Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Need Help to be a Locavore?

We all know that eating food grown close to home is good for the local economy and the environment.  Often, the food is better because it is harvested only hours before it is purchased.  When I shop at the big name grocery store (OK, I shop at No Frills) I look for produce that is Canadian.  But my family doesn't even come close to being true locavores, and the 100-mile diet is not even on my radar screen.

In January I read the book Locavore by Sarah Elton.  She's a Toronto journalist and her book is about the local-food movement in Canada.  Among other topics, she tells about the resurgence of the family farm in New Brunswick and the efforts of chefs in British Columbia to source local foods for their menus.  After reading it I decided to find out what was going on here in Toronto in the name of being a locavore.

I Googled "locavore garden Toronto" and somehow I ended up here, at The Locavore's Garden.  This website belongs to Steve Biggs, a writer and horticulturalist in Toronto who offers gardening advice to novice-would-be-vegetable-growers.  I've been growing vegetables in my backyard for the last 5 years, but I've never had much of a harvest, so I decided it might be time for some professional advice.

Steve came over for an hour this week.  We explored my yard and I explained that my lack of success in previous years was, I assumed, primarily due to extensive shade throughout most of the day.  Steve had a solution for that:  maximize the rails of the deck by using them to support crops like cucumbers and tomatoes.  He also suggested affixing some containers to the roof of our shed which is the sunniest spot in the yard.  He asked about my gardening priorities and goals.  I said that I wanted vegetables that are easy to preserve, like parsley, basil and beans.  I said that my favourite vegetable is spinach and he suggested swiss chard as a practical, easier-to-grow alternative.

Steve brought soil and seeds and since it was a sunny day we used the driveway as a planting station and he helped my kids to plant seeds for indoor germination:  celery leaf, leeks, parsley and peppers.  He has a young family too and he had great tips for how to involve the kids in gardening.  We created a little greenhouse in the furnace room (it's a garbage bag over the little pots) and I have been faithfully checking and watering every few days.  He gave me an e-book about starting seeds indoors that is practical and easy to follow.

I was already pretty impressed by how much I learned from Steve in just 1 hour, but then a few days later he sent me a 10-page e-book full of advice and ideas specifically regarding my garden with pictures of different areas of my backyard and suggestions for each location.  With this information, I can confidently plant seeds and seedlings in the spring and I may finally end up with a successful harvest.  I can hardly wait!
Do you want to grow vegetables in Toronto but you aren't sure how to get started?  I highly recommend the services of Steve Biggs  as a Gardening Coach.  Imagine if even 10 people follow this link and contact Steve to get them started growing their own food in Canada's biggest city!

To get a personal visit from Steve, go here.  To read some of Steve's gardening articles, go here.

Let's grow some vegetables, Toronto!