One day a few weeks ago while riding in the car I noticed a couple of handmade signs on the side of the busy city street, that said ‘Garden Center’ and had an arrow pointing somewhere behind the buildings.
Then last week, burning with curiosity to see this pop-up garden center I suggested that we fore-go our usual annual shlepping of small herb plants home by foot from Kensington Market, and instead drive over and see what was hidden in that mysterious niche.
The turn off of the traffic filled street took us to a narrow lane-way, (from Dufferin, north of Queen, on the west side, for any Toronto people looking for it). We drove along this for a minute or so, keeping our eyes peeled for plants. Then suddenly the lane opened up to a surprising small industrial park back there. And placed out in the parking lot behind a building that appeared to usually sell construction supplies was, an excellent variety of very healthy plants.
It was a Tuesday when we went, so I didn’t expect it to be overly busy, but I also didn’t expect to be completely alone out there. In alone, I mean there was nobody in sight, not even someone watching over the lush array of beautiful plants.
So Nick went into the building and found some men working on something construction related. We were told to just put what we wanted on a rolling cart and someone would be out to ring up the sale.
For years the only edible plants that I have ever grown myself were a variety of herbs. And I’ve only ever done so in a potted garden rather than putting anything into the ground.
Then last year I added some lettuces which we really found fun to have, (although truthfully, we could have gotten a bunch of freshly grown lettuce easily at the vegetable market that would have yielded the same amount as did my plants over the whole summer.) But, if you’re considering growing lettuces in pots, go for it. Once you’ve transplanted your starter plants (I don’t grow from seed), they basically just take care of themselves. All you have to do it water them regularly. They’re easy and they look pretty too!
So having had success expanding my repertoire from just herbs, this year in addition to lettuces, I decided to once again add a new ‘crop’, and selected two varieties of Swiss Chard.
Want to know what herbs I planted? These are all ones I’ve grown for years so can attest to their delicious flavour and ease of growing in pots.
-Oregano : I went with two starter plants this year because it’s a favourite and gets used up, so I doubled the quantity. Both were put into the same pot.
-Basil : like with the oregano I got two plants but I put each into it’s own pot. Once I get things organized out there I might use these two matching pots as a decorative element. There are lots of kinds of basil but after trial and error over the years, we prefer the large leaf variety which is what we got.
-Parsley : we got two plants but two different kinds, flat leaf and curly leaf.
-Mint : we went with spearmint this year. mmm Mojitos.
In past years I always did a pot of Sage too, but we hardly use it so passed on it this year. It grows really well though, if you want to try some yourself. We don’t bother with dill or coriander although I’ve tried them in the past, but found they both bolted (which means to grow way too fast, turn to seed, and then die), so don’t do them anymore. On the lettuce front, same goes for Arugula. And last year I tried some Savory but that was like planting $2 into a pot of earth and waving goodbye to it. It died right away.
To plant your herbs: Select a pot that’s about 8 to 12 inches across (as small pots = more chance for your plant to dry out. I used a few that were smaller because I ran out of larger ones, but will be potting them up soon). It is important that there is a hole (or holes) in the bottom of the pot for drainage. First lay a scrap of newspaper into the pot covering the holes before adding your soil. This will keep the soil from running out the holes but still allow the pots to drain properly. Then add some potting soil (that you buy at the garden center in bags) to the bottom of your pot. Remove your starter plant, and the soil it came in, from its little pot by squeezing and turning it upside down catching it with your other hand. Press it down into the soil and fill in with more soil, but only to the same level that the soil originally came to. Press down and around so there are no air pockets, and then water well until you see water come out of the drainage holes.
Then just plop them in a spot that gets at least two hours of sunshine a day and keep them watered. Note: if you have a wooden deck, do not put the post directly on the wood without a saucer or try underneath, as it will rot the wood. (Trust me, I know this from experience ;/ … it will ruin your deck.) If you have some decorative pots that don’t have drainage holes, just plant the herbs into another pot that fits inside your decorative one. You may have to lift your plant and drain the water that collect in the bottom from time to time though.
So between all the rain, I finally got all the plants transplanted yesterday. I still haven’t set everything up nicely out there yet but hope to get it looking all nice and homey soon.
A note about that crazy vine out there … I planted one small plant hoping to cover an unsightly bit of fence the first summer we were here, and to say that it was happy with where I placed it is an understatement. That single plant has now grown to surround our whole deck in beautiful greenery (and has tried its best to also grace our neighbours with its goodness, much to their chagrin … they are not fans of Mightly Vine, so I have to keep it trimmed on their sides.) You (read ‘I’) never know what will do well in the garden and what will not. I certainly never expected this to happen. I was so new at gardening back then that I have no idea what the vine even is but it gets little berries on it that turn purple in the fall. Nick tasted one at his own risk last year and said they were very bitter. Anyone know what it is?
First harvest …
Best helper in all the land …
So there is the state of our outdoor living space at this moment in time. Have I motivated you to try growing your own herbs and/or lettuces in pots?