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Backyard Kitchen Garden

Michael and I bought our first house (a small Edwardian rowhouse in downtown Hamilton) on May 15, 2007. The backyard was a disaster — poorly planned, overgrown, and with a crumbling cement patio on the verge of collapse. One year later, Michael’s brother Dave built us a wonderful 2-level deck with room for several little garden beds.

The back of our house faces south, and most of the backyard (except for the very back corner) gets full sun. We finished preparing our garden beds on May 16, 2008. After adding a brick border to the beds (using bricks from the old chimney we dismantled during our renos) I added 2-3" of peat moss and 1" of composted cow manure, and dug it in 6-8".

Our backyard is tiny but we make use of every patch of earth we can:

  • A triangular “side garden” between the upper deck and the lower deck;
  • A large “round garden” beside the lower deck;
  • A small patch between the lower deck and the gate;
  • A strip along the back fence that’s divided into 2 separate sections by the chimney top we saved from the renos;
  • A small area at the base of the deck stairs, next to the lower deck and the cement slab sidewalk between the two rowhouses; and
  • Some room on the deck for planters.

In 2008 we had a terrific season. I grew five beautiful tomato plants (San Marzano) and tons of Genovese basil. Our freezer was packed with frozen tomatoes and pesto all winter (we had pasta marinara from the garden for Christmas dinner — my favourite.) We also grew eggplant (Little Fingers and Sicilian). Both varieties were delicious. I tried four different kinds of peppers, but the only real success we had there was with the Jalapeno. The rest of my garden was filled with herbs — chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, marjoram, lovage… I’m probably forgetting a few. The tarragon and the lovage were the standout performers!

In 2009 I planned more tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and basil. I started almost everything from seed. I also tried some beans, peas, radishes, squash and a melon. Though it was nice having a variety of tomatoes, overall the yield wasn’t nearly as high as in 2008. Growing basil from seed was very successful — my Genovese basil plants were 4’ high by August 1. It was too much — I couldn’t keep up with the harvest. I lost one eggplant to wilt, but the other produced nicely. My peppers were (again) disappointing. I might give peppers a break for 2010 and try again some other year. I grew pole beans (Northeaster) — they took a while to get going, but they eventually took over the fence. I had trouble keeping up with the harvest (the green beans were hard to spot) and I ended up with some mammoth beans. I’ll try purple and gold varieties in the future to avoid that problem. My poor melon plant never really made it out of the starting gate — it produced one baseball-sized fruit, which rotted on the vine. My winter squash (Delicata) produced nicely until it started dying in late August (I suspect due to squash bugs). It was also HUGE and took over the middle garden space. Nevertheless the yield was impressive and we feasted on several beautiful large squashes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also grew okra for the first time, which was a successful experiment. I had one beautiful okra plant which produced pods reliably (albeit only one at a time). I also tried kale, which was a fantastic success. These beautiful plants will likely find a place in my garden each year from now on! I also grew a number of herbs (predictably, my lovage and tarragon both returned and performed wonderfully!) I also transplanted some herbs from my front yard (including a sage plant and some chives) which all did well.

Having so little space in my garden means rotating crops is a challenge. I really only have one place left to grow tomatoes this year, so I’ll be switching back to my favourite — San Marzanos — for 2010. I’m going to try cucumbers (lemon?), some kind of purple and gold pole beans, and a butternut squash. I’d like to try a different kale variety this year (maybe Laciano?) and perhaps some mammoth sunflowers in the centre garden, to help create some shade on the deck. I’d like to grow more flowers this year too.

An outdoor organic garden located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, magnetha's Backyard Kitchen garden currently contains 40 plants.

This Kitchen garden is listed in Zone 6a.

Photos


Plantings


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