spring into action

Building a house, lacking an internet connection and planning a wedding have kept me busy for the past year, but not too busy to garden! While my blog entries have been scarce, I have been trying to find places to plant at our house (there's a lot of building debris in our yard!), build up the soil in our garden, and find time to enjoy some of our tasty treats.


One of my favourite treats last summer was the cape gooseberries that we planted. Also known as ground cherries, they are one of my favourite garden plants, not only because they are so prolific once they start producing, but they also taste delicious in both savoury or sweet dishes and the plants are quite attractive. Plant them in borders with your flowers, in vegetable gardens, or in pots. Perfect for an urban garden that gets a lot of sun.

Buy a few plants from a local nursery or start your own from seed. They do need a long growing season, so it may be a bit late to start them, but if you have a lot of sun, you may want to give them a try!


verdant vessels

It’s time to start thinking about seed starting again. If you haven’t started seeds before, it’s amazingly satisfying to nurture your own plants from seed to garden to table. To inspire, I have some photos to share of various containers that can provide a healthy home for your little ones.

photo by melanie kramer

I prefer to buy plastic "flats" with coir pots/sections and clear plastic lids that act as a mini greenhouse. They are relatively clean and the easily-removable lids are convenient. However, if you’re not sure how much you want to invest in this seed starting thing, rest assured that plastic wrap on top of egg carton cups will work just as well. Even waxed juice containers are an option! Cut off the top and you have a container that holds water and won't easily degrade. With a permanent marker you can write on the sides to keep track of what you’ve started. Cut them fairly tall and they can accommodate the growth of larger seedlings such as tomatoes.

photo by melanie kramer

If you want to grow greens in a sunny windowsill, or a container on your deck, consider a wood or ceramic container. Ceramic is a bit cleaner and won’t soak up water, whereas wood will slowly break down over time. If using wood, be sure to avoid pressure treated wood or wood painted or protected with unknown or potentially poisonous substances. Cedar is usually best as it breaks down more slowly. In North America, you may be able to find local sources of cedar. Spruce is a good alternative. The great thing about wood?? You can design and build your own containers to whatever specifications you require (size, aesthetics, etc.).

 photo by melanie kramer 

Last year, I experimented with metal containers. They are lightweight, waterproof, and clean. I thought that I had found the perfect container for growing greens when I discovered some metal filing containers at IKEA. These were terrific - water wouldn't seep into the metal the way that it does into wood avoiding the potential of developing mould), they were lightweight and easy to handle, and they even had a spot for labels at the front! I realised that they may rust, but wasn't sure how long that would take or if it would even be a problem. Rust wasn't the only problem.

photo by melanie kramer 

While they were okay indoors, once I moved my seedlings outside, the containers gained heat that burnt the plants if they touched the edges, and, despite my diligence in punching holes in the bottom and placing the lids underneath, the water didn't seep out the edges of the lids as I had thought and after heavy rains my soil became waterlogged. And they rusted. Thus, the best metal containers that I have found are galvanized, possibly painted on the outside (to minimize heat gain), and usually made for plants, although old galvanized washtubs are also quite successful.

To learn more about starting your own seeds, particularly in southern Ontario, check out these links:

you grow girl

little city farm

Or, ask for advice at your local garden centre, hardware store, or a Seedy Saturday or Seedy Sunday event near you. (What is Seedy Saturday? Check out last year's post.) For locations and dates of Seedy Saturday events near you, check Seeds of Diversity's website: seeds.ca

Seeds of Diversity also hosts a great resource page full of links to 2011 suppliers of quality seed: seeds.ca

Enjoy and grow well!


edible education, exceptional events

A few great things:

Foodprint comes to Toronto July 31st! Discussion, design, food, planning, & more: www.foodprintproject.com/toronto/


Limited space? Try window farming! Follow a template or design your own.



Looking for fresh food from local farms? Know your farmer; KEG CSA:



Should water take a cue from the local food movement?



Looking for seeds, soil ammendments or a few late bloomers?

Urban Harvest is a great source! New location this year: www.uharvest.ca


Sustain Ontario reports on Metcalfe Foundation's Ontario's Good Food Ideas report



Great new read: City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson



edible perennials

So if you’ve started reading my blog and have wondered where the heck I am lately – Jamie and I just bought a house! This is significant because, although I will miss my garden in the sky, I will have a real backyard garden where I can cultivate both native plants, perennial edibles, and annual foodbearing plants such as tomatoes, eggplant and herbs.

I’ve just began making my list of edible perennials and, skipping nut-bearing trees, I’ve come up with a lot that I’m considering... and the list is growing! Here is the yet-to-be-edited list:

Apios americana

American Groundnut

Allium tricoccum

Wild Leeks, Ramps

Amelanchier sp.

Serviceberry/Juneberry/Saskatoon Berry

Asparagus officinalis


Matteuccia struthiopteris

Ostrich fern

Morus rubra

Red Mulberry

Nasturtium officinale 


Physalis sp.

Ground Cherry

Prunus americana

Wild Plum

Prunus serotina

Black Cherry

Prunus virginiana


Ribes americanum

Wild Black Currant

Ribes hirtellum

Smooth Gooseberry

Ribes rubrum

Northern Red Currant

Rubus ideaus


Rubus occidentalis

Black Raspberry

Sambucus canadensis

Common Elderberry

Vaccinium membranaceum

Blue Huckleberry

A lot of these do well in part shade so I can place them on the north (left) side of the yard and further under the American Chestnut trees at the back. It needs a lot of work, but the 96 year old man who moved out left rhubarb and onions in the garden, so I've already got a headstart!


our new backyard - photo by melanie kramer


go: plant a garden!

photo by melanie kramer

My tomatoes have sprouted, the basil is on its way and I’ve planted peas, arugula, radishes and mustard greens in a container on my deck. But it’s not too late if you’re just getting started! All of these vegetables and many others can still be planted, or you could consider buying plants at a nursery later in the spring.

Space can be a constraint for seed starting, but you don't need a lot of room. Just remember that those tiny seedlings will get larger so start small! We adapt our only south-facing window with a shelving unit placed in front. When we remove all of the books (in the lower foreground of the photo below) it can house numerous seedlings once they've outgrown their starter tray. 

 photo by melanie kramer

Now is the ideal time to plant some peas, get your spring greens going, cultivate some beets and radishes and start planning the rest of your garden. Even in small spaces options abound. Consider growing greens in a windowbox, strawberries in a pot, and starting tomatoes in an old juice container.