All my family is here in St. John’s.   So we are actually from town.   One time I was in a taxi cab in Seattle and the driver said, “Oh Newfoundland, I know Newfoundland, what part of Newfoundland are you from?” and when I responded that I was from St John’s, the American cab driver said “ Oh a real live townie.” So yeah, that’s me, and that’s my son, real live townies! 

We didn’t have a garden when I was growing up. We didn’t garden with my grandparents or parents.  We just went to the supermarket to get food. That was normal. 

Last year, along with my eleven year old son, I joined the masses and committed to gardening. 

We live in a two-storey house downtown.  So we are lucky to have a back yard, but we recently realized it is prime real estate.  We can’t line the whole backyard with drills of soil and raised beds because we also need room for our blow-up pool, mini trampoline . . .plus our games of back yard soccer and the endless accidental kicking of the soccer ball into one of many neighbour’s yards. 

So we decided recreation wins and tried growing inside. The first try failed. We had some old cups, some random soil, and some seeds. As a mom I even made an event out of it!  We watched YouTube videos, learned basic aspects of growing and finally placed our little seeds in the soil and set them by the window. 

Less than a day later, our lovely cat Oscar knocked the cups off the window ledge. Well, we vacuumed up all the soil and salvaged what we could. Placed the seeds and soil back on the window ledge and. . .one day later. . .the cat knocked them over again. It seems the window ledge was also prime real estate. 

Among parents, it is a common desire is to give our kids more than we had. We often show this on the material level, but since the roaring 2020’s, this pull now includes reconnecting with the earth.  As we learn how to feed ourselves, we are rebuilding skills that somehow managed to skip a few generations. 

The coolest part about connecting with nature is that you can ask any child below the age of seven about nature and they are already in tune with the beat of that drum. It seems after seven years of age is when we are conditioned to become the almighty consumer and we forget this connection. 

Which is why it’s so important! Not only is sticking your hands in dirt fun, there are actually enzymes in the dirt that keep you happy! You know those mud pies you may have made as a kid? Who would have thought that dirt was helping boost your mental health? But it does! 

Kids intuitively share this connection with nature, so when it comes to gardening, we can learn together but we definitely need to hold space to learn from them. After last Spring’s failed attempt with its “zero percent success rate” as my son labelled it, we decided we would not give up. So we read up a little more on growing in buckets and decided we were going to use the small patio in front of our house to attempt potatoes and carrots and kale. 

Though it seemed boring and too much like work at first, once we got going my son found it was fun. The messing with soil stitched together by constant poop jokes about the compost made for a great afternoon, and though we didn’t really know what we were doing, it turned out to be amazing quality time. 

We decided to paint pictures of what we had planted on the outside of the buckets and that brought on even more fun and laugher. We painted faces of the produce and one of the potatoes actually looked “baked”…and not baked like he needed a little butter and sour cream, but baked like he had just sampled something from the local tweed store. 

We also noticed that as people walked by our front patio mini garden, they would point and laugh.  We had no doubt that it was our paintings of carrots and potatoes with faces were making them smile, but it also showed us that no matter what space you have, with a little creativity and consistency, you can grow food. 

We were so happy watering and watching our mini bucket garden grow all summer! Then it was time to harvest. 

This was when my fall-born child seemed to get the most excited. We made sure we harvested under the full harvest moon, we gave thanks to Mother Earth and then we dove in, to see what we had successfully (or unsuccessfully) grown. To our surprise, we had about 5 lbs of mini potatoes, a couple of carrots and some super cool purple kale.   This was my son’s favourite part! Seeing how excited he was made my day. 

We had also started a tiny garden plot in the ground next to the shed in the backyard, just as a test. When we compared the results, It turned out the buckets yielded a better carrot, but for seeds that we just planted in the ground with no maintenance, the little rogue carrots were still pretty great and it was fun to pull up food from the actual ground. 

I made sure during the whole process of growing that I didn’t force my son to enjoy it. I knew from my own excitement that growing real food is contagious enough. 

This year the cat has again laid claim to the window ledge (he’s already knocked off the corn seeds we tried to start) so we purchased a grow light. We are still short on space but we found a perfect four-foot square area under a table and hung the grow light there. 

Now we are planting with a bit more confidence. We started peas this year and to our surprise they are growing already!  The best part was when my son noticed they looked exactly like the microgreens we had bought from Green Farms NL and he set out to plant some to pick and eat right away the very next week. 

Then, with beautiful synchronicity, I learned of the O’Brien Farm community garden. We just found out that we will have a spot there! We are so excited to be a part of the O’Brien community this year.  This means that for the first time we will be gardening with others!! Not only will we have real quality time gardening together, but we will also get to join a community of like-minded people. 

This will create lasting memories and new friendships for my awesome pre-teen and he will be able to pick up tips and tricks from experienced gardeners in real time!    Now that we will have travel time to the farm it will also make garden sessions an event. Summer 2021 is going to be awesome! 

As we get ready to grow some vegetables on our own, outside, again this year, it’s not so much about creating a regimented, structured gardening plan.  It is more about learning how to go with the flow as well as equipping the next generation with the knowledge they will need, to survive. 

It’s about reigniting the connection with Mother Earth that children seem to naturally possess. 

It’s about eating real food.  

It’s about patience and faith. 

All great things start just like a seed, in the dark unknown. . . until we show them love and light and let them grow, just like our kids! 

Jennifer Collins
Townie Gardener

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