climate (something that may take a few years to figure out), and buying seedlings at the nursery (something that always costs more than it should because you buy more than you should).
In the above photo, the poles in the right hand side of the garden are to trellis pole beans up. This is another trick I learned from my friend Clarence. In New Zealand, I had only ever grown bush beans, mostly for the sake of ease, but also I didn’t have the ‘infrastructure’ in the gardens that I thought I needed. Who knew it could be so simple?
The above photo is the same garden, but from the far edge facing west. The blue trellis is yet another donation to my cause from Clarence’s garden. He had extras he wasn’t using, so yes, of course I can use them. I promptly brought three of them home and painted them robin egg blue. The paths are made from mulch from a neighbour’s saw mill. Mostly it is spruce but there is some cedar mixed in. I try to get it for the garden when he’s not cutting so much cedar. I save the cedar shaving runs to put in my animals’ housing. I think it helps keep down fleas, and it smells nice too.
The stages of development in a garden are always exciting to watch, and then eat. This patch has been harvested several times over. I’m learning how to grow things like this so I can ‘cut-and-come-again’. Until this year, I’d been growing lettuce in rows and harvesting when large. This way, you have much more tender lettuce and you don’t have to wait for it to re-grow from seed. If you keep up with the harvesting, the lettuce will remain tender and sweet and SO much more flavourful than the mesculin mix you can buy in the store. If I had to live in a city and in an apartment, I would get myself a box container and grow lettuce like this. It would be worth it not only for the cost-savings, but also for the sheer gastronomic pleasure.
In the above lettuce patch, I also have rocket and nasturtiums growing. It is my own favourite mix of lettuces. This way, when I cut the lettuce for my salads I can throw in some rocket and nasturtium leaves for their spiciness, and the flowers to bring some lively color which contrasts beautifully with the purple lettuce leaves.
Speaking of purple…