Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mind the weeds... I'm just learning!

If you have 'liked' our page on Facebook, you  may have seen some photos from Garden no.2.

There are lots of 'weeds', and we're not really bothering maintaining them.
Why? Partially due to limited time, but also because we're new!
We are new to gardening and this is our first backyard so we know nothing about these weeds - do they have pretty flowers? do they attract beneficial insects? do they detract pests?

We would never find out any of these things if we just pulled everything out!

Although I don't think this is going to be a highly productive method of vegetable growing, I do think we will learn a lot- and isn't that the goal with experiments?

We observe how they are interacting with the plants that I want to grow - if they do not seem to cause any problems we will leave them alone.

When it is obvious that a plant it interfering with something that we are trying to grow, we will pull it out or move it elsewhere in the garden.

We will be sure to share any interesting findings!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Garden 2: Pallet Compost Bay

Today was the day...

 In Garden no. 2 of the Experiment 2012, there was a little black composter which was far to small (and already full!). A few pallets from our recent shipment, some long nails and a couple extra pieces of wood was all that it took.

In this experiment we expect to learn more about composting! Will we need to put up chicken wire to keep the squirrels out? I'm sure we will find out soon...

With this composter we are going to add and turn the compost as we go. We will mix in leaves, wood ash and kitchen waste.

As the pile grows we will build up the side with planks of wood one by one. Now on to the rest of the garden..............

Monday, April 30, 2012

Earth Steward Scenario Video

Earth Steward Scenario from Blue Heron Productions on Vimeo.

I liked this video so much, I wanted to share it on the blog.

It is of the Earth Steward Scenario - the best of the four 'Future Scenarios' by David Holmgren (in my opinion).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

From Container Gardening to my 1st outdoor garden

In honour of Earth day I've decided to take my first step in blogging and what better place to start than here - a great, local gardening group!

My 1st tomato plant!
Wow I can grow things!

I can honestly say I'm a relative newbie to any type of gardening - having broken soil for the first time less than 5 years ago.  I chose to start small and because we were renting a house, thought dabbling in some containers on the front upper balcony would be fun - guess what, it was! To see the fruits and flowers of my labour come to life got me hooked and I felt like a mother hen tending to them every day to help them grow and flourish.  This was the summer of 2008 and my love of growing thing truly started.

Tomato & Lettuce Year 2
The next year my mum was in town from England when it was planting time so I had her expertise, help and a generous early birthday gift of plants and flowers to start my second year of container gardening.  My mum's gardens have always been a thing of beauty and as an adult I've come to learn and appreciate all the work she put in over the years to make our many different gardens look beautiful.  Although I had no interest in gardening as a kid, the saying "the nut doesn't fall far from the tree applies" because I certainly absorbed some know how from just observing all those years - thanks mum!
Herb containers Year 2

Year three I was a bit overwhelmed with the addition of a puppy in our lives at the same time as gardening season so my containers took a bit of a back seat and I didn't even take any pictures in 2010!

Last year we bought our first home in late spring and got possession in early August so knew it wasn't going to be my summer of growing - I chose not to plant a thing in lieu of packing and getting ready to take on home ownership, knowing full well 2012 would be my first chance at a real garden, in my own front and back yard! 

Front Garden (as is) of OUR house
So now it's here, and I'm a bit behind in my planning but it's not phasing me.  I'm scoping out my space, looking at what I've got to work with and wisely (I think) choosing to start small, and grow my ideas and gardens as we truly settle into our home.  I also know I have some fun challenges ahead - with two basset hounds I know I need a secure area that they cannot get into - the prime space for this however is quite shady.  No matter, I'll learn best by experimenting with what grows better in low sun areas and take advantage of my sunny areas and go back to what I know best - containers so my fur beasts (truly, babies) don't wreak havoc before I begin.
Future pallet shade garden
(right fenced area of back garden)

Oh yes, also thanks to the brilliance of this group, I'm also going to give pallet gardening a try in my shady area. Stay tuned for pictures and some updates as I go.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Starting Slow... The Experiment 2012

Last year there were too many gardens to viably maintain so this year we have changed it up for Year 2 of the Experiment!

Garden 1
Garden 1. is the same plot as last year. It's development is tbd - but are thinking to include a diversity of plants to encourage birds, butterflies and bees to visit as well as a selection of herbs.

Garden no. 2 is a from scratch project. We are acquiring as many pallets as we possibly can to set up a compost bay, raised beds... and try a few other experiments along the way.

We will set up a water collection system that will completely eliminate the use of fresh water for outdoor use.

Garden no. 2 - so far
For year 2. we are going to try more of a 'how to' approach - posting videos on Youtube sharing trials of the experiment in video format.

We hope to include:

Building with Pallets
Water Collection System
Espalier Fruit Trees
Raised Beds

Your Experiment 2012:
 If you are experimenting in your yard in Stratford (or even just growing a few veggies) Please Share! We hope to get more participants working on their own yards to help out by blogging or posting photos on the Facebook Page.

Everyone can experiment! Let's share the great things happening in Stratford!!

(for those who volunteer to help with the Blog and Facebook SUFE will help with some of your gardening costs - providing seeds, plants, rain barrels)

interested? email or send a message on facebook

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cluck Cluck....?

The property we were planning on doing the Quail trial run is unavailable and we need to quickly find a place to build a home for our Quail!

If you are interested in providing your backyard in Stratford visit the Facebook event page, or send an email to

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SUFE's corporate sponsor

You may have noticed the increased corporate presence in SUFE posts on twitter, Facebook and this Blog.

I offer you what I hope you will see as a rational, reasonable explanation...

In May of 2011 a new Ontario Corporation was formed. Your Local Market Co-operative Inc. A workers' co-operative local grocery store/bakery/take-out restaurant.

Well... here's the deal:
Of the 20 most active Stratford Urban Farming Experiment participants, 4 are the current member-owners who founded and are now employed by Your Local Market Co-op. The conversations started in September 2010 about creating a more sustainable Stratford, Ontario by experimenting with urban farming. The conversations naturally progressed to asking how else can we make a more sustainable Stratford? and with many SUFE'rs working in seasonal and/or insecure jobs some of us started asking, how can we find sustainable year-round employment that supports our values and supports a more sustainable Stratford? 

The answer was this type of employment could not be found. It needed to be created. So, we have created it for ourselves and have recently even hired another active SUFE'r.

That makes 5 SUFE'rs employed by the new co-operative corporation (hopefully more to come). A co-operative corporation with a vision of being an important part of creating a more sustainable Stratford. And many SUFE'rs and members of the community actively supporting it.

Your Local Market Co-op is now the home of some of SUFE's stuff, including the free gardening resource library. The fundraising for SUFE will continue in June at the Slow Food market with YLMC's co-operation.

Also when I take a break from blogging, I plan on looking into ways to make SUFE a slightly more legitimate entity....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Re: Bokyard Poultry talk

Last night there was a casual conversation about urban chickens at Your Local Market Co-op. People talked about some issues and potential problems, but generally agreed that it is possible to have urban chickens in Stratford in a safe way.

Some potential problems with having chickens include predators coming after the chickens, as well as vermin after the feed. There is not a way to eliminate these risks, but research, careful planning and cats could help reduce the occurrence. 

We spoke about how it is legal in some cities. It was also mentioned that in London, Ontario someone brought the issue to the mayor, but the mayor didn't have time to think about it. (health & safety regulations, funding for regulatory services, etc.)

As I mentioned it the most recent post on Facebook, a summary of last nights conversation was: To persuade the city to change the bylaw we should present them with evidence that it can be safe, clean, etc and offer a solution for regulating.

The engaged members of the discussion kept bringing the conversation back to - "what is Slow Food's role in this" and "what are we actually going to do about this." A lot of times discussions like this get too hypothetical so this made for a refreshing change!

The options seemed to be either to:
a) go to city hall and ask for the change (providing evidence, etc); or
b) go ahead and have a chicken coop anyway (and hope the neighbours don't complain)

However, one person in the conversation pointed out that there is a loophole in the by-laws allowing residents of Stratford to have a particular breed of quail. So it seems we need to start a pilot project...

One yard. One Coop. Share responsibility for research, set up and maintenance. Share the quail eggs to experience something new. Share a quail thanksgiving in the fall.

If we can prove that we can safely and successfully keep quail, provide examples of other cities that have urban chickens and propose a solution for regulating what choice will the city have?

March 25th is the tentative date for the building of the coop... Stay Tuned.