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.
“…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.
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.
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!
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.