The Zero Mile Diet Garden

For many years I just assumed that I had a brown thumb. Any attempt I made at gardening on the island always resulted in stunted plants, low yields, and heartache. That was until someone gave me a copy of Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. I discovered that the heavy rain that we have here on the West Coast leaches out many of the soil nutrients, and the soil tends to be acidic. Steve's solution is a heavy application of lime and a liberal dose of a miraculous homemade natural fertilizer made from easily obtainable ingredients. Early results in our new garden show that it's working.

Like most of our projects, the garden developed rather organically. About eight years ago I bought some recycled plastic container boxes from someone on Vancouver Island. I reassembled them on the south side of the driveway and filled them with topsoil. A small apple tree provided the focal point for the garden on the other side.

We tied a rope around the tree and used it to help us lay out the triangular-shaped beds. We defined them with recycled brick from our former fireplace and added an extra layer of enriched topsoil to the rather depleted soil that already existed. The only thing we have left to do is to cover the paths with some straw or bark mulch. I'm thrilled with the result.

We ordered the Zero Mile Diet seed kit from Dan Jason on Salt Spring Island. Dan has been providing open-pollinated, untreated, and non GMO seeds along with plenty of growing advice to Canadians for 22 years. The kit (which sold out quickly) contained seeds for wheat, barley, flax, quinoa, amaranth,various dried beans, paste tomatoes, and a 20-lettuce blend. I also ordered some soybeans, cucumbers, and runner beans along with the usual carrots, beets, squashes, and assorted greens.

The Heritage Bean Mix was so beautiful I almost wept. It's easy to pick out the "orca" beans in this picture.

The garlic and favas that I planted in November continue to thrive.

The French and Easter Egg radishes were stupendous, in fact I had probably added too much fertilizer - they were very leafy. I discovered that radish greens are edible and are not unlike turnip greens. Sauteed in olive oil with garlic and chili flakes, they are delicious.

We've been eating the lettuce for the last few weeks - it will probably bolt soon with the good weather we've been having. I planted almost everything except the tomato seedlings on the weekend. We'll keep our fingers crossed!

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