Now Or Never

This couple grows giant veggies in their Toronto apartment

Luke Melnyk and Desiree Asanger are taking urban gardening to the extreme - by growing giant vegetables inside their Toronto apartment.
Luke Melnyk, Desiree Asanger and Desiree's son Denim show off their giant vegetables at the 2015 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. (Carolyn Wu)

It's still almost a year away, but Luke Melnyk and Desiree Asanger are already preparing for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair — the annual showcase of the best in farming and agriculture in Canada. 

Melnyk is part of the Giant Vegetable Growers' Association of Ontario, and every year the couple competes for bragging rights and prizes for their massive vegetables. Their speciality is giant leeks, but this year they're also venturing into giant cabbages.

Melnyk says it's their best year yet. 

"Right now [the cabbages] are maybe 15, maybe 18 inches across. By the time they're done, they'll be five feet across. The heads will be the size of beach balls!"

A plants-eye view inside Luke Melnyk's and Desiree Asanger's grow-tent. (Acey Rowe)

To grow giant vegetables you might assume Melnyk and Asanger live on a farm, or at least have a house with a big garden. But no — the couple, along with a child and a dog, live in a three bedroom apartment in Toronto. 

One of their bedrooms is taken up entirely by gardening equipment, fishing gear, and a massive, humming grow tent. This is where they start their plants: giant leeks, giant cabbages, and hot peppers for own their special line of hot sauce

Host Ify Chiwetelu checks out Luke and Desiree's indoor vegetable grow tent. (Acey Rowe / CBC)
The tent is four feet across by six feet high, with hot sun lamps counterbalanced by whirring fans to make sure the vegetables don't overheat. Inside the tent are shelves upon shelves of plants sprouting from disposable cups. 

But the plants can't stay inside the apartment the whole year — come May, Melnyk and Asanger relocate their young vegetables to a garden plot they rent from the City of Toronto, a 10 minute drive from their house.

Melnyk and Asanger invited Now or Never's Ify Chiwetelu on a tour of their indoor farm and revealed what it takes to grow giant vegetables. Find out what the number one question they get asked is, hear about the strangest response they've ever had to their hobby, and get inspired to take on your own indoor-planting adventure by clicking "listen" above. 

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