This is a guest post written by my multi-talented friend Jessica. Jessica is a home maker extraordinaire (among many other talents) and her amazing garden makes me green with envy. Jessica, her almost equally awesome husband and their two beautiful young children reside in “Friendly Manitoba”
My four-year-old daughter went to visit my mom last week and helped her plant some annuals in the front flower bed. She watched as her grandmother pulled pansies from their plastic pots, mounded the dirt around their tender roots, and watered them deeply. Then, she asked a question that made my mom burst into laughter: “Oma, why are you planting things you can’t eat?”
You see, she comes by it honestly. At home we’ve planted plenty of things, but the emphasis is rarely on flowers. I have a bit of a black thumb when it comes to aesthetic plants, likely because I just don’t care as much about them. Instead, I’ve found some kind of marvellous world that I can sink my teeth into, literally… the edible landscape.
My husband and I fell in love with our property when we bought it. It was beautifully landscaped with a huge backyard area, perennial gardens and a gorgeous fenced-in rock garden with a giant fish pond. We dreamed of lazy Saturday afternoons sipping lemonade by the pond, and strolls through vast gardens surrounded by bees and butterflies. Four years and two kids later, the perennial (read: weed) gardens had been taken out (replaced with low-maintenance mulch and shrubs), and the rock garden was an armpit-high forest of weeds and that once-idyllic pond seemed like nothing more than a murky death-trap. Our dreams had been far from practical. Sitting by the pond was terrible and hot, there was no shade at all, and any chance of relaxation was quickly eaten up trying to keep the area clean and free of weeds, so we gave up. It festered for a while, and we dealt with it by ignoring it. It was an eyesore (thankfully surrounded by fence). I had struggled to keep a vegetable garden for a few summers, but that too was difficult, as the area the previous owners had designated for vegetables didn’t get much sun during the heat of summer.
The sunniest spot in our yard was an awful eyesore.
It was time to give up those dreams we had made, and use our property to suit our ideas, rather than letting our property dictate our lives. So, we did it. We bit the bullet, filled in the pond (transferring all the fish to a grateful neighbour), and built our garden. It was perfect. The tomatoes loved the heat and sun, and I no longer had to worry about fishing a two-year-old from a 5-foot-deep pond. I became fascinated (obsessed?) with all the edible and fruit-bearing plants that could grow in our zone, and began filling in the empty spots in our landscape. At last count I believe we have over 20 different varieties of fruits and berries growing in our yard, including but not limited to: pears, apricots, sour cherries, lingon berries and blueberries. I have ginger and lemon-thyme growing in our front flower bed, and we tap our Manitoba maple trees and make maple syrup.
We grew between 300 and 400 pounds of produce last summer, a decent amount being relative newbies, and after some reading and planning , our total should be higher this year. Plus our fruit trees should be at peak production about the same time our boy hits his adolescent-eat-everything-that-isn’t-nailed-down stage.
It seems a whole lot easier to weed and water when you can carry a heavy basket of fresh summer tomatoes into the house now and then as payment for your labour. Now, if only I could figure out a way to sneak some lettuce into the front flower pots