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  • Neyir Urminsky

Can I garden in the snow?

If you have been following along on instagram then you had a sneak peek of this week’s topic. If not you may want to hop over and give me a follow, I share lots of behind the scenes & you will see what project is coming up after the final patio reveal next week!


I cannot believe it! We are in week 7 of the ORC, a wonderful event in which anyone can participate, we have only 1 week to go!! The challenge of the ORC lies in completing a space within 8 weeks though in the this case I started months ago - it was a lot of digging! Please be sure to check out the other guest participants. See my earlier posts on our DIY patio week 1, week 2, week 3,week 4, week 5, week 6, and my other previous projects here; A boys room for 3, Family friendly beautiful vestibule.


So I got this idea into my head, I’m not 100% sure when or where the seed was planted but it has been germinating for some time. I know I heard a radio interview with an indigenous seedkeeper about seed banks and she referenced winter gardening. But that West Coast Canadian climate is not the same as what we have in the rest of the country. And then I heard a local gardening expert again on the radio (sense a theme?) talking about planting in September and I found that intriguing. Could I really still be gardening past Labour Day? In Canada???

I often let plants go to seed, like this broccoli for the bees.

What would I know, I did not grow up gardening. I grew up around gardening, my mom had lots of flowers; peonies and the most beautiful varieties of iris, but I did not garden. Gardening was hot and I didn’t like hot! I did pretty things like singing and dancing (as if that wasn’t hot - ha!). Finally in my 20s I got interested in gardening but only because I wanted to make my patio prettier - see a theme here? It was the first time I planted a raised garden bed, I bought lots and lots of bulbs and it was beautiful! 20 plus years on and my goals for my raised beds are a lot different.

Baby radish, beets and itty-bitty carrots poking through

My summers as a child were varied. Always some time at home, possibly in camp, some time visiting wonderful friends in the 1000 islands. And then, until I hit my late teens, I always spent time in the townships of Quebec visiting my dear Great Aunt. Born in 1916 she is one of the 2 strongest and most independent women I have ever known (the second in a different Aunt who single handedly raised 7 children). In addition to owning and maintaining 2 homes independently into her ‘90s, she had a very successful career as an academic, was an accomplished artist and travelled internationally her entire life. She bought her second home in her late 40’s (she designed her first and had it built in her late 30’s?) and proceeded to split her year seasonally between city and country. It was here, at ‘Applecroft’ that I really learned the power of gardening and eating fresh food often minutes after it was cultivated. The joy of traipsing out to the garden to pick peas or cut lettuce, of sneaking out early in the morning as a teenager to fill a basket with raspberries felt like magic from another time.


More carrots & kale, raspberries in the background

I don’t have any misconceptions that I will be able to accomplish such a grand garden in our house here in the city but I am passionate about growing as much food as we can in our little raised beds and the notion that we can sneak out in our winter boots and coats to pick kale hidden under white warming blankets, soon surely to be disguised by snow, feels magical enough for now.


Time to harvest this broccoli!

Also I don’t really know what I am doing in terms of winter gardening. I do know that certain vegetables are more resistant to cold and are likelier to survive so in mid September we planted carrots, radish, beets and divided our kale. We still have broccoli growing which I intend to harvest in the next few days. Plans are already in the works for next year now that I have a sense of which vegetables we are likely to eat. In addition we strategically hit one of the big box stores after labour day and bought 3 raspberry canes and 2 blueberry bushes which so far seem to be doing well and are clearly in or headed for hibernation.


Need to order more hoops

After a bit of research I bought these hoops, row cover & clips. Last night in the dark and cold I headed out with my assistant (he’s 6) to bed down the plants. As you can see from the picture I clearly need to order more hoops and I’m not entirely sure if I’m supposed to tack the edges down into the dirt, more research is needed! But we have started so we have some skin in the game which I find is often the hardest, but most important step. Given that the beds and soil were already in place, the seeds only cost me 29.99 CAD and most of them are still to be planted next spring, it all feels fairly low risk.




In warmer climes

We will see how this whole experiment pans out. For now I know we have kale for weeks so please, other than kale chips, tell me your favourite recipes!!!


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