This blog post introduces a rare find – a fellow urban farmer, just getting a new garden ready where there was none before. Marie and I have known each other since her first balcony garden in Pointe St. Charles, and she has gone deeper into farming than I have, as you will see. Now at a new location in St. Jerome, she is starting a new urban farm from scratch. I am happy to hand over reins on this blog to her musings and how-tos, and look forward to your thoughts in the comments!

I started considering myself a gardener a few years ago when I decided to plant a few tomato plants on my balcony in my tiny Montreal apartment. That first garden was a disaster! The second year was an improvement: plants were actually green and growing. Over the next few years, I kept planting as much as I could on different apartment balconies. In my last balcony garden, I grew cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, herbs, lettuce, and more tomatoes than any reasonable human being would eat.

My second balcony garden in Pointe-St-Charles

In 2011, I moved from the big city to a little farm in rural Quebec. All at once, my garden went from a few square feet to seven acres. For three years I farmed as best I could, but none of those years I considered a big success. Yields were always lower than I would have expected given the size of my garden and the number of plants planted. I could not keep up with all the maintenance and my plants were often overtaken by weed. I had forgotten the first rule of gardening: start small. (I had already started small, of course, but not by choice.) Once I had the room for a huge garden, I planted it.

Our little farm in the Spring of 2011

Now, in 2014, life brings me back to the city (St-Jerome), in an apartment with little gardening space. As much as I miss my farm, I am excited for this new project. I have also realized that I truly love the challenge of a small space. It requires more creativity, and it will force me to finally listen to the “start small” advice.

The apartment we have is not ideally set up for gardening. The backyard is on the north side, which means very little direct sunlight. The front yard will work fine, but it is very visible from our busy street. That will put more pressure on me to keep things looking good. On the other hand, the aesthetic aspect is another exciting challenge. Until now, function had always been more important than looks. I also have a parking space on the South side where I could put some containers.

My “before” pictures. 

Front yard

South side

Backyard

I have many goals for this garden:

  • produce food
  • be aesthetically pleasing: for myself – so I will actually want to spend time in the garden, and for the neighbourhood
  • be ecologically sound: not defined by what I will not do (use pesticides, herbicides, etc.), but by the measures I will take to bring a good biodiversity to the garden and its soil
  • have some child-friendly elements: my daughter is 18 months old now, and I would like her to be involved in the garden. I want her to be able to help me, play in the dirt, see the birds and bugs, and watch things grow.

This will also be a good practice for a possible career. I have already applied to study Garden Design and I hope to also work towards a certification in permaculture. I am sure this garden will be full of surprises, good and bad.

Now all I need is to find the time to do all that work with a young toddler hovering around!

My little gardener (I will post a picture of myself later, just as soon as someone else sits behind the camera for a change)