We were recently fortunate enough to speak with the lovely ladies of Victory Gardens, a Vancouver-based team of urban farmers who specialize in transforming all types of urban space for food production. Of course, we took advantage of this opportunity to pick their highly trained brains for tips & tricks on getting started on a urban garden. Here’s the dirt!
MGF: Many people are intimidated at the idea of gardening because of how technical it can seem, i.e. soil pH levels, watering schedules, crop rotation, etc. What piece of advice can you give these people to ease their minds and make the process seem less overwhelming?
VG: You know, we get this a lot. Most of our clients are coming to us because they have not gardened before, or they have but with varying success. We believe that growing food CAN be easy and also rewarding. There a few key pieces of advice, but if I were to pick one, I’d say, put a seed in the ground and see what happens. I say this because whatever happens to that seed – whether it germinates, does not germinate, takes a really long time to germinate, or you saw it germinate, but then it vanished (slugs) – will teach you something. Be curious, check on your seed everyday, and take a minute and observe the seedlings behaviour. But mostly, don’t be intimidated: you can very technical with growing, but at the end of the day, all food needs to grow is light, water and soil.
MGF: What’s the biggest mistake you see first-time gardeners make? How can they avoid this?
VG: Well, as mentioned above, I would hesitate to label “mistakes” as such because it’s all about the learning. However, if I had to choose, I would say under watering. You have to give your veggies a few good soaks a week. This will ensure they do not become stressed in the hot summer temps as they won’t have to “search” (expending energy sending roots down in search of water, versus expending energy making veggies).
MGF: What gardening products do you suggest to apartment-dwellers or those with a very limited outdoor space?
VG: Most containers will do, just ensure that they have adequate drainage (holes in the bottom) and that they’re not too small. Think of plants as goldfish – they’ll only grow as big as their environment will allow. Oh, and don’t use anything pressure treated, nobody wants to eat those chemicals.
MGF: What are the easiest herbs and vegetables to grow in our climate?
VG: Oh man, we are so lucky in Vancouver, we can really grow just about everything! Choose what you like to eat, do a little bit of reading and go from there. A few considerations are: 1) how much light does your site get; 2) how big are your containers; and, 3) is the space succeptible to lots of wind.
MGF: How have you seen the gardening culture in Vancouver change since you started Victory Gardens? Are see seeing a rise in popularity?
VG: Absolutely! We love how popular food growing and consuming organic and sustainable food is becoming. Farmers’ Markets are everywhere, restaurants are buying from urban farms, CSA’s have pick-ups at awesome little cafes – it’s great! More and more, Vancouverites are demanding good food and recognizing the importance of supporting businesses which promote it! We feel the responsibility to participate in the change required to disrupt our broken global food system and we definitely do not feel alone in this movement.
Thanks again to the lovely team at Victory Gardens for taking the time to speak with us. Make sure to check out there website for more gardening tips and info on their services and upcoming workshops. Let’s grow urban gardens in Vancouver and beyond!
(NOTE: all photos taken from www.victorygardensvancouver.ca)