What’s Growing On: Growing your own food

(Elaine Casap photo/Unsplash) A bowl of tomatoes.

Following pandemic restrictions and now pressures from high food costs, gardening appears to be more popular than ever.

In 2022, Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in partnership with Angus Reid, surveyed Canadians on their intentions to garden. Fifty-two per cent of respondents indicated their intention to grow food at home, with eight per cent of Canadians, representing more than a million households, planning to do so for the first time. Of those gardening for the first time, the largest segment at 46 per cent were millennials between the ages of 24 and 38. Across Canada, the largest proportion of new gardeners were in the Atlantic region.

Canadian home gardeners grow substantially more vegetables than they do fruit. The most popular vegetable for home gardeners was tomatoes, which 89 per cent of survey respondents grew. Lettuce was the next popular at 58 per cent, followed by cucumbers at 55 per cent. Rounding out the top 10 were bell peppers, beans, carrots, green onions, peas, onions and potatoes.

Popular fruit such as apples and pears are found less frequently in home gardens; free-standing trees take space though they can be trained to grow successfully along a suitable wall or fence. Strawberries and cane fruit such as raspberries can be grown in small areas. A few plants of another perennial crop, rhubarb, can supply an average family’s needs and have the added advantage that deer do not eat them.

Home food production is adjustable to the ambitions and resources of the individual gardener. If space or time are limited, a few containers with tomatoes and lettuce on a deck or patio can provide ingredients for salads. The more ambitious can grow more crops in containers.

A large garden is not necessary to provide sufficient produce to freeze, pickle or store for winter use. An eight metre (25 foot) row of carrots can yield enough to store some into the winter. Planting crops such as lettuce, peas and beans several times during the season can provide continuous harvests from the early summer until the end of the growing season. Instead of planting in rows, dividing garden beds into square foot areas – ‘square foot gardening’, where each square is planted separately – is an efficient method to manage serial planting. If a backyard is not well drained or the soil is shallow, raised beds can be built to provide an adequate depth of soil for good growth. Another option is to inquire if there is a community garden in your area.

The benefits of gardening extend beyond just growing your own food and trying to save some money in the process. The quality of fresh picked vegetables is far superior to what is available in stores and the gardener knows exactly what has been used to grow it. Also, just the activity of being outside and working with soil and plants is of significant therapeutic value in our busy plugged-in world.

In future columns during the growing season members of By-the-Sea Gardeners, the Saint Andrews garden club, will provide information on growing vegetable and fruit crops in our area.

By-the-Sea Gardeners is a community group that provides a forum for gardeners in the Saint Andrews area to share their interest and enthusiasm in gardening. The club holds meetings with invited speakers, visits local gardens and occasionally takes trips further afield. To learn more about us, follow By the Sea Gardeners Club – St. Andrews on Facebook, or contact Richard Tarn at 506-529-3110 or Mike Hutton at 506-529-3629.

The Saint Croix Courier