October 2, 2020

Growing a community, one garden at a time

Plants with Neighbours for the Bees sign
One of the micro street corner gardens with “Neighbours for the Bees” sign

Back in 2008, when I was living in Surrey, BC, I stumbled upon a grassy, vacant lot and an age-old idea: a community garden where the area’s townhouse residents could grow their own veggies and compost their food scraps. It never materialized beyond a blog post, “Community solutions for food security and urban health“, and today — I did some Street View sleuthing — there’s another cookie-cutter house on the lot. So be it.

Fast forward to 2020. We’re currently 6 months into a pandemic, there are issues with food security (still), and seed sales are through the roof. We need each other more than ever, but we have to stay apart. That doesn’t mean we can’t come together on solutions.

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July 29, 2013

Patience, hope and garlic


“…we don’t plant too much of any crop, though we are growing dangerously close to having too much garlic. But then how can you ever have too much garlic?

— Brian Brett, Trauma Farm

I procrastinated a little bit and planted my garlic in November last year. In my kitchen, garlic doesn’t survive very long before being eaten, so it was almost reluctantly that I saved a mere four cloves for planting. They were paired up in pots far too small, I knew, in shallow soil less than ideal but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. To my delight, they all came up, and come summer I enjoyed five plump garlic scapes.

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April 16, 2013

Gardens great and small

Sweet garden

On the weekend I attended a vegetable gardening workshop at my local urban farm, hosted by the lively farmer, Gavin. It was an informative session on seed starting during which I figured out why my tomato seeds hadn’t germinated. He took the small group of us on a brief tour afterward and had funny (if not sometimes tragic) stories to tell about the arugula (sown somewhat erratically by a teenager and now bursting with leaves under the tent) and disappearing carrots (slugs are voracious). It’s only half an acre — tiny compared to UBC Farm‘s 60 acres. But my hope is that this small model of local, urban agriculture will get people excited to grow more food in their backyards, or on their balconies, and support future urban agriculture projects in the community.

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January 28, 2013

A winter garden

Garlic growing

In the fall, I planted four garlic cloves and crossed my fingers. The soil had been used already for tomato plants and I didn’t have much compost left, so I added coffee grounds and watered them occasionally when I remembered. Talk about neglect. To my utter delight, I recently noticed two of them growing and wondered if the other two — which are closer to the wall where they’d receive less of any rainfall that made it that far — would appear. Sure enough, there they are!

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May 26, 2009

Does David Suzuki dig your garden?

David Suzuki Digs My Garden

The third annual David Suzuki Digs My Garden contest is on full steam ahead this year, with the three winning gardeners featured as bloggers on the brand new DMG website. Each week the bloggers—from Richmond, BC, Edmonton, AB, and Ancanster, ON—post blogs and videos, and help answer questions from the public such as, how do I thwart those pesky digging squirrels? or, how do I get rid of dandelions without chemicals? It’s all about being green, too—these gardeners pride themselves on having beautiful foliage without the pesticides.

Continue reading Does David Suzuki dig your garden? »

April 6, 2008

Community solutions for food security and urban health, Part 1

This is first in a series of posts I’ll be making over the next couple of weeks about food security and the current food crisis, permaculture, and community spaces. (This post replaces the usual Monday lunch blog as I have a lunchtime meeting tomorrow.)

On a brief walk around the neighbourhood today, I told Paul about my idea for a community garden on a vacant, grassy lot. He urged me to write a post about it, and given that I have a few other related issues to bring up, I decided to split it over a few posts.

Vacant lot 1st view

Brown at the time of this photo, the grasses are growing greener now that it’s spring

Continue reading Community solutions for food security and urban health, Part 1 »

September 16, 2006

Tomatoes don’t grow on trees

I’m going to be creating another blog as part of my grad project. It will be at https://www.erikarathje.ca/tomatoes/ I think. Don’t go there yet because it’s the hideous default stylesheet with no content! Anyway, I’m planning on calling it “Tomatoes don’t grow on trees”, and it will feature articles and my own commentary on my food and nutrition-related experiences.

Basically my grad project topic is exploring the role of industry & politics in determining nutrition & health. Ever wonder why eating a tomato feels like eating a pencil crayon, knowing the pencil crayon would have more flavour?

Speaking of trees and fruits, my 11.5-year-old Macintosh/Spartan apple tree finally bore fruit that I picked and sampled this afternoon. I don’t think they were quite ripe, or at least the small one that I happily ate, but it was DELICIOUS, tart but sweet, and crunchy! I’ve never liked those apples so I’m glad I enjoyed it. I touched and thanked the tree, and graciously said goodbye to its browning, leaning grandeur as it may not survive the winter. My mother gave it a good shook at some point (trying to push it over, I was informed today!), which she says shocked it into bearing fruit. (You can also give a wisteria a death threat that will make it bloom.) It gave 5 or 6 and I ended up with 3 in the end. Mom says that it’s a sign it’s going to die. 🙁 But, I planted it from seed, and it was a good tree. It gave me its final (parting) gifts. Thank you, old friend.

I don’t think I can bear the picture and thought of my dad taking a chainsaw to it and slicing its trunk and limbs. I think that… I should like a piece of it made into something, even if it’s just a 1″-thick ring that I can put on the wall or something. I think, though, that that would make me very sad… knowing it was part of a living tree once, MY tree. If we can use its branches and trunk as much as we can and make something from it, grant it some honour, I’ll be grateful.

June 27, 2006

it’s alive! and well

I wrote recently about my pink gerbera being on its last legs. Well turns out it must have just gotten too hot in the windowsill, oh, and I drowned it by accident, so I gave it some breathing room and am keeping it away from the heat on my desk. (The other two aren’t as picky, humph.) As it turned out, that was just what it needed (along with some plant food), and now it has FIVE new leaves! (*Edit June 29: make that seven!) Four appeared pretty much at once. I think they came up while we were out of town for a few days. A fifth appeared a few days ago and is growing quickly. At my man’s advice (quite the plant lover he is; I’m impressed!) I snipped off the three droopy leaves that hadn’t recovered, and I think in the act of doing so I accidentally pulled out a new leaf. NOOO! So I stuck it back in the earth in the hopes that it would root itself. I’m sure it’s not even worth a try but whatever. I’ve had miracles happen before. Anyway one of the new shoots is growing so fast that it has overtaken the oldest new one! (from before it started losing leaves) So I’m rather happy at its success. This weekend I’ll repot it and will probably have to spray insecticide on it as well. It seems to have mites or some other near-microscopic insect. The orange gerbera had outgrown its pot when we bought it so it needs a new home too. I can only carry so much on the bus, though, so I think that one may have to wait unless I can borrow some dirt. I should have bought a plastic pot for it as the blue one doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, and I should have bought an extra saucer for the big one. Whoops.

I figure even if that vine in the living room survives, its green limbs are so sparse it’s not worth keeping. I’d move it to the office where it would get more light (I think that’s the main problem) if I didn’t think it would SHED EVERYWHERE. Sigh.

it’s cheering up now

my gerbera in all its glory, last summer

photo time!

these were taken on Father’s day, June 18

my apple tree has apples! at last!!! i planted it from seed in the spring of 1995.

my mother’s daisies

all by its lonesome, a heron on the beach at Cates Park

i wonder if it knew we were there, looking at it

looking through a gap in the trees for a better view

since we got our red gerbera, we’ve also bought a dracaena marginata, a pink african violet, a small tropical vine, and this orange gerbera, photographed today in its complimentary blue pot (along with a cutting of our other vine, which is dying).

our dracaena

June 12, 2006

poor plant!

my gerbera looks like it’s dying, so i brought it over to my plant expert, mom. supposedly gerberas don’t like the west window and being too close to it is like an oven. i remember it used to wilt with too much heat. it obviously wasn’t dehydrated. most of its leaves wilted and turned brown. i also accidentally drowned it… will be checking the soil dampness with finger from now on… though i may not have to because it’s probably going to live on my desk from now on (if it lives!) so it won’t wilt up on the windowsill. the mini gerbera so far is doing fine, though. i did notice a few bits of the palm had fried to a crisp, though. they must have poked through the blinds when they were closed on a hot afternoon.

the gerbera needs to be repotted as its roots are poking out the bottom… which was in another pot with no holes so the poor thing was sitting in about a 1/4″ of water for god knows how long. it seems to be perking up now, though. i discovered a severed flower bud in the pot though, and i don’t know how long it’s been there, but *sniff*.

i’m rather attached to it, which people don’t understand, but it’s my plant and i love it. it has featured in artwork as well. (colour has been altered in the process.)

if this one dies, i’m going to buy another one. i’ve had it for a year, given to me with meaning. he says it’s about what it means, not the plant itself, but i do rather like the plant. it yields gorgeous flowers. for now i can only hope it will survive long enough to repot it soon and then flourish, but i think that’s it for flowers this year! maybe i’ll buy another one anyway or get some cut flowers.

poor thing.