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  • amybillinghurst

Spring in the Garden! (Finally)

Are you planning on gardening this year? I've compiled a short list of things to think about before getting started.

This spring marks our 5th year at this house, and the garden has come a long way since we moved in! For starters, I don't think I've ever lived anywhere for 5 years since moving out of my parents house after high school. THIS house feels like home, and I think the garden plays a big role in that feeling.

When we moved to this home, the biggest draw for us what the property! It's a beautiful flat lot, lined by a cedar rail fence, with an expansive forest to the south. The tall old cedars completely block our view of our neighbour, and we love the privacy! It feels like we our out in the country, but really we are a 5 minute drive to downtown Collingwood. It's the best of both worlds in our minds.

I could tell there was a BIG veggie garden in the south facing back yard, but when we bought it it had been overgrown with weeds. I was 8.5 months pregnant with our little girl the first year, so planted a few things in this weedy patch, but it wasn't what it was today. I think it was mostly tomatoes, and some greens.

In the fall of 2018, I laid large tarps over the entire area, hoping that smothering the weeds for an entire winter would get rid of them. It was a lovely site come spring, as I basically raked back the dead weeds to reveal a nice big patch of dirt. The whole garden space is 30X30 feet.

The following summer, I tried to lay out some more organized beds, and by the end of June I was fighting with the same old weeds. Things grew, but it looked pretty chaotic and seemed so overwhelming to maintain (especially with a one year old at home). This is when I really started doing some research and put in our raised beds.

The great thing about raised beds is BOUNDARIES! I laid landscape cloth on the outside of all of the beds, and covered the cloth with small stones. This step essentially makes it very hard for anything to grow there, and creates a nice path for you to walk to and from each bed. Inside the raised beds, I laid down layers of newspaper or broken down cardboard boxes and covered them with compost and triple mix. (We get all of our landscape supplies from a local company in Collingwood called Affordable Landscape supplies) The supplies can be delivered, but we always go pick them up ourselves in a pickup truck or open trailer.

Once my beds were made, my life was so much easier, and I've been able to maintain and grow my garden over the past 3 years! Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Tip #1 - Choose Raised Beds or Mulched Rows

As I mentioned I went with the raised beds when I started. I can thank Pinterest for this, as I LOVE the look and was excited to have it in my yard. The more economical option and one that Market Gardeners would use is Mulched Rows. I could have easily done this too with my 30x30 foot space. Essentially you map out 1-2 foot rows and in between each row of dirt you put down a thick layer of mulch to stop weeds from growing.

The great thing about this option is that this mulch does break down over time, and is fantastic nutrients for your soil. You still might get a few weeds you need to pull, but by topping up your mulch each season, they should be very manageable. To each row of dirt, it is great practise to add compost before planting. I tend to add compost to each of my raised beds as well each spring for added nutrients!

We also added three additional "No dig" beds last year to grow some squash, pumpkins and more zucchini! I covered the existing weedy area with cardboard, soil, and mulch and planted a row of lavender too!

Once you choose what type of garden layout you want it's time to decide what to plant.

Tip #2 - Plant things you like eating!

There is no sense in planting a ton of different vegetables if they aren't things you're going to eat regularly. The best things to plant are the ones you love eating. Do you add greens to your smoothies every day? Or enjoy eating salads with fresh tomatoes all summer? Then be sure to plant plenty of greens and a variety of tomato plants!

Greens are one of my favourite things to plant as they are something we buy every time we go to the grocery store and it makes me so happy to have our own organic salad growing in the yard, while also eliminating those giant plastic greens containers from the grocery store for the season! Greens are great to sew every few weeks so you have a constant supply throughout the months instead of just one harvest.

Our list of veggies has grown over the years, and I'm excited to try a few new varieties this year from West Coast seeds!

Once you choose what you want to grow and purchase the seeds, be sure to read the back of the seed packets to know when to plant. Many veggies are started indoors 6-8 week before our last frost date (Usually it's safe to plant outside in Collingwood around May 24 weekend), so I typically start my seeds indoors the first couple weeks of April.

Other seeds such as peas, beans, flowers, greens, carrots...and the list goes on get directly sewed into the soil. Be sure to read the back of your seed packets for specifics and plan accordingly.

Tip #3 - Don't be intimidated by cut flowers

I think 2020 was my first year growing some cut flowers, and I've definitely become addicted. They are such a nice compliment to the veggies, provide tons of beneficial pollinators and are so beautiful! It started with my large row of zinnias, a few gladiolas, and a few dahlias. I've since grown cosmos, as well as snap dragons too, and will be experimenting with a variety of poppies that was gifted to me by West Coast Seeds as well. I'm so excited to watch things unfold, and continue to grow this part of my garden too.

Like veggies, most flowers will benefit from similar things such as water, mulch and compost. Some prefer to be staked others are less fussy. I have to say zinnias are still my favourite cut flowers to grow as they are hardy to all sorts of conditions, are directly sewed into the ground after the last frost, and grow beautifully all the way into the end of October with very little effort! It's a perfect way of hanging on to summer.

Tip #4 - Maintain often to keep up with weeds

It has becoming such a nice daily ritual to head out to the garden each morning to see what's happening. Morning is typically when I water everything, and it's a good time to check on anything that needs to be pruned or weeded. Pulling out small weeds as you see them is the best way to stay on top of them. Once they grow bigger, their roots become stronger and it makes the process more labour intensive. Even if you drag a hard rake or fork on top of the soil in between your plants a few times a week, it will make it hard for those tiny weeds to root down. Weeding makes sure your vegetables and flowers are not competing for water and nutrients. Your plants will thank you with a bountiful crop.

Tip #5 - Enjoy the process

Gardening should be enjoyable! It's a great way of spending time outside, and being present and mindful of your surroundings. To me it almost seems like magic - tiny seeds growing to big plants that provide my family and friends with delicious healthy food all season long.

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." – Audrey Hepburn

Let me know if you plan on starting a garden this year!

I'd love to hear about your gardening journey! Reach out if you have any questions, or comments, and make sure to check out West Coast Seeds if you're in need of any organic seeds for this coming growing season. They are my number one favourite seed company doing such great things for their local and not local communities. They have already raised over $50,000 for Ukraine by donating the proceeds of sunflower seeds this year! I'm forever inspired by all that they do. Order seeds from West Coast Seeds here

I'll be sure to share when I start my seeds on instagram (@wovenhandmade), so follow along there if you'd like an update on all things gardening.

Happy Spring!

- Amy

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