One day, my esteemed colleague Dr. Martin Petric (Prof. Emeritus) asked me if I wanted some zucchini and squash that he grew in his community garden. He brought me almost 10 kg of zucchini and explained how to keep them in the freezer for off season use. Our lengthy discussion about gardening motivated me to plant my own vegetable garden in my backyard.
When we bought our house, we inherited two rectangular flower beds (5’X 16’ each; walking path in the middle) with a few nice flowering plants, but with no one to care for them, they quickly turned into a weed garden.
One spring day, I decided to get my garden growing. I had no shortage of expert advice. Together with Dr. Petric’s tips, my wife, a botanist, advised me on the following (she also often teased me saying that I’m not suitable for this type of hard work):
- how to make soil prep
- finding right seedlings
- spacing on planting of different vegetables
- timing on planting them and
- removing sick plants or yellow leaves immediately from the bed.
Over time, I managed to grow a few vegetables. Last year I planted tomatoes, chillies, potatoes, zucchini, and squash. With beginners luck, I had a good harvest on all of those except squash. After the first year I grew increasingly enthusiastic and planted a greater variety of seedlings. This year I decided to plant potatoes, tomatoes, brussel sprouts, squash, beans, zucchini, radish, Indian chilli, and eggplant all of which are growing quite well. I learned from last year that I should not overdo anything. I killed a few plants by over-watering and over-fertilizing. (My garden is not organic, but definitely insecticide and pesticide free). So if you start a garden do not over feed them with water and fertilizer.
It was a great feeling to see how these plants grew in front of my eyes. At first, I was looking at them every morning, checking to see whether they had wilted or if new leaves were starting to sprout. The unpredictable B.C. weather presented no shortage of challenges along the way.
I felt immense joy when I saw my plants flower and eventually bear fruit. Watering my garden became like an ongoing conversation with my plants. I grew up on a farm back in Bangladesh. The field work was largely done by paid labourers and I rarely paid attention to how they grew cash crops like rice, jute, tobacco, etc… I always felt it was someone else’s job. Now, the feeling that I get from my vegetable garden – from growing something with my own two hands – floods me with a feeling of awe and respect for the earth and the food it produces. I counted the tomatoes on one of my plants and found that she yielded 249 tomatoes from one little seedling. This fostered an immense sense of appreciation for all the plants in the world that feed us and provide oxygen for our survival on earth.