It’s no secret that I love tomatoes. Growing them is an exciting, ever-changing challenge with a big reward at the end. I strive each year to experiment with as many different varieties as I can fit into my small gardening spaces, testing them in a variety of growing conditions to see how well they will perform. Some of my results are shared here.
Since many of you have already started your seeds and even have your plants outdoors in the soil, and others, like me, will be starting seed soon, I’ve waded through the extensive tomato archives on this site and picked out the posts that are most geared towards how-to growing, care, cooking, and preserving information. They’re now all available in one place that you can return to again should you need the help or inspiration.
Click here to see the You Grow Girl Tomato Growing Guide.
How much sun does it receive? That’s the first question we gardeners tend to ask ourselves when we start out to garden in a new space. It’s an important question for sure, but over the years, I have come to understand, that if you want to make the best use of your space, there are other, equally meaningful factors to consider.
Growing in the city, where heat-absorbing materials abound, my focus has often been on observing patterns of extreme heat. I earned my real gardening chops battling what I often refer to as Full Sun ++ for 15 years on the rooftop of my former apartment building. Times have changed and now I garden in a thin, bowling alley style urban backyard. Naturally, I spent the first winter carefully observing the way light fell onto the yard (throughout the day) in an attempt to identify how to tackle the space come spring. I also paid mind to heat, wind, drainage, soil, and the slope of my garden, and I have made adjustments over the last two seasons that address those issues or work best with them. Now that I am about to embark on my third spring in this garden, I have come to see with clarity that one condition that I had failed to fully acknowledge — probably out of habit — are the places in the garden that are the coldest.
What are Cold Spots?
In my Toronto garden, these are places where the snow and ice lingers the longest. While the rest of the garden is waking up from its winter dormancy, these cold microclimates remain asleep. In the fall, these also tend to be the spots that are hit first and hardest by the killing frost. Even if you live in a climate that does not receive a hard frost or snow, you will still have spots that are cooler and warmer than others.
I felt myself applying the colour to this bird heavily and vigorously as it came to life. I grabbed and scrubbed with the most vibrant pencils I had at hand muttering “[expletive] Winter” while trying to drive warmth into the paper.
A lot of us are there right now. We understand and respect that Nature needs to do its thing sometimes but we’re wondering sometimes aloud, “Seriously, why does Nature have to be such a jerk?” The Earth has cooperated by easing into its springtime alignment and brightening our evenings and we are honestly thankful. But here we are still checking at least three weather websites seeking those glorious above freezing digits.
Find your own Imaginary Bird.
Birds portrayed in the “Drawing from Nature” series by Davin Risk are purely imaginary — any similarity to true species is entirely accidental.
January of 2011. I was not feeling the New Year vibe. I realized then that for the gardener, the New Year comes when we can once again dip our hands into the soft earth, and I made a resolution to make a big deal about spring when it arrived.
And I did. That spring, Davin and I made our own holiday cards and sent them out to friends. Each card included a packet of seeds and a piece of paper with simple instructions for growing them. I chose mesclun mix, an assortment of easy, quick-growing, cut-and-come-again leafy salad greens that are harvested early while the plants are young and tender. I felt confident that friends with a wide range of living spaces and varied gardening experience would be able to handle it.
I hope you enjoy this first writing prompt. Future prompts will range from simple to complicated and silly to serious. Some will be straight ahead and others will be surprising and unexpected. Please join the newsletter if you’d like to be notified when prompts are posted to this site.
In interviews, I am often asked to relate my “Genesis” story. “How did you get started gardening?.” It seems like such a simple question. You’d think I’d have a great response in the back of my pocket by now, given that I have been called upon to answer it countless times. Instead, my response is always the same: sheer panic.
“Uh. Well. You see. It’s sort of a long story to tell. Ummmmmmmmmmm… It’s, uh, complicated.” Fumble, fumble, stammer.
It’s not that I don’t know my own story, it’s that it is not a story with a single, definable beginning. The way I see it, there are many things in life that are like this. Sometimes there is no singular act that sets you off on a path, but several acts and experiences — some conscious and others unconscious, that lead you to a destination that you may not have been able to foresee.
After the initial fumbling, my response to this simple/big question is often to begin with my first plant. I’m not certain that it is the beginning of this thing that I do (growing things), but it is an important experience that I can recall with clarity. I was only five at the time and growing a plant was not an activity that I had a hand in choosing. However, my memory of it is telling and a reminder that the urge to connect to the natural world in some way was always there, even if it took me a while to put conscious thought and action to it.
So this is where I thought we’d begin. At the beginning. But not really.