There’s Some Livin’ Going On

We’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures here in Toronto which have pushed me to get out and do some early-season garden work. I can’t recall being this eager to get gardening but I suspect that I am always this excited, it’s just the lapse of time between fall and spring that has me convinced my excitment is bigger and better than ever!

It began a few days ago when I got up the drive to clean the street garden. What a mess! I can say with all certainty that it has never been so disgusting. The impetus for this sudden clean-up was the shocking discovery that several clumps of crocus blooms were buried underneath empty liquor bottles (Vodka being the liquor of choice), cigarette filters, and burger wrappers (All I’m going to say is that certain unnamed fast food chains should be sponsoring this clean-up). Thanks Toronto! I know how hard it is to walk those ten extra feet to the garbage/recycling can. SO HARD!

Here’s the evidence: Before | After

I know it doesn’t look like much but that represents the sweat of 2 adult people, 2 garbage bags, a nearly full recycling bin, and some plant material. The fence is toast. This year I’m thinking about getting some rebar and using that for posts. Try and knock that over drunk guy who tramples through the garden to urinate against the wall at 3 am! Or drunken dude that falls into the irises and completely smushes them with his entire drunken body ruining a beautiful display of just-in-bloom flowers!


So then I acquired more seeds.

  • Lettuce: ‘Lolla Rosa’ – A bright red lettuce.
  • Calendula ‘Antares Flashback’ – Multi-coloured blooms with reddish undersides. I love calendula because you can just toss some seeds in the garden and they’ll come back up by themselves. You can eat the petals or use them to make skin salves.
  • Nigella ‘Cramer’s Plum’ – White flowers with plum coloured pods.
  • Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
  • Sugar Pea ‘Carouby De Maussane’ – Flowers are purple instead of the usual white.
  • Mexican coriander – In trade.
  • Tomato ‘Pera d’Abruzzi’ – Also in trade.
  • Beans ‘Scarlet Runner’ or ‘Painted Lady’

I have been growing chives in a galvanized metal tub out on the rooftop for several years. They are just starting to come back up. I can also see anise hyssop, and wormwood making an appearance.

I made a quick trip to the community garden today on my lunch break to check on early spring progress. I picked a few beans (see above) that were left on the vine over winter.


The onions were in full swing:

Lemon balm was poking through the soil in more places then I would appreciate, as is their way:

My visit was cut short by an unexpected rain shower that continues as I write. While it put a damper on our sunny, warm weather, it does ensure that I’ll be able to get out there soon to plant some peas, greens, and the bulbs I neglected to get into the ground before it froze (oops). Spring is starting.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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8 thoughts on “There’s Some Livin’ Going On

  1. i live in toronto too! we’ve had the BEST week, huh? the last coupla days i’ve been cleaning up my front and back yards… picking up the leaves that i used as winter mulch, and discovering all the GREEN stuff under there!

    my neighbour walked by and asked me what the joke was? i was smiling away to myself as i found stuff growing that i had forgot i put in… i’m not sure when i turned into such a nerd, but i’m a happy happy nerd this week.

    and tomorrow i’m off to buy PANSIES!
    whooooooo hoooooooooooo!

  2. I can relate to the disgustingness (is that a word?) of garbage that appears in Toronto gardens over the winter… I spent a good 3 hours and filed 2 garbage bags with filth that had blown into our yard. Yuck! but it’s worth while… I’d rather clean the yard than do housework anyday! the before and after pictures are awesome I wish I’d done that at my place!
    Great job Gayla!!!

  3. Almost all the same plants are growing out here in Bowmanville, too. My anise-hyssop is comin’ up, lots of others, too, including lilies, sedums, hollyhock, chives (regular and garlic), even some parsley seems to have survived. I can tell this catnip bush is going to be a problem. ;)

  4. I took some closeups too but thought I would spare readers that scariness.

    We had sedums and some others at the community plot. I don’t often get over there this early so it was fun to see early progress.

    That catnip IS going to be a problem. But on the bright side you’ll have tons of it for your cute kitty. Just make sure to cut it back especially when it gets hot and steamy to avoid the powdery mildew.

  5. I’m going to divide it, at least. My mom might like to have some. She has 3 kitties.

  6. I recently wrote to the Ottawa Citizen about how dirty an Ottawa Valley hospital was. I urged people to clean something when they were visitors- a spilled Tims coffee, perhaps, or their relatives’ windows. People loving and cleansing the earth together can actually bring down tax and maintenance costs:

    Case in point: We recycle our glass and paper, etc. The recycle company pays us $350.00 a year as householders, so we do not have to pay for garbage removal, and we can put hundreds of bags or lumber, etc out. They take it all. So we actually earn and save, just being earth-friendly. Think about it, O Toronto. You make me cry, literally. Careless people are a crying disgrace.

  7. i’m about to set out and clean the front garden plot soon, and i know it’s full of crap and cigarette butts from my young punk neighbours downstairs. grrrr…

    the landlord said he was planning on erecting a fence around the front part though.

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