10 Questions Summer 09
Written by Staff
2. What do you think Vitality Gardening brings to the table?
In addition to being a practical, hands-on gardening show, Vitality Gardening shares an indigenous perspective on gardening. The show challenges myths by bringing our ancestors’ knowledge to the forefront, not only in agricultural methods but also in harvesting medicinal and culinary plants from the wild. It is also the only program that has Northern gardening as a major focus. We also have regular people from the community as our experts, who share tried and true tips that they have learned over a lifetime. Unlike many other gardening or home improvement shows on television, Vitality Gardening is all about how to do things without spending money.
3. What do you think are some common misperceptions about growing your own food in Manitoba?
Many people think gardening is too hard, takes too much time and isn’t worth doing. As a very busy career person, I can say that I was surprised at how manageable it was…And gardening is worth it economically—it is incredible how you can turn $5 worth of seeds into $200 worth of produce. For families, it is a great way to save money and spend time together outdoors.
4. What are challenges Manitobans face, particularly as you venture further north, when it comes to growing food?
In the north, the growing season is often just 60 days. A common misperception is that in the north, it is too cold to grow your own food. What we found on the show is that you can do it by growing in raised beds, starting seedlings in greenhouses and planting seeds suited to a shorter growing season. However, the north also has longer daylight hours during the summer months. The idea is to capitalize on that. For example, on the show, we visit Inuvik, N.W.T., where the city has turned an old hockey arena into a huge community greenhouse!
5. What types of veggies grow best in our climate?
Southern Manitoba has lots of sun, so everything does really well here, including tomatoes, peppers and basil. Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, kale and chard prefer the earlier season when it is cooler, and they like a bit of shade. Of course, indigenous crops such as squash, beans, and corn will do very well here, since they have grown here for millennia. On the show, we also plant an indigenous medicine garden in my front yard of local species, which do very well.
6. Is there anything you’ve struggled with growing in our region?
I haven’t really struggled with anything, but I found that the Jerusalem artichoke, which I grew in my backyard, grew so big that it shaded out some of the other plants. Jerusalem artichoke is also an indigenous plant, so it grows like crazy.
7. What would you recommend for novice gardeners to grow?
I would recommend just planting what you like to eat. Maybe start with a small variety of each–carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, etc. Herbs are wonderful because you can go out, pick them, and throw them into whatever you are cooking in the kitchen.
8. Are there any plants or herbs common to Manitoba that have little known medicinal purposes?
Burdock grows wild all around Winnipeg and it was used by my ancestors to treat skin irritations. Just crush the leaf a bit and rub on the skin.
9. How easy is it to start a home composting system?
It’s very easy! I had never done it before and it only takes a couple of hours to set it up. We show how anyone can easily make their own compost by layering soil, plant material (such as dry leaves or grass clippings) and kitchen scraps, then giving it a good watering. After that’s done, you can start throwing in your kitchen scraps, dead leaves, grass clippings, even over the winter months. It turns into nutrient-rich soil by the following year, so that you can create a garden anywhere—even if your soil has too much clay or is poor quality.
What needs to be tidied up in your garden come fall?
Most vegetables can be pulled up, harvested, and the stalks and leaves put into the compost. Put a good cover of leaves to protect the soil in October! Leave behind any perennial herbs such as mint or chives, and of course any indigenous plants, which will come up again the following spring.