I apologise for the delay in today’s Fructose Friendly Friday post. I intended to share a low FODMAP/gluten free crumpet recipe but – unfortunately – it wasn’t quite ready to share. Hopefully next week! Anyway, I had to whip up something quickly and spring seemed the perfect time to talk about gardening.
Last year I was able to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – grow my own veggies. For the previous three years, I have been growing my own herbs in pots on our balcony, which was thankfully south facing (equivalent to north facing in Australia), so it got a lot of sun. It was great to be able to grow our own herbs but this year, we have a garden! Well, more like a patch than a full-on yard but it’s a start.
I wanted to grow my own veggies for a few reasons:
- Price: organic veggies are expensive, as are some non-organic versions, such as zucchini and cherry tomatoes.
- Quality: *fingers crossed* our home grown veggies will be better than store bought.
- Control: even organic vegetables use pesticides, some of which have not been thoroughly tested (they just need to be deemed “natural”) and many are reported to be less effective than normal pesticides, so more has to be used; if we grow our own, we can be completely pesticide free. Please note, I am not anti-organic, I just wish that the organic industry was held to the same standards as the regular industry that uses synthetic pesticides. You’ll never experience judgement here for what sort of produce you choose to consume.
- The experience: hopefully one day we will have a backyard big enough to grow most to all of our fruit and vegetable needs, as we plan to have a completely edible garden.
So, now we have a little yard. What next?
Firstly, we had to move in! We didn’t get started on our garden for two whole months, as we had to fix up inside the place – previous residents had left holes in the dry wall that needed spackling/painting and clearly had little darlings that were fond of wall art. Then we drove down to San Francisco to meet my parents for a road trip back up the west coast, which had some spectacular views.
My mum loves to garden (so much that we drove up to the Butchart Gardens – pictured below – in Victoria, B.C.) and had been telling me for months that she would be giving us a Backyard Blitz while she was staying with us. Awesome.
Prepare your garden beds
It really was a huge do-over; I didn’t take a before photo – in retrospect, I should have – but the place was essentially a grass patch with three garden beds full of rubble, a hose with holes in it, decomposing flower pots and a random butcher’s knife that had belonged to previous tenants. It made me angry just looking at it – and a little concerned about the knife, though the scariest thing to happen was the lawn-mowers leaving the gate open, which meant the dogs almost got out.
We spent an entire day with the shovel and rake pulling out the weeds and the weed mat (awful things) and discovering that we only had about 40 cm of soil depth and the rest was building rubble that had been thrown in to raise the gardens to the second story, which was our lower living area, as the garage is at ground level, underneath it all. Your to-do list may differ but ours included:
- Pull out as many of the rocks in the soil as possible, so we could use them in flower pots for drainage and for decoration. I’m not going to turn my nose up at free river rocks!
- Get rid of the weed mat – not only do they mess with drainage but they stop the plants’ roots from getting deep enough to really stabilise and get at nutrients.
- Weed like crazy and get rid of the chunks of cement that were close enough to the surface to get in our way.
- Build the garden beds up with a decent soil and compost/fertiliser, so the plants have a chance at surviving.
We did all of the above for the two side garden beds, which were empty. The rear garden bed we just pulled out the surface rocks and weeded, as there were already some box hedges planted and, considering that we’re still renting, we couldn’t pull out the plants that belonged to the owners.
Plan your garden
What will you grow?
What do you want to get out of your garden, aside from pesticide free produce?
To narrow down which fruit and veg that we would actually grow, I did some research about the climate in and around Seattle, as well as the soil type. Seattle doesn’t have a huge growing season for summer crops, so I had to be on top of this in April. We used the following criteria to decide on what we’d grow:
- Expensive at the supermarket.
- Doesn’t last long in the fridge.
- Suited to Seattle’s climate.
- Fast growing, so they’ll be ready in Seattle’s short growing season.
- Hardy enough to survive the Pacific Northwest’s climate.
- Dog-friendly – so sadly rhubarb was out.
- We need to eat a lot of them.
- FODMAP (or Nat) friendly, see list here.
If you choose to grow your own fruit and veg, you’ll need to do some research for your own area.
Where will you grow it?
Unfortunately, our back yard is north facing, so it doesn’t get full sun. If we could pick the perfect spot, it would have:
- Adequate sunlight.
- Well-drained, nutrient rich soil.
- Sheltered from the wind.
- Close to a water source.
- In a built up planter box, rather than rows – saves both space and your back.
But, that wasn’t the case, so we had to be realistic. Considering that flowering plants require lots of sunlight, we chose:
- Green leaf lettuce
- Coriander (cilantro)
- Oat grass (for the dogs to nibble on)
And because why the hell not…
- Cherry tomatoes
Start your garden
To combat our short growing season in Seattle, I sprouted the seeds indoors, in front of a warm, sunny window in our kitchen.
When the weather was warm enough to transplant the seedlings, I put them in the planter box that Ev built for me. Side note – we’ve since moved house, so the lucky people that buy our old rental will inherit it. It was sad to leave it but there was no way we were going to get it into the U-haul.
- Feed and water your garden as required. Be careful not to over-water it, as excess moisture can lead to rotting stems and dead plants.
- Do NOT over-plant an area of garden bed. I got a little greedy and then we had to transplant our cherry tomato plants halfway through the growing season. Though, to be fair, my last two attempts at growing cherry toms hasn’t been half as successful and the rate of growth of these two plants shocked both of us.
- Get any support systems (stakes and cages) in place BEFORE you need them. See above.
- Prune/maintain as required.
- Cherry tomatoes – very successful. We didn’t buy tomatoes for 5 months.
- Lettuce – also did really well. Best lightly sprayed with water and refrigerated for a day before use, to help it crisp up after the summer sun.
- Chard – didn’t survive the seedling stage. There might have been a problem with the seeds, as everything else was fine.
- Carrots – showers, not growers. They tasted alright but were small underneath.
- Zucchinis – the plants were prolific flower-ers but they didn’t grow any successful fruit. They zucchinis would reach about 10 cm long and then begin to decompose. I was really disappointed.
- Strawberries – the squirrels really enjoyed these. We didn’t get to taste any, as the little buggers would eat them before they were ripe enough to pick. At least it provided the dogs with some entertainment.
- Herbs – all did pretty well in the pots/garden bed.
This year we probably won’t have much more than herbs, as we are heavily DIY renovating the inside of our new house, as well as turning the (very poorly sunlit) back yard into something nicer than a weed pit. The front yard gets a lot of sun, so potentially could be the site of a future veggie patch, if we get the front fence up. We already know that the neighbourhood has resident bunnies, though, so it might end up being a feeding ground for them instead of us.
So give it a go. Get gardening and let me know what you’re growing!