Growing your own


By Elizabeth Bridge, CBC Digital Archives writer

The snow's all gone in Toronto, and that's got me casting a critical eye over what passes for a garden in my backyard. I'd really like to go beyond boxes of herbs, lettuce and feeble cherry tomatoes this year, and not just because growing one's own vegetables is suddenly in vogue.

Michelle Obama breaks ground on the White House garden. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, FILE)

I grew up eating fresh garden vegetables and berries all summer long, the products of my mother's daily labours in our garden. She grew up on a farm, and growing her own food is just something she's always done. During our annual visits to Winnipeg we enjoy her ultra-local produce, though our trips are regrettably never long enough to encompass both strawberry and raspberry season. My toddler was so delighted by Grandma's fresh peas last summer, she ate them right out of the shell.

Health, great flavour, saving a few bucks and eating locally are some of the reasons I want to grow more of our own food this year. I know we can get all those things from the offerings at the farmer's market, and we do. But the farmer's market can't provide family memories and nostalgia. Plus, there's something satisfying about eating what your own hands have tended, and those are the things I want my daughter to experience.

However, our yard is small and it's home to a large apple tree that, while lovely and fruitful, spreads out a wide canopy whose shade discourages any sun-loving plant. So as the the days get longer and the planting season creeps up, I'm trying to figure out what edibles I can grow in a small space with little sun.

Failing that, what will thrive in movable boxes besides herbs, lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes? The Canadian Press has tips for new gardeners, but I'm a little beyond the abject-beginner stage and look forward to tips from experienced gardeners.

Do you have any tips on good websites or book titles that will help my garden grow? Have you had luck with cultivating veggies in the shade? I'd love to hear your advice.