Let's be honest. Before I moved to Cobourg, I had zero gardening experience. My last attempt was in our last home in Ayr (it's OK if you've never heard of Ayr), just outside of Cambridge, Ontario.
I inherited my garden plot from the previous homeowner. It was roughly four feet by eight feet and it kept me way too busy. Maybe because I was working full-time or maybe because I never did any research into planting stuff, but I sucked at it.
My first year, I planted 10 tomato plants in an area of soil which probably could have supported two. It was my first jungle and the branches turned into a twisted secret garden.
Then I tried strawberries. Nobody told me they had to be maintained in an orderly fashion. I just let them be. My harvest consisted of two pathetic red clumps.
And now I'm in Cobourg and at the coaxing of my loving wife, I "volunteered" at the local community garden, part of the Villa St. Joseph Retreat & Ecology Centre, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. For two days I dug out raspberry bushes. And to be honest, I enjoyed it. But at the end of my second day, Sister Linda (bless her heart) offered me my own garden plot and all the manure I could shovel after all my hard work.
As tempting as that sounded, I just wasn't sure if I wanted to become a part-time farmer. The plots were at least a quarter of an acre (OK, they're 10 feet by 20 feet at best) and I was busy deciding what to do in retirement.
My wife "suggested" that I would love it, plus it would get me out of the house. So last June, I ventured into the world of gardening. While I purchased my $1.39 tomato cages, my fellow gardeners were creating teepee-size structures for their vegetables.
The regulars at the garden just shook their heads at me in those early days, but soon they took pity and offered some much needed advice.
• stop planting everything so close together;
• cover the ground in straw to control mould and keep the moisture in the ground;
• don't putter in your garden during the hottest time of the day;
• "where's your GD hat!!" (GD is swear words).
By the end of my first season I had way too many tomatoes, two types of lettuce, yellow beans coming out my…, beets, onions and a new appreciation for live produce. There's nothing like walking along the lakefront to your own garden and picking fresh vegetables for a salad.
I also helped build a log tool shed to keep all the equipment that the St. Joseph sisters and some of the local gardeners provide. I'm not handy, so I was impressed with what I was able to accomplish – thanks to my building mentor Peter Woodward.
Heck, this summer I might expand to two plots.