The summer is taking its time winding down. Late August and now early September have offered up some of the best weather of the season so far. There's lots still going on in the backyard garden including a colourful display from the sedums and a fresh planting of radishes and lettuce. But as autumn nears, I find myself reflecting on the garden season that was. For me, 2008 has been the most garden-intensive year ever. In all, I had the great pleasure of working in five very distinct gardens. I began the season as a volunteer in The Teaching Garden at the Toronto Botanical Garden.
Here's what things looked like back in April. Straw paths separated the newly prepared beds. In the coming months, school kids from across the city would come here to spend a day in the sunshine, planting rows and rows of seeds and learning about nature.
This is what the garden looks like now, just a few days ahead of the annual Harvest Day Festival. Not bad for little kids, huh? I did my bit by spending a few hours each week doing what needs to be done in any garden: watering, weeding, staking, hoeing etc.
One of my earliest tasks was to transplant more than a dozen volunteer tomatillo plants. Here they are caged in their new bed.
The tomatillos were apparently deliriously happy with their new location because they have been growing like mad ever since. This bed has become my most favourite part of the garden.
Working in the Teaching Garden made me appreciate vegetables I had never tried before. After harvesting bushels of Swiss Chard with its colourful stems, I gave the leafy green a try. I found a great recipe for chard wrapped in sole filets. I even tried it braised and served it as a side dish. Now I'm a big fan. The Swiss Chard has been producing non-stop since spring. I may have to make room for some in my own garden next year. It may be tough to squeeze in next to the purple beans, bok choi, parsnips, beets, and eggplant. So many things to try.
As the summer wore on, harvesting became a bigger part of my job. There's something inherently satisfactory about picking vegetables you have helped to grow. It's even nicer when all that produce goes to a good cause. All the teaching garden vegetables go to the North York Harvest Food Bank for use in nutritional workshops or to be distributed to families in need. It feels good to know that doing something I love can make a difference to someone even in a small way.
In a year where I ventured into some serious veggie gardening at home, the Teaching Garden was the perfect companion garden. I learned a lot and that helped my own raised beds do well. My work in the Teaching Garden continues until Halloween. That's when the garden will be put to bed for winter and the wait for the first signs of spring will begin once again.