Oak Bay gardeners share harvest know-how

Gardeners savour the bounty from their Oak Bay garden

  • Aug. 27, 2015 7:00 a.m.

Ruth and Brian Holl relax in their front garden

Jennifer Blyth

Oak Bay News

How does your garden grow?

For Oak Bay’s Ruth and Brian Holl, it teems with apples and tomatoes, colourful Swiss chard, potatoes, peas and pears.

And blueberries…oh, so many delicious blueberries.

“This has been the most fantastic year because of the heat,” Brian says.

The Holls moved into their south Oak Bay property in 2006, when it was largely an ornamental garden, with some food areas. “We sat on it for about a year, and then slowly we started rearranging things the way we wanted,” Ruth recalls.

Today, a quiet stone patio in the sunny front yard is surrounded by a variety of apples, tomatoes and lavender, while in the back, mature ornamentals and numerous spring-flowering bulbs are mixed with assorted beds, pots and garden boxes filled with tasty edibles, not to mention about 20 blueberry bushes. There’s an espaliered pear tree heavy with fruit and raspberry canes brought from the Holls’ former garden in Vancouver. “The more space you have covered with vegetables, the fewer weeds you have,” Ruth notes.

They’ve also added more annuals, like the cheerful marigolds and sweet peas, and self-seeding floral edibles like calendula and borage that bring bees and butterflies. “We like pretty things, too,” Ruth says with a smile.

The two come by their garden growing honestly.

“We love fruit and we like vegetables. We both graduated in agriculture long ago and my father had a market garden,” Ruth says, noting both enjoy working in the garden, but also the pleasure of harvesting their own food.

“It’s therapeutic,” Brian adds.

Because they can’t eat everything they produce while it’s fresh, the couple also freezes and dehydrates much of their produce for use later in the year.

The richly producing space will be one of 14 stops on the inaugural Urban Food-Garden Tour, Sept. 12. The city lot shows just how much food can be produced in a relatively compact space.

Thanks to this year’s extra-sunny skies, the garden is about a month ahead, but will still provide plenty of food for thought for the tour.

The tour aims to give home gardeners and people thinking about growing food the chance to access 14 home food gardens on Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and Esquimalt, mostly at people’s homes – backyards, front yards, allotments and boulevards. “They’ll get an intimate look at the volume and diversity people can produce in their own spaces, right here in the city,” says Elizabeth Vibert, co-founder of the tour with Elmarie Roberts, a farmer and board member at Haliburton Community Farm.

Vibert, a professor in the University of Victoria history department, is researching a women’s farm in South Africa that’s motivated in similar ways – rooted in community, feeding people locally and sustainably. Some of the funds raised from the tour will go toward a grower-to-grower exchange planned between Haliburton and Hleketani farmers.

In addition, funds raised from the inaugural Urban Food-Garden Tour will also support Haliburton farmers to expand their weekly food-box program. To emphasize the importance of accessibility of local food, Hali food boxes will go (by draw) to lower-income families through 1UP, the Single Parent Resource Centre.

“We’re expecting some great conversations [from the tour], from how to grow food year-round, to how to keep soils healthy, to how to use water sensibly in our increasingly dry region. Bees, chickens, mushrooms, all manner of veggies and fruits – they’re all on the tour,” Vibert says.

For the Holls, they wanted to encourage people to try food gardening, in whatever space works for them. “Even if people can grow whatever the simplest thing is for them to grow, it’s helpful,” Ruth says.

“You can, with a very modest amount of property, or in boxes or containers, grow your own food.”

Adds Brian, “we take great pride in the fact that we don’t need to go to the market for produce.”

Tickets for the Urban Food-Garden Tour are $15 (under 15 free) and are available from GardenWorks, brownpapertickets.com, Haliburton Farm stands at Moss Street Market, the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson and Oaklands Market, or by email at vicurbanfoodgardens@gmail.com For more information, visit vicurbanfoodgarden.wix.com/tour

 

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