[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=left]Jenn and I purchased our first home late last year, in the beautiful neighborhood of Holyrood (for those who don’t know where that is, it’s just across the river south and east of downtown, between Strathearn and Ottewell). A couple of the big selling points for us were the big apple tree in the back yard, and the small garden by the alley.

I used to be the kind of guy who generally always wanted to live in a condo in the hustle and bustle of downtown. But over the last few years, I had warmed to the idea of having my own house, and the ability to start a garden was a big part of that (avoiding hassles of a condo board, fees, etc. and having more control over my property was another big part). I knew a garden would be a bit of work, even just the ~12 sqft one we got, but knew it would also be fun and delicious.

[singlepic id=24 w=320 h=240 float=right]This year, we planted zucchini, potatoes, snow peas, bush beans, carrots, onions, spinach, a variety of lettuce and salad greens, and beets. We also had some garlic that started coming up on its own before we even started on the garden, but unfortunately not much of it turned out, probably due to too much rain. We also ended up with some pretty ridiculous amounts of dill growing throughout the garden, most of which we had to pull simply because it was overwhelming everything else.

[singlepic id=23 w=320 h=240 float=left]So far the most fruitful thing we’ve been able to grow has been the zucchini. We planted just one row of it, and part of the row didn’t even come in, but we have so far this season managed to harvest about three dozen of them, some of them bigger than small cats, probably due to all the rain we got this year. Jenn and I are running out of recipes to use them in (though we did just have a delicious zucchini penne with ricotta just last night), and have already given away a couple dozen to others.

I also discovered this year that you can eat the flowers from a zucchini. They’re pretty good battered and fried and served with marinara (or pasta) sauce.

We’ve also blanched and frozen about a kilo of the green beans, eaten more snow peas than we can count, and just about every morning for the last month we have gone out to pick fresh lettuce for our sandwiches. We’ve had some delicious salads using the greens, with some nasturtium flowers from one of the smaller flower gardens thrown in.

Not bad for the first year of a couple of relatively inexperienced gardeners, eh?

[singlepic id=19 w=320 h=240 float=right]We also got a pretty good yield of raspberries from the plants lining the driveway in the alley. Reflecting the thoughts of another Edmonton blogger, raspberries are as close to a zero-carbon food as there is. They require no extra watering aside from rainfall, no fertilizer, and only a bit of maintenance, and they will grow like weeds and produce a pretty reasonable amount of fruit, even after some neighbors and kids have helped themselves to a few (which we don’t mind at all; as kids we both used to sneak raspberries from neighbors where they grew into the alleys).

[singlepic id=35 w=320 h=240 float=left]And in addition to that, we now have more apples than we know what to do with. The tree is pretty big and produced far more than we could have expected, and it decided to start dropping them about a week ago. We’re pawning them off on our friends, family, and co-workers as fast as we can, and still have more than enough to make some applesauce and maybe a crisp or four.

The amount of food that we have managed to produce (and have had to give away already because it is more than we can consume by ourselves) is staggering, and we haven’t even harvested it all yet.

[singlepic id=27 w=320 h=240 float=right]Thinking about all this with a perspective of sustainability – not that I’m an expert on the subject, but I do think I have a pretty good grasp on it – I can’t help but wonder what a difference it might make if every homeowner in the city set aside even half as much of their property as we have to grow their own food. How much less would need to be imported from elsewhere, and how much less carbon output would be required to put it on your plate. How much could be shared with family, friends and neighbors when there is excess, or even how much could be donated to the Food Bank to help others in need.

[singlepic id=37 w=320 h=240 float=left]Jenn and I aren’t experts at any of this by any stretch of the word or of the imagination. Our garden hardly cost us a thing to start – some basic garden tools from Canadian Tire, seeds, and maybe a little water when it hasn’t been raining ridiculous amounts. We haven’t needed fertilizer (we use compost – more on that in a later blog entry), have not used any pesticides, etc. I honestly think and believe this is something that just about anyone can do – and absolutely should.

Why should? Because it’s fun. It’s educational. It’s good for reducing your carbon footprint. It gets you outside and gets you some exercise. Giving it away makes you good friends and good neighbors. And because it’s damn delicious! After a dinner of mixed garden greens, baked potatoes, and roast beets just tonight, I am only further reminded that there is nothing as amazing as making a meal with fresh food that you yourself grew and nurtured and harvested.

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Posted by Dave Sutherland Aug - 31 - 2010 3 Comments Categories: Blogography