GAR­DEN

What bet­ter way to pay ho­mage to Canada on her big birthday than by investing in the very soil that holds this great coun­try to­gether? Ed­i­ble gar­den­ing is a healthy, sus­tain­able idea with a long his­tory. We’re tak­ing a page from our past and plant­ing the

Best Health - - YOU - by TARA NOLAN

IT’S HARD TO SAY WHERE THE RESUR­GENCE IN

ed­i­ble gar­den­ing started, but you could trace it back to the 100-mile diet from years ago – a con­cept that has since blos­somed to in­clude no­tions of food se­cu­rity, along with know­ing where our food comes from and the in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion of pick­ing a sugar snap pea from a plant we’ve nur­tured our­selves.

One of the first grow-your-own move­ments dates back to the vic­tory gar­den idea that was born dur­ing the First World War and swelled dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. The idea was that if Cana­di­ans could grow their own food in what­ever free space was avail­able, such as front yards and aban­doned lots, it would free up rail cars and trans­port trucks to ship es­sen­tial items over­seas. It also en­sured that ev­ery­one had ac­cess to fresh, healthy food in the event that ship­ments couldn’t get through.

That think­ing is pretty rel­e­vant in today’s eco­con­scious world, given that a lot of the food we see at the gro­cery store has been shipped across con­ti­nents and oceans to reach us.

But even think­ing be­yond global im­pli­ca­tions, the very idea of be­ing able to step out your pa­tio door and snip salad greens for din­ner or pluck a ripe tomato to top a sum­mer burger is pretty sat­is­fy­ing.

Ready to dig in? Put on your gar­den­ing gloves and let’s get started! Our out­door spa­ces may have shrunk over the years, but if a small spot in your gar­den gets six to eight hours of sun­light a day, you can have an herb pot on a porch, a con­tainer full of your favourite toma­toes on your bal­cony or drive­way or a salad gar­den on a teeny­weeny pa­tio. You’d be sur­prised at what you can pack into a small gar­den, whether it’s in the ground, a raised bed or a smaller con­tainer. In es­pe­cially small spa­ces, ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing has be­come a help­ful buzz­word, al­low­ing gar­dens to grow up rather than out.

KNOW YOUR ZONES

The cli­mate varies from prov­ince to prov­ince, but the coun­try is di­vided into grow­ing zones that help de­ter­mine what plants will thrive where – that’s why you won’t re­ally find any­one grow­ing ba­nanas up here in the Great White North! Visit plan­thar­di­ness.gc.ca to pin­point where your gar­den fits.

Frost-free dates are also im­por­tant be­cause they de­ter­mine when to plant seeds and when it’s safe for seedlings to be planted out­side, and they’re easy to find on­line. Ve­seys (ve­seys.com) has a help­ful chart on its web­site. Your lo­cal nurs­ery or gar­den cen­tre can help steer you in the right di­rec­tion if you have ques­tions as well. They usu­ally won’t put their plants out­side un­til it’s safe to plant them.

PLANT YOUR GRO­CERY LIST

The fun part of gar­den­ing is fig­ur­ing out what to plant,

and the eas­i­est way to de­ter­mine that is to plant what ap­pears on your gro­cery list. What do you tend to buy to whip to­gether in sum­mer sal­ads? Does your fam­ily en­joy hearty squash, beets and pota­toes in the fall? Do you dream of mak­ing straw­berry jam or salsa to en­joy over the win­ter? Start small and ex­pand your gar­den in­ven­tory as your knowl­edge grows.

There are also lots of fun va­ri­eties to be dis­cov­ered – think pur­ple car­rots, yel­low beets and or­ange toma­toes, whether they’re sold as seeds or seedlings. Those stan­dard beef­steak toma­toes still ex­ist, but there all sorts of heir­loom va­ri­eties to try, with in­ter­est­ing names like Blush Tiger, Pink Bum­ble­bee and Ra­di­a­tor Char­lie’s Mort­gage Lifter (what?!).

Kale has be­come the new let­tuce over the past few years, but there are a ton of salad-wor­thy greens you should also taste, from but­ter­head let­tuce to New Zealand spinach. If you live in a small space, look for pa­tio va­ri­eties of plants that won’t out­grow their con­tain­ers, such as French Mas­cotte Con­tainer Bush Beans, Bush Slicer Con­tainer Cu­cum­bers and Litt’l Bites Cherry Win­dow­box Toma­toes.

And don’t for­get about the herbs. Oregano, sage, rose­mary, chives, pars­ley and cilantro can be grown along­side your ed­i­bles. They can be chopped fresh for gar­nishes and sal­ads through­out the sum­mer months and dried for fall and win­ter en­joy­ment.

Com­pa­nies like Bushel and Berry have also con­sid­ered the ur­ban grower with their con­tainer se­ries of pa­tio-per­fect fruit plants with de­li­cious names like Peach Sor­bet blue­ber­ries and Rasp­berry Short­cake, a thorn­less rasp­berry.

It’s easy to get overly am­bi­tious and want to start your own minia­ture ur­ban farm, but if you’re new to gar­den­ing, don’t over­whelm your­self that first year or two. It’s ideal to start with what you’re com­fort­able with – per­haps a tomato and some herbs—and grow from there. Af­ter all, the earth’s not go­ing any­where any­time soon. b

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