Every Thursday, the first thing I do when I arrive at the farmer’s market is walk up and down the paved hill checking out the stock of the week. Sometimes I see the same things; often I see at least one item that is new. It is this practice that has introduced me to mustard greens, collard greens, purple spiky lettuce, patty pan squash, edible carrot tops, cukamelons, rainbow chard, and so much more.
Some of those items, especially the various mustard greens, collard greens, and purple spiky lettuce, have become top-of-the-list purchases week in and week out. The weeks when their growth has run low and there are no mustards, or collards, or purple spikes, I am disappointed.
So disappointed, I’ve even been known to harangue the vendors… in the friendliest manner possible of course 😉
And then I got to thinking:
What is a farmers’ market?
Essentially, it’s people selling what they grow. Yes, it’s on a much larger scale than what you or I could do in a home garden, but when you break it down, these vendors are selling produce that could potentially be grown in your backyard.
The challenge for us in New Westminster, though, is space. According to the 2016 Census, New West has a total of 32,705 dwellings. Of that, 25,865 are apartments. This includes high rises, buildings with fewer than five stories, and apartments or flats in a duplex. That amounts to 79 per cent of our city’s abodes.
Space is limited.
For years I believed gardening was off limits for my family. We didn’t have a backyard, we had a patio. In my mind, that meant we couldn’t grow fresh produce, or fresh greens, my son couldn’t go and grab a carrot straight from the soil if he so desired. We were beholden to the products of the market.
Or so, that is what I believed. That is until I was introduced to container gardening a few years ago.
When I started out, I had miserable failure.
Zucchinis, which I have been told are the easiest plants to grow, are my nemesis. Every year I get tons of flowers, but no squash.
I tried going hipster with a pallet garden that was just an ugly mess with dirt flying every which way and hardly any edible growth.
We’ve had tomato plants that have given us three tomatoes and a whole lot of white flies, and strawberry plants that have produced all of one sour strawberry.
It hasn’t always been a success, in fact it’s been more failure than success, but it has been an adventure – especially since regularly attending the farmers’ market.
For this year’s growth, the New West Farmer’s Market was my inspiration.
I was determined this would be my year. I gave that garden so much love.
I talked to my valley girl and chocolate cherry tomato plants that I acquired from Zaklan Heritage Farm, I shook their flowers, as was recommended by Gemma at Zaklan, to aid in the pollination. I didn’t get frustrated when the tomatoes were slow, reallllly slow, to emerge, but rather patiently, lovingly, okay, maybe a little frustratingly, waited. By early September, we finally had a ripe tomato and others following suit.
I planted rainbow chard early in the season, along with arugula, spinach and kale. We got two rounds of the chard by late August that we used in salads and our beloved shrimp and chard quinoa.
Sadly the arugula and kale were attacked by a sneaky slug that I never did find; he’s lucky.
After chatting with a few colleagues at Inner City Farms, I discovered that mustard greens thrive when planted in mid to late August, even early September for a repeated fall harvest. Collards too. Oh man, I was in.
I should get three rounds of growth that will go well into October. Not only will this help offset the store-bought spinach and mixed greens that we’ll be forced to get once the market closes between the summer and winter season, but will also add that dose of über green freshness I’ve come to love.
I also planted mesculins and corn salad for further green goodness.
Without the market, I likely would not have got so adventurous and interested in my patio growth.