Grow @ Home 2018: A Look Back

In the summer of 2018, Town Farm received funding from the Nova Scotia Departments of Communities, Culture, and Heritage and Community Services to run our first Grow @ Home program. 17 families signed up to receive a 4x8 foot raised garden bed, soil, compost, seeds, seedlings, and one-on-one and group lessons on how to grow, cook, and harvest veggies at home. The program was really popular, our participants learned a lot, and we already have a waiting list for 2019!

Here's some photos from the 2018 program. Thanks to our funders, partners, volunteers, and, especially, thanks so much to our pilot-year participants who, despite a tricky weather season, all became accomplished gardeners!

Stats

  • 17 families signed-up (about 50 people)
  • 10 volunteers helped out
  • 7 business partnerships formed
  • families saved on average $300-$500 on their grocery bills. Over $8500+ in food was grown!

Here's how we did it!

First, we got the word out by posting signs around town--and we got a mention in the Cape Breton Post!

Once the word was out, and people had signed up, it was time to do site visits to scope out everyone's best location for their garden bed. We looked for sunny, sheltered spots.

Once spots were chosen, it was time to order lumber...

...trim the 4x4s to size, and pre-drill holes for spikes.

The CBRM scheduled road maintenance while all this was happening. Which made delivering wood and supplies a tad...difficult.

Time to build our boxes! Many participants helped build their own boxes--and we also had a few volunteers pitch in as well.

Raised beds are made from 3 frames. Each frame is nailed together with spikes. The 4x4 lumber is cut into 4 foot and 8 foot lengths. The 3 frames are stacked on top of each other, which means they can be moved when needed. The 4x4s are strong and stable and can be sat on or leaned/kneeled on when gardening. The wood is spruce and quite rot resistant--the beds should last for many years. All lumber came from a local supplier: River Ryan Lumber. Before the beds are put into place, we spread a layer of cardboard (pizza boxes are perfect!) under the beds to help prevent weeds.

Beds are also transportable. One of our participants moved, so we popped the frames into our volunteer's van and moved the soil with our trailer.

Soil and compost arrive! Our neighbour stored both on his empty back lot and we rented a truck to deliver soil and compost to all the rasied beds. The compost was free (+ cost of delivery) from the CBRM.

Time to get planting! I drew up a plan for everyone's garden bed based on Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method. It's a really easy way for new gardeners to learn what to plant where, how to space plants, how deep to plant seeds, etc. We purchased all our seeds from Hope Seeds and Annapolis Seeds, 2 Nova Scotia seed companies that specialize in open-pollinated and organic seeds. When the seeds arrived I created "kits" for all the partcipants. Kits also included tomato and basil seedlings I planted, and pepper seedlings from Blue Heron Farm in Gardiner Mines (one of our partners). The kits even included seeds I had saved myself.

We're hoping to build a greenhouse in 2019, which will be a better place than my deck for growing seedlings!

I then went to everyone's house and guided them as they planted their seeds and seedlings. We laid out a grid with string on the beds and participants planted their beds using my map as their guide.

Everyone also got a watering can, trowel, and row cover.

We went from a really late, damaging frost near the end of June to extreme heat at the beginning of July. Many seeds sprouted and died, so some beds had to be replanted. Eventually, everyone's beds became full of veggies. A couple of times in the summer I'd go around to people's yards to see their gardens, answer questions, and give advice. Check-ins were my favourite part--it was so wonderful to see how everyone's gardens were growing.

It was also interesting to see how the same veggies grew in different places around town. Here are 2 beds that were built by 2 neighbours. The first bed was planted almost 2 weeks before the 2nd bed, so you can see the different rate of growth.

 

Throughout the program, proud participants sent me photos of the food they grew. Look at this bounty!

Janet was so inspired to grow food, she built another garden bed on her own and has plans of growing even more food in 2019! She also got her grandson into the program and he helped me plant fall seedlings.

Here are some before and after pictures of Natasha's yard. She also built a second rasied bed and planted lots of food in pots, too! From grass...

...to food (and flowers for bees)!

Our biggest hiccup (besides the weather) was securing a location for our workshops. One building got shut for demolition, and another caught fire! Despite our bad luck we managed to hold a fun "booch + soup" workshop where participants learned how to make kombucha and patty pan squash (aka, zucchini) soup.

I also taught a session on growing microgreens as part of the New Waterford Library's girls' self-esteem program. And we made it into the paper again!

Our plans for apple picking and cider pressing also had to be adjusted. The late June frost killed a lot of flowers and we expereinced a dearth year (meaning not a lot of fruit formed). We did manage to find one good apple tree in New Waterford and squeezed in one apple cider pressing. The cider press will be available in the future as a community press for Town Farm members.

And, to top off a very busy summer and fall, I completed Dalhousie University's Modern Beekeeper course and started a small, urban honey bee operation. The goal is to incorporate beekeeping with future Grow @ Home programs.

Finally, Town Farm now manages the New Waterford Community Garden. We got a few bulbs in (tulips, daffodils, garlic) and mulched them with seaweed before we got our (very early) freeze-up.

We look forward to doing more gardening activities here at the garden and in even more back (and front) yards in 2019!