Week 24: Community Garden

I have been wanting to get a community garden plot for years, and I finally feel like I have the time and energy and enthusiasm to do it this year.

I started emailing community gardens last fall to find a plot for this summer. Apparently, it’s really difficult to get a plot in Toronto. Fortunately, while I did receive rejections from everyone else, I managed to find one community garden who is expanding this year, and is therefore able to offer plots to more people for the 2016 season! Additionally, it’s super close to home, which is always a perk.

It’s an organic garden sort of run by the City of Toronto, but also a board of directors, and is very community based (there are a lot of community plots and events). I will have plot H4, which probably means nothing to you, but is very exciting to me because it means it’s real! My plot is being resized this year, so I’m not quite sure how much space I’ll have, but it looks really cool on the blueprint.

I got a book called “The Organic Home Garden: How to grow vegetables and fruits naturally” from the library… and then I read it. Usually I just let library books sit on my desk for several weeks, and then return them slightly late, having accrued a sizeable fee. But I read this one, pretty thoroughly, in an effort to grow plants, and not kill them all. I’m not great with living things, as my herb garden will attest to.

The book says that some plants needs to be sown indoors before being replanted outside. This is especially important in slightly colder climates, like Canada. Giving them a head start results in stronger plants who yield more vegetables sooner than if I just planted them outside right away. Or so they say. I have a word document plotting when and how to plant each seed, and calendar reminders set up for sowing dates.

I went with a friend to Urban Harvest, which is an organic seed store in Toronto. I got a bunch of amazing and organic seeds – cucumber, dill, melons, basil, red peppers, hot peppers, beets, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower/broccoli Romanesco (which I’m calling broccoflower), and snow peas. Having never had a garden, or a house plant that has survived more than 2 weeks, I know this is a bit ambitious, but I have high hopes!

I also purchased some organic potting soil. If you’re going to do an organic vegetable garden, do an organic vegetable garden.

After fairly extensive research (I read one website), I was off! I mixed my soil with some hot water and filled my tiny planters. After soaking the tomato and pepper seeds in some water, I buried them in the dirt. It was quite fun and it felt good having dirt in my nail beds for the proceeding 3 days.

And then, I put the seeds in the oven. They’re supposed to germinate at 30 degrees celsius. Because this is my first year, I don’t have the proper set up for germination, and because I’m not 100% sure I’ll love it (or, realistically, that I’ll be successful), I don’t want to spend too much money on this. So I had to find an alternative to a greenhouse. Unfortunately, my boyfriend does not want to keep our condo at a refreshing 30 degrees, so the oven had to suffice. Apparently this is a fairly common practice for germinating seeds, although many websites warned to not accidentally turn the oven on… because obviously that would ruin the seeds and probably cause a small fire.

Every once in a while (ie, when I remember) I turn the oven on to “keep warm” for a few minutes, let it warm up to about 30 degrees (I measure this by feel so it’s really not that accurate), and then turn the oven back off, leaving the light on so the little guys can grow. After just a few days some of my tomato seedlings popped through, but I haven’t seen anything from the peppers yet. I’ve read that they’ll take a bit longer than the tomatoes, but I’m not a person known for my patience with such things.

I did have a bit of an incident today (yeah, I know, I’m behind on my blogging, I get it!) with the oven. I turned it on to warm, and then forgot about it for a bit too long. All of a sudden I jumped out of my desk chair and ran to the oven to save my tiny seeds! The oven had gotten a bit too warm, but hopefully they’ll just think it was a small heat wave. If I’ve accidentally cooked my plants I’ll become extremely sad. I did say some encouraging words to them, and issued an apology, so hopefully that will make up for my negligence.

I will get access to my garden plot at the end of April, once it’s been cleaned up and resized and opened for the season. At that point I hope to discover that my plot is larger than I had expected, so that I can plant even more vegetables! Either way, I know this will be a learning year for me, but I hope that at least some of the stuff turns out edible.

I’m also going to try to keep updating my blog with gardening stuff as I go… assuming all goes well. I’m not going to document an epic fail.

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Tomatoes… after a brief heat wave. Be strong, little ones!