Fact: I enjoy gardening. If you don't like gardening, this might not be for you.
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Living in Toronto is a challenge for my gardening. Each new place I live, the rules change. My garden is pretty shady. My best garden was in Windsor, Ontario. If you look at the gardening zone map, I was in a bizarre microclimate. Those were the bumper crop days.
I have had to change and adapt to each new space. Much like nature, each location is unique; sun, wind, soil, critters, etc. With less sun, my soil doesn't warm up & turbo-charge growth. My garden gets full sun from noon until 3 pm. There is a monster maple tree, the trunk is about 1.5m - an old Toronto tree that should probably be cut. It's a softwood maple - if it was hardwood it would be much smaller and stronger.
My garden is small - a triangle about 5m x 3m. With poor conditions, I have turned it into a random spice, onion and lettuce factory. Lettuce doesn't do well with direct sun, it bolts and goes to flower. If it does bolt, I let it go to seed. Some say bolted lettuce leaves are too bitter, but I eat them anyways - I rough it with my roughages.
I have 10 different species of lettuce. 3 different species of onion and also a new garlic patch. My garden is a mess, everything grows everywhere. It self-seeds itself, so I let nature take its care of itself. I pull out the bad weeds and let whatever is left do its thing. I also have a rose bush, a single iris, and some lupins.
I have replanted my green onion root off-cuts, same with my celery hearts, fennel cores, lettuce cores, sweet potato bits, and even my fresh oregano bits. I was up to about 40 green onion plants at peak-onion. I cut off the older bits and leave the remained of the green onion to keep growing. I also transplanted dandelions to munch on. One person said "That's not a garden.", but I know is and said nothing. I pity that fool.
My spice garden is all grown up. I have 2 mature sage bushes, 4 patches of chives, 3 patches of oregano and dill all over. This summer I gave up on planting my basil in the garden and chose to try it in pots. I theorized that the thermodynamics of single pots would boost root temperature, which boosts plant growth rate. This year I had stunning results - I still feel proud.
I decided to use some flower pots I found on trash day in the spring. My neighbourhood is prime for picking. High Park has excellent trash. I collected 4 large tree pots and tried growing my basil from seed my first time. I looked at the instructions and like any intelligent male threw them away. I have been sprouting for years, so I soaked my seed before planting. When the white root tip was exposed on a few seeds, I sowed one small pack of seeds per pot.
After sprouting, each pot was clogged with tiny seedlings - I let nature take its course. I picked the 2-3 week weak seedlings and put them in my salads. I must admit, this summer I made the best salads of my life. With all my greens, I took my salad game to the next level. I found that basil and dill added great flavour. Next year is going to better!
I used most of my basil for fresh pesto*. I also have been mixing in other greens into my pesto, but that's a secret I just can't talk about in this blog. This year I made about 6-7L of pesto. My basil plants turned out to be monsters! After thinning out the weaker plants, each pot was left with about 15 mature plants. They were not overcrowded but seems they supported each other with their intertwined branches. I would prune them to only take off the young leaves and leave two tiny leaf sprouts to double up the production. If you prune them correctly, they don't go to seed quickly.
These plants were very thirsty. Without full watering every other day they would wilt quickly. Each pot would drink about 10L every two days. Now they are dead. The frost ended their chapter for this year. I let some of them go to seed, so I have next years plan underway.
Trying new things can get great results, or it can be a complete failure. Without trying new things, you will never discover a better way. I tried something new this summer. I am waiting for the spring results - my green thumbs are crossed.
I put my garden to sleep the other day - covered it with 30cm of fall leaves. I saw that a few lettuce seedlings have already sprouted and will now be sleeping until spring. My onions, garlic and chives are all covered up with leaves as well. My lettuce this spring was amazing. I didn't expect these plants to survive, but they did!
I wonder what will sprout next year and what shape my 2016 garden will take. One thing is for sure, I am dreaming of my fresh pesto already!
* - I use almonds and cashews for my pesto instead of pine nuts. Roast them a bit first!