Our gardens in many lights

samedi 18 juin 2011

At last, it begins !

Cet article en français.
Este artículo en español.

Greetings !

This blog will be used to chronicle our mutual experiences toward sustainability, mostly by ways of gardening. To achieve that goal we will follow 2 gardens (and later on, a third one) that have very different key aspects. First off, we are not in a region from where a lot of first hand gardening testimonies can be found on the web. We hear a lot about gardens in the U.S. – California and the likes – but more rarely from Canada. We will present you our respective gardens on You Tube through short videos but it would be worthwhile to mention their key features here, on our blog, as well as to present and explain ourselves.

Why a blog ?

Because the idea simply thrilled us.

What will it feature ?

We will write and talk about various subjects : vegetable gardening, compost, herbs, bulbs, perennials (most common and rarer), fruiting trees and bushes, flowering seasons in our area, winning combinations of plants, recycling, DIY gardening projects, edible weeds and perennials, recipes, links to some very skilled gardeners’ blogs and... permaculture !

This last subject includes in itself an endless list of subjects, discussions and experimentations. Ever heard of a forest garden ? Or of a polyculture vegetable bed ? What about zoning your garden or making a guild to support a fruiting tree ?

We’re avid gardeners and we always agreed on gardening ecologically. Recently, we fell on this relatively new concept of permaculture. For most of us gardeners, this is a very new topic, based on sound principles, allowing to plan and build (or modify) a garden which can really work with nature. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with permaculture, it’s a way of gardening promoting lots of diversity to the point that a balanced ecological system may occur. This implies intelligent design by using as many species of plants as possible while promoting the adage of “one plant, multiple benefits”. It also implies that you invite bugs and birds, other living things and even some weeds in your garden and it distances itself from conventional rows of a single plant in sterile soil approach. It’s more than gardening ecologically. It’s trying to mimic nature itself in its functioning and to make it do most of the work for you.

This new approach encompasses so many principles that seem logical, ecological and sound to us, and it meets our own philosophy so well that we felt compelled to integrate it in our current gardening practices. The principles in permaculture can also apply to other areas of life besides gardening, but we’ll attack this exploration from the angle of the vegetal world.

In short, the raison d’être of this blog and its related channel is really to follow each garden through the seasons and through our experimenting of permaculture. We also have loads of projects regarding sustainability that go further than just gardening. But we are not experts. We will never promote ourselves as such. We are only three women from the North, passionate about gardening, and trying to find ways to make our living in a more sustainable way.
We’re really looking forward to sharing our experiences - both successes and failures - with you, for the pleasure of it, but also in the hopes that it will inspire you.

Now, let’s present ourselves and our gardens !

Three women, each with their personal gardening interests.

Three very different gardens in diverse conditions, making it all the more interesting to share our experiences with each other as well as with you.

Helene has been gardening for a few years already. Her first garden was nothing more than a few dozen square feet. Maybe that’s why she made a special place in her heart for herbs and berries, small plants that have so much to offer us. She loves to explore the many uses of a plant, especially its culinary and medicinal properties.

In our trio, she’s the one who always get the books on unusual subjects and after her readings, acquainting us with new plants (ever heard of Russian Olives?), making us taste new recipes and showing us new techniques (from dehydrating her crops to making her own herbal shampoo).

Helene’s garden is in the suburb of Montreal, it’s a tiny place on less than a ¼ acre lot. Tiny at least for her gardening ambitions. It has little shade other than the one generated by the house and it’s situated in Canadian zone 5a. When she moved in, in 2008, it was mainly populated by hostas and daylilies.

Louise started gardening almost 30 years ago. Finding that conventional vegetable gardening was really time consuming, she turned to perennial flowering plants. For many years, she pursued the quest of obtaining blooms from April to killing frosts (around October). And she attained it. She’s currently coming back to food gardening with loads of enthusiasm, intending to mix flowers, vegetables, greens, berries, fruit and nut trees in the usual vegetal riot she loves. She also started to explore Windowfarming ( this winter.

Louise’s garden is on a bigger yard (6/10 of an acre). It surrounds an old Victorian house located in the heart of a village, shaded by mature trees in Canadian zone 4. The maple trees provides the household with all the maple syrup they need and Louise recently discovered that her collection of over 150 different cultivars of daylilies is also her first crop of the spring, providing delicious and abundant greens in April. In her quest towards continuous blooms, she populated her garden with over a hundred different species of perennials, achieving accidentally the conditions favoring the natural occurrence of a small ecological system. Wild life naturally found its way to this small heaven : bats, tree frogs, toads, hummingbirds and all kinds of wild pollinating insects, the seasonal ground hog, and so forth.

Marie-Claire has some experience and studies in farming (dairy farm and vineyard) and knows how to handle a hammer or to replace faucets, but gardening is relatively new to her. She loves all living things (in her childhood, she dreamed of having her own live giraffe), is mysteriously attracted to weird plants, such as Cannibal Tomatoes, cooks her own healthy dog food (among other goodies) and is currently striving to eliminate plastic from her home, both for her health and for environment.

Marie-Claire’s garden will be the tinniest of all three: roughly 250 square feet facing South in front of her new apartment, garden that she plans to build almost from scratch starting next July. The location is hot and windy and over half of this surface is covered with asphalt. Plus, she’ll need to protect her crops from her two very affectionate and very clumsy, hungry dogs as well as a vegetarian cat in love with Quinoa greens. So, her project will include intensive gardening in raised boxes, erecting fences and other vertical structures and dealing with irrigation issues. A lot of work in perspective !

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