Category Archives: gardening

Purple carrots

Last week, W- told me that he’d been thinking about what house-related tasks we might try delegating. He’s been helping me learn more about delegation in my experiments with virtual assistance, and he thought it might be fun to give real-life delegation a try too. We decided that housekeeping and gardening were easy ways to get started.

I checked the Toronto Craigslist section for household services, and I came across this ad for organic vegetable gardening:

Backyard Harvesting offers a full range of customizable services from
seed to harvest to solve your backyard dilemmas and put fresh, organic
produce on your table at reasonable prices. We take care of all the
heavy lifting and you enjoy the fruits of our labour. Check out for more information.

I found a number of other gardening services, too. I asked one of my virtual assistants to send e-mail and call the services without websites, and I e-mailed the Backyard Harvesting service to set up an appointment so that we could see what the process was like.
We set up an appointment with Backyard Harvesting for this Saturday at 2.

I came home to find W- chatting with Laura, the gardener from Backyard Harvesting–a young woman with a notebook and some sheets of paper. As she was going through the list of plants she could get from her suppliers, I asked, “By the way, did you bring a portfolio?”

Laura replied, “This is my first summer, actually. I’m a student. I couldn’t find a summer job, so I made one.”


After some discussion (which mostly involved things like “Have you thought about growing heirloom plants?” “Oooh!” “Did you know carrots didn’t always come in orange? They were bred like that. You can get purple carrots and white carrots.” “Oooh!”), she filled up a page of notes and sketches. She promised to send us a plan and estimate by Wednesday.

There are other services like Under the Sun which also offer edible landscaping, and we might get other quotes. But if it all comes out similar, I wouldn’t mind supporting a Gen Y entrepreneur! =D

More gardening

We spent most of this weekend thinking about and working on our garden. Laura’s going to think of what we can do with the two 6’x7′ patches we’re planning to turn into vegetable and herb plots. I’m thinking of growing nasturtiums in the front flower boxes, which are edible and pretty.

W- and I raided Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Rona. We picked up seeds for:

  • Thai basil – to grow indoors, all year round =)
  • coriander – to be grown indoors, all year round
  • snow peas – 2-3 sowings about two weeks apart
  • zucchini – 15 cm apart, to be thinned to 45 cm
  • mustard sprouts – to be grown indoors
  • nasturtium – for the front box
  • edamame – Mmm. I love these!

So J- and I are going to work on the starter pots over the next few days. If we’re lucky, they’ll germinate over the next couple of weeks, and then we’ll start planting them in the ground.

W- and his brothers grew up helping out with their parents’ garden, and they often enjoyed the harvest. Me, I’ve played with growing things a couple of times, but I haven’t really gone into it seriously. I really appreciated growing rosemary last year, though, so now I’m ready to try more. Herbs give almost instant gratification, and the vegetable plants will come up over the next few months. Looking forward to our first harvest!


W- and I took the day off to set up our vegetable plot, with lots of great help from Laura Kalbun of Backyard Harvesting. She helped us plan the garden, pair up plants, improve the soil, and get everything sorted out. She even made nice laminated labels for us!

Planting bush beans
(photo © 2009 W. J. Young)

We removed most of the patio stones, added compost and other amendments to the soil, and made three rows of vegetable beds. We planted:

  • two varieties of strawberry plants
  • three varieties of peppers (including Chinese five-colour hot pepper), with two pepper plants each
  • two tomato plants
  • a bunch of green onions
  • two rows of cosmic purple carrots
  • two rows of radishes
  • a couple of burgundy okra seeds
  • a couple of six weeks bush beans
  • two rows of Bloomsdale spinach
  • a fair amount of Easter egg radish
  • a few sugar baby watermelon seeds
  • a few hearts of gold melon seeds

The basil seeds I planted a few days ago are starting to come up, too. We’ll be swimming in pesto come fall. =)

We moved some of the irises to the back of the border, and I moved some of the other tomato and pepper plants in front of the new irises.

And one of the bitter melon seeds looks like it might be growing well! =)

In a way, anticipation slows time down. I can’t wait to see what the garden will grow into, and each moment seems to pass by ever so slowly. There’s a fine balance between anticipating the future and wasting time waiting for it. If gardening can help me enjoy the passage of time as well as the fullness of each moment, and if it can help me make my peace with Canada’s seasons, it’ll be well worth it!

Oh, and another thing I learned today: it’s a good idea to keep one’s mouth closed when pulling up stubborn plants… ;)


Starting our vegetable plot from Sacha Chua on Vimeo.

Garden updates

The six-week bush beans are up, and so are the carrots. The edamame I planted on a whim has germinated, too, although it hasn’t poked its nose out of the soil just yet. The spearmint is absolutely lovin’ the pot that it’s in. I’ve taken to having lots of mint tea so that the plant stays neatly within the pot. The mesclun mix I planted last week is up as well, and some of the seedlings are starting to look lettuce-y. All the strawberry plants are flowering. The bitter melon is doing well, too – so well that I’ve had to thin the ones in the pot, transplanting some of the crowded seedlings to the spot near the fence where the bitter melon will eventually grow. The creeping thyme is starting to establish itself, and has delicately purple flowers. The cat grass is growing by leaps and bounds. No hint of the cantaloupes and watermelons just yet, but I’m sure they’ll come – and if they don’t, I can make other plans for that space. And in the shade near the lilies of the valley, I’ve spotted some dill–volunteers from last year’s attempt to grow dill in a planter?

I find myself retreating to the garden to think. It’s comfortable, and it probably has more of me in it than any other place in Canada. The land is W-‘s, of course, but the vegetables and herbs are here because of me. I’m putting down roots. ;) Not that I’m not prepared to leave this, just in case–ah, paperwork and visas–but while I’m here, I may as well be here. Who knows? Someday I may cultivate heirloom tomatoes and snack on sugar peas, and I’ll be able to have–and share!–these experiences.

It’s amazing to see how sunshine, well-fertilized soil, and water can get all these plants to grow. I love seeing the plants go through the different stages. I love knowing that the soil underneath our plants is rich in happy earthworms. I love being able to reach out and rub a few leaves to release the scent of rosemary, mint, basil, thyme, or lavender. I love the grit of our sandy soil between my fingers, the cool moistness that tells me when I should water and when I can let the plants rest. I love the anticipation and the constant change, even when that change comes in the form of weeds that enjoy the cultivated conditions as much as our plants do.

Next year, I think we’ll add another feet or two out, plant zucchini instead of melons (or just plant them all and see what comes out first), plant more strawberries (although I have another planter coming in)… Squee!

More strawberries!

I love strawberries. They’re not that easy to get in the Philippines, where I’m from. Strawberries are grown in Baguio and are occasionally available during the cool months. Strawberries are also imported from Australia and other countries, but they’re expensive.

So I’m thrilled that I can grow strawberries here in Toronto. I now have four established strawberry plants. We’ve picked seven homegrown strawberries (one or two a week) of varying sweetness. Not content with that, I ordered a hanging strawberry planter bag online, and I’ve just filled it with eight small strawberry plants (some of them from runners).

The strawberries almost make up for the complete lack of success I’ve had in growing cantaloupes, which I loved having in Manila. =)

It’s the little joys in life.

From here to first frost

The typical first frost date in Toronto is October 6, which is 93 days away. If we allow two weeks for safety, that gives us 79 days of growing, minus whatever time you need to germinate.

My garden is full. Full full full full. I shouldn’t plant any more into it, because each plant needs room to grow. But if I were to plant more veggies in it, here are some candidates:

  • Radishes (maturity: 30 days), although they may go to seed
  • Beets (maturity: 40-70 days)
  • Pole beans (maturity: 60 days)
  • Bush beans (maturity: 60 days)
  • Peas (maturity: 60 days)
  • Cucumbers (maturity: 60-90 days)
  • Corn (maturity: 60-90 days)
  • Lettuce (maturity: 70-90 days)
  • Onion sets (maturity: 50-60 days)

Maybe I have time for another crop of radishes after I harvest this one. =) I’ll have a little bit of space.