The Family Garden Project


29 May The Family Garden Project

The Family Garden Project - The Messy Baker

Who are these people and what on earth are they doing? No doubt this is what neighbours wondered all last year as they saw a great circle of grass tilled, newspapers laid down, earth piled up and various people walking about the mess pointing, shrugging and scratching their heads.

After a year drawing, planning, redrafting and wild guesses, the family vegetable patch came to be this past week. A neighbour took the bird’s-eye shot (above)  from her second-story window. In case you’re curious, I’m  the one the far right crouched down. The ridiculously large green thing on my head is a gardening hat. I like to think it makes me look like Audrey Hepburn. No one else sees this.

Christie Daughter #3 planting marigolds

This four-sectioned, three-generation garden plot has prompted more people to walk their dogs than the warm weather. Almost everyone who passed by stopped to comment with a variation on, “We wondered what you were going to do.” Given the flower gardens on the other side of the house, no one expected vegetables.

Marigolds rim each quadrant

This is all a huge experiment. The wedge-shaped plots are not particularly practical, but my father wanted something attractive. Since he did the lion’s share of the work, he gets his way. And so, The Extended Christie Family takes crop circles to a whole new level with this garden-in-the-round.

The aim? To see  a) if anything will grow, b) if anything that grows will produce an edible crop and c) which variety of squash/basil/tomato/pole bean/beet/carrot/unidentified vegetable we like best. Some of us expect to make meals with the bounty, but I’m making no such claims. I’m not giving Murphy any more ammo than he already has.

After debating the pros and cons of sharing the entire patch, we decided it would work best if each family unit took a quadrant. With my parents having three daughters the math worked out nicely. I guess we never did learn to share all that well.

As of this morning, the entire patch is planted. Each of us did our own thing. And a good thing, too. Mom has radishes, Daughter #1 has beets, Daughter #3 has parsnips. I’m not a fan of any of these, but then again, my heat-phobic sisters won’t be sneaking off with my jalepeno peppers. Other than tomatoes, the only thing our gardens have in common is a rim of marigolds. And curious passersby.

My Garden Quadrant

Do marigolds really keep bugs away? We’ll find out.

With no room to grow seedlings myself, my garden got a bit of help from some local nurseries. I have various kinds of basil — lettuce leaf, Thai, lime and lavender (yes, lavender basil!)

Lettuce leaf basil in between the tomatoes.

More marigolds

Mixed greens for salad.

Heirloom tomato plant. Borg designation 1 of 4.

Four different kinds of heirloom tomatoes — yellow, red, green and black — are planted with the various basils in between. I even dropped in a jalepeno pepper plant for fun. I dearly wanted Padron chilies but couldn’t find a local source.

My watermelon and zucchini seedlings are ready to romp at a moment’s notice. I don’t care about the zucchini itself as much as the flowers. I’ve always wanted to try stuffed blossoms and this is the summer I do it. (Note to self: Add this to my Culinary Bucket List.)

I’ve no idea if you can eat watermelon flowers but between Google and Mother Nature I’ll figure something out.

In a fit of enthusiasm, I bought organic heritage seeds this winter, forgetting I have no place to start them indoors. Fortunately, these can be planted directly into the soil. Two kinds of pole beans — Maxibel and Fotex — have yet to sprout, but I’ve got twisty metal spires ready and waiting for when they do. I’m also still anxiously awaiting shoots from my borage, Black Futsu and Nutterbutter squashes, as well as my Cosmic Purple Carrots.

So that’s the plan for the summer.

I will water. I will weed. I will wait.

What are you growing?

No Comments
  • Babette
    Posted at 15:26h, 29 May Reply

    What an event!! I have small boxes on my third story patio…and something loves the basil as much as I do…I am NOT a happy camper…I have an assortment of herbs, including marjoram, which I don’t like, but it came with the mixed basket of herb seedlings…Basil, lettuces, sugar peas, beans, chard, and, as an experiment, Brussels sprouts because I love them…I figure the delicate lettuces will bold once the heat sets in, so I’ll have to have the beans, peans, chard and sprouts to fill in..I MUST get a couple of tomato plants going…

    It’s hard to stop once I start…

    And it’s all about hope at this stage of the game..

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:16h, 29 May Reply

      That’s quite a garden you have! I agree. It’s hard to stop. I would have added golden beets and more peppers if room permitted. I’ve never tried Brussels sprouts but imagine homegrown would be superior to the supermarket ones. You can pick them when very small and tender.

      Sorry about the basil. That’s one of the down sides about growing your own herbs. I quite like marjoram and would happily take it off your hands but there is a small question of distance on that matter.

      Here’s to hope in the garden. May yours flourish!

  • Robin Smar
    Posted at 17:19h, 29 May Reply

    Great synopsis of a thousand garden conversations and plans. I’m glad reality took over somewhere along the line, and we didn’t really plant everything we talked about!! Obviously I’ll have to get a decent gardening outfit, in case our photographer friend snaps again, and to wow the passersby.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:18h, 29 May Reply

      You’re just jealous of my hat!

      Yes, we were a bit ambitious in our plans. I think this year will teach us a lot — and I’m hoping in a good way. At the very least we will have a story to tell. I’m hoping for a bumper crop of beans AND a story, but am trying to be realistic.

  • Judith Rutty Godfrey
    Posted at 20:05h, 29 May Reply

    Not Maxibel beans but it’s close neighbor, Masai Bush Haricot Vert from Fedco Seeds in Waterville, ME. They carry oodles of heirloom varieties and are SO much less expensive than other mailorder outfits. Try the Mayfair peas, they are fantastic, and Fedco is the only place I know that carries them. Three pods in a cluster, 8-10 peas per pod now who can beat that? I’m just happy to have the garden finally planted! Kudos to all who plant!!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 22:45h, 29 May Reply

      Oh, Andrew loves peas. Do they ship to Canada? I’ll go check them out.

      Congratulations on getting the garden planted. I know it’s a challenge to find the time and coordinate with the weather, but the results are so worth it.

      Off to find Mayfair peas…

  • Morag Currie
    Posted at 09:22h, 30 May Reply


    Good luck with you new “Labour of Love”. It sonds like your family is having a lot of fun in development and plan of this new venture.

    My husband John and I are also in the planting stage of our Veggie Garden. We have decided to try the native planting practice of planting Corn, beans and squash together.

    I can say that yes the Marigolds do work. There is also a ‘Garlic spray” that is easy to make that works wonders and best of all is safe for edibles. I found it in the 1st ed. of the “Greener Thumb” by Mark Cullen.

    Await to here of your bounty!

    Morag Currie

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 22:38h, 31 May Reply

      Oh, the Three Sisters! I was tempted to try that but I don’t think our earth is fertile enough for corn. Maybe next year. I’d love to hear how yours turns out.

      Thanks for confirming the marigold’s role in the garden. I plant garlic with my roses and it helps, but haven’t tried the spray. I’ll give Mark Cullen’s garlic spray a try. He’s GREAT.

  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 10:44h, 30 May Reply

    WHAT a wonderful project. There is NOTHING like gardening. I have garden fever at this time of year – always. What garden zone are you in? I am in zone 3 so it is a very short very cool zone… we have hot days – but not many. Thus my unquenchable thirst for gardening. Season is too short. Nothing better than sharing this with the ones you love.

  • Natalie B
    Posted at 16:52h, 30 May Reply

    I, for one, am jealous of your hat and jalapeños. I got a late start this year so Juan Flamme tomatoes, spinach, mesclun mix, and artichokes are all I have. I have a black thumb so there will be lots of finger crossing!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 22:51h, 31 May Reply

      Artichokes? Oh, I hadn’t thought of them. Next year. I hope. I have the feeling this year will inform me a lot about the soil, light and my attention span.

      Like you, I’m crossing my fingers. If your crop doesn’t thrive, blame the weather! If it does, take the credit. That’s my plan.

  • jolene
    Posted at 14:52h, 13 June Reply

    We love Fortex green beans! I hope you do too!

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