Gav Martell: He’s in the Kitchen


Backyard Vegetable Garden: Act I, Scene I

A First-time Gardener's Tale

Last year my wife Ali and I had the opportunity to visit Ireland on a culinary-themed trip. One of our stops was at the Gort Na Nain farm where Ultan and Lucy hosted us at their B&B. Our dinner that night was something to behold: dish after delicious dish of vegetarian food cooked right there on their farm. As conversation turned to my own food writing and cooking, Ultan was confounded as to why I didn't have a vegetable garden of my own at home. I had no good answer. And so, on that October evening I promised Ultan that this year I'd finally get off my butt and plant a garden.

Fortunately, I have boards and brackets from my kids' skating rink that I build each year. So coming up with a frame was really simple. I decided on a modest 4x8' garden for this year, with hopes to expand it next year. 

A trip to a nearby gardening centre and I was on my way home with 23 bags of soil, and 4 bags of compost..... A lot of schlepping later a garden was born.

I decided to plant vegetables I knew we would eat regularly. The lady at the garden centre had wisely told me there's not much sense in growing things you don't eat. 

So far, so good. I covered my garden during the recent frost, and nothing has died yet. So there's hope.

I've started with 4 kinds of pepper, 3 kinds of lettuce, 2 kinds of tomato, leeks, chives, onions, basil, beets, curry, rosemary, and Italian parsley. It's been a real treat to walk out into the yard at dinner time to get some fresh herbs to finish off the dishes I'm cooking. I can't wait until we get to harvest some of the peppers and tomatoes. 
I'm also really looking forward to tending the garden and vegetables with the kids. They are so excited to be growing vegetables they love. It's such an important teaching tool. I'm a strong believer that educating kids on where their food comes from enables them to make wise food choices in their day-to-day lives.
What about you — do you have a backyard vegetable garden? What do you grow? Any tips for this newbie?