To accompany monotonous gardening tasks I listen to CBC Radio 1. It shifts my focus from mind-numbing-teeth-grinding bean picking, to one of intelligent dialogue. I go from being the gardener to the re-incarnated Aristotle, working in his gardens studying the resiliency of ecosystems. Yes dear reader, just like that. Your mind is not playing tricks on you, that is Aristotle in Thornbury.
When the show titled “As It Happens” comes on with Carol Off, I imagine that one day she’ll interview me for
having successfully defeated bindweed in my gardens starting a revolution. And my oh my, what shall I say? A rehearsal is in order!
Free Spirit Gardens Presents….
An Exclusive Interview with Sustainability Expert, Dr. Kimberly Edwards (insert many letter combinations here such as GDe, MtS, etc.)
Dr. Edwards, at the start of your career, before you became world famous, you were teaching gardening, am I correct?
“Yes, I began with my hands in the earth and I will finish with my hands in the earth….as well as my feet, legs, hips, and head.” (audience laughs)
And then you realized that some people were losing money growing their own food?
“At Free Spirit Gardens we were losing about 4-5 new gardeners a year to the feeling that they’d spent more on their vegetable gardens than the vegetables are worth. It’s tragic, but I get it. At the start of the season there is a lot of enthusiasm, hope, and good faith that if we plant it, it will grow. First time gardeners have been seduced by social media into believing that vegetable gardening is so easy and that lettuce leaves never have holes in them. Pinterest really gets me sometimes, but then I remember that ‘pin’ that said “Growing your own Broccoli is easy!” and I’ve been leery of Pinterest since. Experienced gardeners hope that the problems of years gone by will return. However, there is that saying that “if you keep doing something the same way, how can you expect to get different results?” As the season progresses, sure as a pig in dirt, the bugs come back, we don’t have time to water, we don’t re-seed if something fails, the blight comes back, it’s too hot and the lettuce bolts, it’s not hot enough so the tomatoes never ripen…..there is a lot of work and details in growing your own food successfully.”
So the obvious next question – How do you grow food and make it worth the investment?
“The most important thing that I would emphasize is that you will get better results each year that you garden in the same place. I don’t really know how this happens because I’m not convinced I’m that much better each year….but somehow, I am getting better results each year. It’s like the philosophy of showing up – just show up in your garden….every day…for 15-30 minutes.”
Is that the golden rule? Every day for 15-30 minutes?
“That will certainly keep you on top of tasks such as weeding, watering and harvesting depending on how ambitious you were when you decided on the size of your garden. It’s flexible and the garden is fairly forgiving, but don’t miss 2-3 days and count on hope and butterflies. A full-fledged flea beetle attack can manifest in 2-3 days.”
What are some other tried, tested, and true methods to get a positive ROI from your vegetable garden?
“Here are my top 5 suggestions:
1) Keep seeding things – when the slugs eat your beans, re-plant and add a line of copper wire defense. Love kale? Plant more kale every week. It doesn’t have to be in a fancy line – the other day I twirled and frolicked with handfuls of kale seeds flying from my palms at random. I might regret that. Try to mark where you’ve planted seeds and water water water.
2) You must eat everything. That is how you save money. When you grow green beans you do not eat them once/week like your neighbours. You eat them every day, with poached eggs, in casseroles, and when someone asks for a snack you can whip up steamed beans with butter faster than they can blink. The question “What would you like for dinner?” is obsolete in your household. It becomes, “How would you like your beans for dinner?”
3) Leaves. You collect leaves from everywhere and everyone in the fall to store for next year’s compost bin. Anytime you put kitchen scraps in the compost bin, you put a big armful of leaves in after. You will make gold and become very rich. At least that’s my plan.
4) What you do not eat, you must preserve. No tomato gets left behind….unless it’s still green in October. Then you make one batch of green tomato salsa and the rest go to the compost bin (unless you had blight…then they go to the yard waste or burn pile)
5) Clean Spoons ONLY. You must never ever ever use a previously licked or dirty spoon in a preserve. Clean spoons only. That one’s for you mom.”