I will have a garden. Maybe with garlic in it.

Snow-covered now (okay, in February), but come summer – that is, some summer; perhaps not this coming one – the garden will be full of vegetables. And I will weed it, I promise, Dad.

Funny how things happen. This evening I was thinking (especially as it got closer to supper time and I got hungrier) about growing vegetables in the big garden at the Manse, and had decided that would be the subject of tonight’s post. And then I discovered a most interesting comment from a reader, Liz, to yesterday’s post about shutters, and Liz has a blog called – ta-da! – Digital Gardener. It is a beautiful blog about, you guessed it, gardening, but somewhat unusual gardening; in addition to vegetables and things, Liz grows fibre and dye plants. Imagine: in Eastern Ontario, she is growing cotton! Now that is cool. I encourage you to check our her progress: digitalgardener.wordpress.com.

Across the street from the Manse is the property where Will and Isabelle (Bella) Holmes's little house once stood, and beside it was their large garden, which became ours. Much weeding ensued.

So yes, it’s about a garden. When my family lived at the Manse we had a huge garden: the side yard of the house (the photo atop this post) plus, eventually – when Will and Isabelle Holmes across the street (Will being the gent who warned us “Don’t drink the water!” on our very first day at the Manse in July 1964) were too elderly to keep up their garden – another large plot. So while in summertime we kids were spared the “Wood!” (I’m quoting my dad, being imperative) chore (that would be filling up the woodbox for the wood stove in the Manse’s kitchen), we instead had the weeding chore. Which I loathed, but I think in my approaching dotage I can get quite into it. Very zen, it seems to me.

What also makes it appealing is that we can’t really grow stuff where we live in Montreal. Our house has many charms, but a sunny balcony is not one of them. Our back deck gets some nice morning sun, but not enough to keep plants happy. Every year I try to grow a collection of herbs (the most important thing in the garden, as far as I’m concerned; there is nothing like cutting some fresh rosemary or sage or parsley to use in dinner), and every year it’s pretty much a failure. Herbs are so undemanding, but the one thing they do want is full sun, and we just can’t give them that.

So the first thing I will plant at the Manse will be a herb garden. Maybe at the front of the house, on either side of the steps down from the front porch. Chives, parsley (Italian and curly), chervil, oregano, thyme, basil (though basil always reminds me of the ’80s, when we all ate more pesto than enough), marjoram, sage, tarragon, rosemary. But no coriander! It is loathesome. (Raymond does not agree. I read an article a few years ago [it’s here] that said people have a genetic predisposition to find the taste of coriander – or cilantro, if you want to get all fancy about it – either delightful or disgusting. I fall into the latter group. As, I am proud to say, did one of my very greatest heroes, Julia Child. You can watch Julia making an omelette here. Do so, and bon appétit!)

And in the garden proper I will have:

Tomatoes (it will be fun to research the various heirloom varieties), corn (old-fashioned yellow, not peaches and cream), green beans, peas, beets, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, rutabagas, squashes summer and winter, maybe spinach (is spinach hard to grow?), carrots, and most important of all: potatoes! (That’s the Northern Irish in me.)

And Raymond says garlic. Can one actually grow garlic successfully in a home garden?

More to the point: has a Sedgwick ever had garlic in his or her garden in all of recorded history? (We are Protestants, after all.)

I feel there are seed catalogues in my future. And garlic adventures.

15 thoughts on “I will have a garden. Maybe with garlic in it.

  1. Yes, it’s possible to grow garlic in your garden. I once had a community garden plot in NDG, and the Italian man next to me coaxed an astonishing amount of tomatoes and garlic from the limited amount of soil we were each allotted. If you know any older Italian men (those who came over a few decades back; I suspect the younger generation may be less intrested in gardening), perhaps you can get some hints.

    As for cilantro, I’m interested to hear that there’s a genetic factor involved, since I loathe it. I’m also glad the fad for putting it into every single thing has passed. RIP cilantro.

  2. Oh, garlic there will be, as well as all matter of onions, from red to green to leek. I’m a firm believer in alliaceae as medication. Not a meal is made here without a healthy dose. Well, maybe not in Sunday morning French toast. But have I mentioned the curative powers of extra light maple syrup, the season’s first run?

  3. Katherine, you gave away your dual identity as a rural kid/urban grownup! When you were thinking about vegetables in Queensborough, you referred to “supper.” When you were talking about making a meal in Montreal, it became “dinner”!

    • It’s funny you noted that, Nancy. When I was writing that post, I had to stop and think which of the two words I wanted to use, and yes, I realized I was wavering between the rural and the urban (and perhaps to a lesser extent the old and the new) usages, but I decided to go with what seemed right in each context. I suspect you have the same dichotomy in your own rural/urban life when it comes to mealtimes!

  4. Notes:
    1. I was thinking the same thing as Nancy re: supper/dinner. Everyone here laughs at me when I talk about ‘supper’.
    2. You totally need to check out Garlic Fest in Carnarvon this year in August. It’s become a huge deal. Or talk to the neighbours Dave and Cheryl Bathe. They’ll get you on the right path.
    3. Raymond seems to have got himself a new square. This is me biting my tongue…

    • I knew not from the Carnarvon Garlic Fest until you posted this, Mel. Now thanks to our great friend Mr. Google I have discovered The Haliburton Garlic Growers Association (really, who knew?) and the fact that this year’s garlic fest takes place on Saturday, Aug.25. I shall endeavour to be there! (BUt could you tell the Garlic Growers folks that the “Garilic Girl” on their website should probably be spelled “Garlic Girl”?)

  5. Katherine, Thanks so much for your kind comments! I hope you get to the gardening part soon – it’s so much fun, and everything just tastes better when it’s freshly picked (especially cucumbers).


    • Especially cucumbers! Despite the old “cool as a cucumber” cliché, there is something about sun-warmed cukes fresh from the garden with the tiniest bit of salt (preferably good salt) on them. But I have to say that my favourite fresh-from-the-garden thing will always be tomatoes … mouth is watering as I type this …

  6. I am dreaming about gardening, too! If it’s heirloom tomatoes you are after, you my want to check out http://www.vickisveggies.com/Events.html in Prince Edward County. I have only ever been to the labour day weekend produce sale, but I hear great things about the Victoria Day weekend seedling sale. I have been to a few garden centers in my time, and I must say that I have never seen such a huge selection of tomato varieties in one place as I’ve seen at this place. On another note, I have asparagus in my little backyard plot (inherited from the previous owners). Let me know if you want any roots to transplant next fall…
    Good luck with the weeding.

    • Thank you for that tip, Pam! It seems an awful lot of good things come from Hastings County’s fertile neighbour to the south, Prince Edward County. After going on about my future garden in Queensborough in that post of a few days ago I kind of caught myself up short this weekend and realized there’s no way I’m going to be able to spend enough time there, in the next few years at least, to do a vegetable garden properly. (There I go, ducking weeding again.) But I will try to do some perennials in the front garden, and herbs, because they are so easy and so useful. And wild asparagus, yes! We used to have a couple of bushes on the edge of the Manse property, along with some rhubarb plants, and we ate well from both of them. They were located practically on top of the (mercifully long-gone) cesspool that constituted the sewage system when we moved there. Good fertilizer, doubtless …

  7. Ask Raymond about the garden at the cemetery where we picked fresh green beans and cucumbers and probably lots of other stuff too, but the green beans and cukes were my favorites.

    • My favorites were the red tomatoes. I can remember Uncle Hector showing me how to eat tomatoes. No cutting up in fancy salads for him. He’d sit on the steps of the house, rub the tomato on his workshirt and bite into as if it were an apple. Following his lead for the first time, I remember well how the juices spurted out and ran down my chin. Hector sat there with a salt shaker and put away two tomatoes to my one. What great memories. I remember that garden as being enormous, especially when it came time to weed it. But it fed Uncle Lucien’s large extended family. (Rev. Lucien Brassard was the cemetery’s director, for those of you who wonder about my sister’s “cemetery garden” post. He was my grandfather’s brother and for years sustained a half-acre garden of every conceivable vegetable. We spent every Sunday afternoon at the cemetery, playing baseball in empty fields, picking veggies for the week and enjoying Uncle Lucien’s banana frappes. Milkshakes, to you non-New Englanders. It may sound odd to be spending leisure time in such a place to many of you, but for a family of eight with very little money in the 50s, it was just as good as going to an amusement park. The place was huge, with a large farmhouse separating the cemetery from vacant acres to be used for future expansion. It was here we enjoyed our childhood.)

  8. Hope we didn’t scare any of the blog readers away with our stories of the cemetery, brother. At least we didn’t mention when “someone” came out of the grave and grabbed my foot, and you had to save me…

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