The Mother of all Start-up kits! - La mère de toutes les trousses

After the World Urban Forum in June, I spent a few days on Vancouver island visiting my mother, an avid lifetime gardener who recently moved into a new apartment and for the first time does not have her own backyard.

She has always been an inspiration for my urban gardening projects. It was her who started me tending to a few carnations as a small boy, and I still remember the wonder I felt watching the tiny seeds sprout, then blossom into colourful flowers. Later, as a teenager, she put me to work tilling a significant portion of our yard to grow all kinds of vegetables (which I was even starting to enjoy eating!)

My mother now is facing the same dilemma as so many people in their sixties, while her desire to garden is still as strong as it has always been, she has only a small balcony space to work with, and no longer does she have the constitution to maintain a large plot. Up until last year, she had a backyard garden that she could easily manage, spending as much as a couple of hours a morning pruning, weeding and watering. Since moving into her new apartment and losing this space she has noticed how much les activity she is getting and is finding it harder to get all the exercise she is used to.

Ever the determined English gardener, who remembers digging for vicotory as a young girl, she has set to building herself a multi-level garden that takes up almost all the space on here small 2m x 3m patio terrace, demonstrating the creativity that I have always loved in her. Her 60+ years of gardening know-how still shine through in the beautiful flowers and climbing spinach that she is cultivating, and when we talked about her garden she was excited to hear about the ideas we have been demonstrating in Montreal to grow fruiting vegetables in small spaces.

So on a beautiful cloudless Vancouver island afternoon we toured the garden centres and hardware stores, quickly finding the coco fibre, plastic bins and plastic piping to build a replica of the “Ready to Grow” balcony garden kits that we are using at the Rooftop Garden Project in Montreal.

As the sun was pulling around the corner of her building, leaving her patio in the evening shade, we assembled our supplies. Twenty minutes later we were transplanting tomatoes, tomatios, basil and parsley into her new ad-hoc experimental grower. We then placed it within the ensemble of growers on her patio, and arranged around it a few conventional pots filled with the same types of plants as those in the new grower, creating a more productive garden that will produce real fresh vegetables that my mother can use in her salads as the summer progresses.

I am not sure if we correctly balanced the use of coco fibre with the quantity of soil, if the reservoir holds three, four or five days supply of water, or what nutrients she will use to fertilise the garden (I fear that she might be using chemical nutrients!), but I am sure that given the basic set up my mother will apply her ingenuity and years of experience to adapt it to her garden. I am excited to hear about her experience, and to share this project with her, and I am also confident that the Rooftop Garden Project itself will benefit from her new ideas and methods as she mucks in.

A part of me always feels like I am doing urban farming for her, even though she lives 5000 km away, because it was her who inspired me to garden as a child; it was her who got such a kick out of the fact that as a small boy growing up in a suburb on the parries, I dreamed of being farmer while the other kids talked about being baseball players, firemen and astronauts, and it is her to whom I return as a barometer of my progress in making the world a better place. By sharing the fruits of this project with her, and asking her to give her reflections on our work, I feel that in some way my day -to-day experience is closer to hers than it has been since I left home to come to Montreal over 15 years ago.

Posted to: Nos histoires / Our stories | Health and Quality of Life Improvement
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Posté par alexjhill le Lun, 07/08/2006 - 7:54am.

rotem | Jeu, 27/07/2006 - 11:04am

Thanks for sharing, Alex. I hope your mom can come visit our garden some day.