Living on the farm for over 50 years I was accustomed to growing a very large garden.
Our decision to move surprised everyone as we enjoyed our yard and garden but suddenly it became too large for us to manage. While house hunting we looked for a bungalow for easy accessibility for seniors and a yard with space for a garden. We had read that, yes, it is possible to grow vegetables in even a small space.
Our son had made me a wood frame rectangular box, two feet high, eight feet long by four feet wide, sides covered with heavy plastic, with a lid of white garden cloth sandwiched between chicken wire. This was made for growing cabbage organically while we were still on the farm, as the cover kept out cabbage butterflies. However, in our hot Prairie farm garden, I found the enclosure too warm for good cabbage. So I decided to try raising cucumbers in this sheltered environment. It worked very well. We moved this box to our new place along with the tomato cages and plastic shelters. I set it in the sunniest spot against the fence in the backyard.
The box was prepared for planting by adding compost to the bagged garden soil. Then I carefully set in some started long English cucumber plants, keeping the soil moist at all times. Three plants were spaced regularly near the back of the box, with mesh green netting attached to the frame for them to climb on. To my pleasant surprise, they thrived and produced more cucumbers than the two of us could eat. As I had planted the long type they were not suitable for dill pickles, but oh they made tasty relishes and were great in salads.
On the south side of the garage, our son fashioned a raised box which was filled with topsoil. This sunny, warm location was for my tomato plants. He also worked me up a small spot about 12×20 feet for a garden in the backyard, which was previously all lawn. We should have rolled up the grass rather than working it in. Although I had got rid of the green grass, the roots still produced lumps. However, much to my surprise the potatoes, beets and onions did very well — enough for bowls of borsch and fresh eating all summer. I grew dill, peas, a few cabbages and garlic too. The carrots did not do well as in the lumpy soil they were short and produced numerous roots.
Another gardener advised that green beans did well with flowers so I planted them as edging for a triangular flower bed. The idea worked so well I had loads of beans. Large pots worked well for attractive arrangements by the steps in the yard facing the street.
This looks to the sunny west so I could grow a short row of gladioli, my favourite flower. Around our small deck in the backyard I planted the hop vine and sweet peas to scent the morning air. I could enjoy gardening even in a limited space.
Having to catch rainwater on the farm we continued this practice in town. With three covered rain barrels set under the eaves of our house and the garage, we had enough water to keep the flowers and vegetables growing. The cold tap water did not agree with the plants, as we quickly found out, so when we needed extra water I set it out in pails to be warmed by the sun. Our area received very little rain, mostly showers, but the metal garage roof had run-off even with the morning dew and our barrels were never totally dry.
This is an excellent relish that can be easily halved if you want to try a small batch. The recipe makes about 24 cups. I use a food chopper to speed up the work.
8 c. chopped cucumbers, peel half of them first
4 c. chopped green tomatoes
4 c. chopped onions
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped Chop veggies first, then measure. If vegetables are very juicy drain off half the juice.
6 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. pickling salt
6 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 tbsp. dry mustard 1 level tbsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. celery seed
In a large, heavy-bottom pot put in 4 cups of the vinegar, the pickling salt and sugar. Bring solution to a boil. Add the prepared vegetables and simmer about 15 minutes. Mix the flour, mustard and turmeric to a smooth paste with 2 cups of the vinegar. If it is not smooth put it through a sieve, then add the celery seed. Slowly add to the hot vegetables, stirring with a whisk all the time. Let simmer until thick, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring often. Pour into hot sterilized jars. I like pints. Wipe edges and seal. Put in hot water bath; simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let stand. Jars will seal.
Naden Hewko writes from Macklin, Saskatchewan