Growing Peas From Seed

If you’re reading this, you likely live on Hansard an you might have scanned the pea seed jar. In this quick review, I will share with you about theses seeds and the basics to planting and caring for them. Please take only as many seeds as you need for your garden so that other neighbors may also get seeds.

Sweet Peas

These peas seeds come from my garden in the backyard from peas I allowed to overgrow and dry up for the purpose of producing seeds. They are a sweet pea, but it has been a few years since I bought the original seeds, so I can’t tell you much more than that.

Plant in March & August

You will want to plant them in mid-March for a June/July crop (if you take good care of them, they will continue to produce through September) or again in early-August for a October harvest (these won’t produce as much of a crop, but they are good to have to get you some fresh veggies in the fall). Prior to planting, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours to give them a good start at growing.

Lots of Sun and Something To Climb

They should be planted where there’s a fair amount of sunlight and something for them to climb. If you have a trellis or fence, stick them near there. Be aware that anything you plant north of these peas will get a bit of shade so plan your placement ahead of time. Keep your peas well watered, but let them dry out a little bit between watering so not to rot the roots.

Harvest Either Flat or Plump

When these pea pods start to appear, they will be a bit flat, but they will plump up as time goes on. The flatter they are, the more tender and you can use full, flat, pea pods in stir fries. The plumper pods are great for snacking and deshelling.

Every Plant Grows A Lot

You only need 3-4 pea plants per family member if you intend on freezing some. Otherwise, don’t plant more than 2 plants per person eating peas.

Easy To Collect Seeds From

If you find your pea plant drying up and turning yellow, it is nearing the end of the plants life. Dried up pea pods can be used for seeds, and if you don’t want to use them, feel free to drop them back off at the garden table for us to distribute to more neighbours!

my 2020 peas!

Hansard Growing!

This Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant project was funded by the Vancouver Foundation and administered by The Association of Neighbourhood Houses BC. 

If you know anything about me, it should be that I love to produce. I like to make things from seemingly nothing and I also like to instill that ability in others. Which is a big reason I have my garden. Taking a little seed and making it grow into a big ol’ plant, that’s my JAM! So after I got my community project rolling, I needed to do more! But on the limited budget that I was on (ahem, $0) I couldn’t do it alone. Which is when my googling took me to Neighbourhood Small Grants. The Vancouver Foundation actively funds small neighbourhood projects each year; all you need is an idea and the ability to share it and see it through.

When I found NSG, I got to work writing out my application.

The Application

Last year, my family grew more food than we were able to eat; we gave away the excess where we could to friends yet a fair amount still went to waste. In this we realized an opportunity to create community, and so this year, we have endeavored to build more gardening space. I am a horticulture student with an interest in edible landscaping and I intend to eventually eliminate my front lawn completely and replace it all with food. We have sent letters out to the 60 homes in our neighbourhood letting everyone know that we would be sharing our excess produce with them this year. Within the week, we have heard from about 10 of our neighbours, thanking us for this and already asking after some mint they saw growing; which is where this project comes in. I want to build a planter box (2’w X 6’l X 3’h) in my front yard, next to the sidewalk, in which to grow produce designated for the neighbourhood, starting with lettuces and mints. I also want to empower my neighbours to grow their own food by producing seedlings that they can plant in their own gardens and yards, and also provide free seeds with planting instructions. I will be doing the bulk of caring for the plants we grow, and I intend to create videos for our neighbours to learn how to harvest the plants being grown so that the plants are cared for and we continue to get a harvest from the food being grown. My project costs include the following: Purchasing the materials to make the planter box (treated wood, screws, dirt, delivery) Purchasing seeds and small plants to be planted into the planter Purchasing potting soil, reusable seedling pots, and seeds for seedlings Purchasing seed envelopes and printer ink to print on the envelopes Cost of printing and laminating small signs for the planter and to accompany the seedlings Cost of labels for the seedling pots so that they may be returned and reused I hope to cultivate a thriving community around the production of our own food. I hope to grow this project further in the future by putting a cold frame on the planter (for winter growing), creating a seed library where we may exchange seeds, and reusing the products purchased for this project to continue to offer plants and seeds to my neighbours in addition to the produce I share.

My ambitions were high, and still are! Once this NSG was approved, I got to work. Unfortunately, I mis-estimated how tall my planter should be, and it was nearly twice the height that we needed it to be (we wanted kids and adults alike to be able to pick yummy food!). Because the wood was already purchased and cut, and all the costs already estimated, I decided to double the footprint my yard was going to contribute to this project and made my one planter box into two.

While this was being built; I started growing some seedlings ASAP to share with my neighbors. Within a few days of the grant being approved I had the soil I needed to share some sunflower seedings (check out my instagram to learn why I had these to share!) and a few tomatillos. I had another neighbour with tons (16!) of volunteer tomato seedlings for me to share on my little community table. In the two months that I’ve had the funding, I’ve been able to share all these plants, and some pumpkin seedlings. So far, this little community table has shared 30+ seedlings!

Volunteer seedlings

Seedlings that pop up in places where you did not plant them. Usually they’re the offspring from fallen fruit from last year’s crop.

I wasn’t able to get dirt into the planter boxes until much later than I originally anticipated, so we’re just now beginning to get plants into it. I decided to fill one with tomato plants and a little bit of mint (which we have separated into it’s own planter within the box so that it doesn’t spread as easily). The other box is just about to be planted with some fall crops, like lettuce, kale, and maybe some radishes.

So if you’re on Hansard, feel free to swing by and pick up some fresh produce from the two labeled planters! Soon you’ll be finding seeds on the community table for fall planting, and other fun treats as a result of this neighbourhood small grant.

Oral Presentation Reflections

Once again, I am writing as part of a term long, 5 part, assignment for my Introduction to Professional Communications course. You may have been tuned in to read about citing and plagiarism, my CRAAP test error log, or writing about my midterm. There was supposed to be one more before this one, but my father passed away suddenly and I had to travel to Cranbrook BC to handle that. But that whole thing is a whole other topic that I will be writing about at a later day, when I can face it. Anyway, I suppose my 5 part assignment is now a 4 part. Oh well; enjoy.

This was my dad, in 2017 at my wedding. This was the last time we got good photos together. I hate that. He passed suddenly on his 48th birthday.
Photo credit to Jelger and Tanja Photographers, though I cropped it for this.

In my first week back, we were instructed to do an oral presentation on something, anything, to demonstrate a number of the communication methods we’ve learned this term. Things like understanding basic methods of communication, creating a clear and concise message, and understanding beginnings, middles, and ends. The goal is to equip us for speaking on a topic which we understood, and in a professional setting… I think 😉

What I loved about this assignment is the freedom to cover any topic we want. The only restriction was it could not exceed 2 minutes (which was probably a good call on the teacher’s part, because I could have done a 2 hour video about the importance of permaculture methods for farmers in the Amazon rain forest, and it would have been hella compelling), and it couldn’t be on a derogatory subject, which I want to make a joke about, but everything I’ve typed out makes me sound like a closeted fascist which I do not want to convey in any way.

So, 2 minutes on anything we want. This was not an easy choice for me to make as there are so many things I could share on. I decided that the message should be something along the lines of a teaching moment, which really doesn’t narrow down what I could speak on. I also was feeling very passionate about certain subjects, like, I don’t know, the need to do some end of life planning if you have kids or a single item of value. Or the value in officially filing for divorce after 12 years of separation, or the importance of not letting your emotions get the best of you, or about how addiction is a serious disease, not to be taken lightly. Basically, all the topics that immediately came to light were those that made me mad or sad about the death of my father, mostly mad. They would not do when trying to convey a professional message, because I would get worked up and angry or take up the full 2 minutes trying to choke down tears.

Meager strawberry patch
The strawberries that started it all

But as I was brainstorming various ideas, I remembered a conversation I had with my teacher when we were discussing how to move forward with my classwork after having to miss a few weeks due to my father’s death. She mentioned something about gardening. I couldn’t (and can’t) remember exactly what it was, but it helped me to shift focus away from the topics that were immediately eating at me to speak on.

I thought about permaculture, or replacing your grass with food, keeping a garden journal, and a number of other subjects. I went through each of the plants I have planned for my garden this year (and boy, do I have plans) and when I got to my strawberries, I had a mini eureka moment. Strawberries are the plant that gave me the courage to actually have a garden, and I could share about how you shouldn’t give up on something just because you keep failing, because eventually, you will succeed. If that isn’t the most inspirational talk I can give in 2 minutes, I don’t know what is.

While Cecilia is a pro in the garden, she’s not quite as helpful with recording videos with me

It took me a very short time to write the first draft, and I even had Cecilia (daughter person) hanging off of me as I wrote. But I had to write quickly, as I had a limited time where Jim (husband man) would take Cecilia out for a walk and my makeshift office in my dining room (because my office is currently filled with my late father’s belongings as I sort through them). I took about 75 minutes to record, and record, and record again and again before I got a take I was happy with. I cannot begin to count them, because some I only got two sentences in before I fumbled. The first few practice ones helped me realize that what I had written was about 45 seconds too long, so I had to do a few rewrites in that time. And, at one point, I sneezed about 5 seconds from the end of a perfect take. My video count was definitely over 40.

I also had a goal of imputing some photos on the side of the video as I spoke (think about a newscaster with that fun little corner photo as they talk); but once I took the completed video into video editing software I realized I had no idea how to do that, so I nixed that idea.

I had personal troubles with some of the recordings. I’m working through some pretty rough feelings around my mother right now, following my father’s death (we haven’t spoken since my daughter was born, and she made it a little worse these last few weeks) but I felt including her (because including my youth) was an important aspect of the presentation. It took me a few tries to mask my anger with her in my voice.

Generally though, I was very comfortable with recording myself; I’ve spent enough time on Zoom this last year to not have an issue with being on film. Watching myself back was a different story though.

The way my computer films is that while it films you’re basically seeing yourself in selfie mode; but when the recording ends, the video is flipped, and it’s like seeing yourself backwards (even though selfie mode is really the backwards thing) so it took me a little bit to get over my own aesthetic issues with that.

I did notice, while watching myself back, that my eyes were all over the place. Admittedly they spent a bit of time reading what I had written, but they also are probably the most vain part of me, so they spent a lot of time watching myself on the screen too. Ultimately, though it was a guideline to have your eyes on the “audience” I decided that with the limited time I had, not having my eyes on sight was a hit I was okay taking, all things considered.

Had I taken more time (this was completely on me; I indicated that I would not need an extension for this particular assignment because I honestly forgot that my quiet working space had been taken over), I likely would have rehearsed and committed the short piece to memory (I’ve won awards for my performance poetry, I can recite with the masters), I would have taken more time to write something a little more lyrical, and I would have done more, appearance wise, than stick on a bra and a clean shirt. Maybe I would have even put on real pants.

All in all, I was pretty happy with how my presentation turned out, considering there was a short iteration where I would have angrily ranted about how everyone should get a flipping will done.

This is the end result of my submitted video presentation

March 2021; What’s In The Garden?

As January turned to February, my seed collection suddenly started jumping out of their storage site and just started screaming at my like my toddler “time to plant, time to plant, time to plant”. I have my seeds organized by month to plant which is evidently a mistake because all I want to do as soon as the calendar says it’s the first of the month, I want to get them rolling.

Now, obviously, February is too early to be planting outdoors, even in zone 8a, but there’s plenty of seeds that I was able to start indoors, and some that I maybe should have waited to start, but where’s the fun in that?

Below is a diagram of what I have cooking up in my window, getting ready to be planted outdoors

A – Holly Hock
B – Homegrown banana pepper
C – Homegrown jalapeno
D – Guajillo pepper
E – Bell pepper
F – Jalapeno
G – Red hot cherry peppers

H – Habanero peppers
I – Mixed hot peppers
J – Cherry bomb peppers
K – Tomatillo
L – Peanuts
M – Rosemary
N – Red cabbage

O – Green cabbage
P – Beefsteak tomato
Q – Black eyed Susans (vine)
R – Romaine lettuce
Sm – San marzano tomato
T – Sweet aroma tomato

I soaked all my seeds before planting (excluding the peanuts) and I am itching to get them outside, mostly because Cecilia (daughter-person) keeps trying to play in the dirt that’s inside and very clearly out for her to play in.

I tend to these babies daily (in order to do so, I have to move a couch, set a curtain aside, and turn a bookshelf, but whatever I need to do to protect them from my kid) and am counting down in my calendar for when I can start hardening them off.

Hardening off

Slowly exposing seedlings that were raised in controlled conditions (such as indoors without wind and with constant temps) through visits outdoors before planting them in the garden.

I’m also learning so much from my propagation class. Too much. It makes my plans get crazier and crazier. But at least for now, the outdoor gardens are pretty quiet. I have kale and radishes planted in my raised bed, cilantro in my new 3 sisters plot (later in the year, when everything is warmer and after my troves of cilantro is harvested for cilantro relish, the plot will belong to beans, corn, and squash), I just got my first ever batch of potatoes in the ground, of course I have my garlic planted and growing from November, with some spinach planted among it, and my perennial everbearing strawberries are just starting to perk up again. The garden is starting to see a lot of action and I’m dreaming of when my plots will be teeming with new life.

My raised bed map
My front garden and herb spiral
My “berry plot”, which looks unexciting but it has rhubarb, huckleberries, and garlic currently living in it and spinach germinating (I hope)
photo of a bare dirt garden plot with garlic placed in holes at regular intervals
This is from back in November when I planted all my garlics. I have more planted in with my strawberries, and I don’t think I have enough garlic planted…
My new 3 sisters plots and my makeshift drum kit planters for my cut flowers.

23 Frugal Garden Hacks

YAY! You’re getting a bonus post this week because I am participating in a 7 day challenge! You’ll be able to read more on that soon, but for now, enjoy this.

I don’t know about you, but when I can avoid spending money, I AVOID it. But that doesn’t mean that my poor garden has to suffer as a result. Here are some of my favourite frugal garden hacks to keep your garden on budget but looking great.

Seeds and Plants

Seeds are fairly cheap… until you’ve got 20 packs in your basket and you have no idea where everything will be planted, but you want them anyway. There are a lot of ways to save yourself some money when it comes to your little green babies.

My saved cilantro seeds from 2020

23. Seed saving – when I first started looking at seed saving, it was a little daunting and honestly, I didn’t think I could do it. It’s actually a super easy thing to do, depending on the plant which you want to go to seed. From my first year of gardening I managed to collect seeds from my squash, some peppers, cilantro, and oh my goodness, radishes! I’ve given away a lot of my seeds (because there’s no way that I could possibly use all of the seeds I managed to save) and that brings me to my next frugal point…

There’s no doubt I got a beautiful bounty of seeds last year when I participated in a Christmas seed swap

22. Seed swap groups – there used to be events when we could actually see each other in person and trade our seeds. I never went to one, but I dreamt of it. This past Christmas, one of my local gardening groups did a seed swap where I sent seeds to 6 other people and in return, those 6 sent me seeds. I ended up with such a crazy array of seeds I probably wouldn’t have purchased but I can’t wait to plant (except the ones I’ve already planted; those ones I can’t wait to eat). All those seeds cost me was about $6 in postage, a few of the seeds I won’t be able to use, and the price of an envelope.

21. Ask for them – is there a plant that you love that someone you know has? Ask them for a cutting or division, or seeds. They may not always say yes, but a lot of the time, a plant needs to be pruned anyway, or they need to make the plant a little smaller and would be happy to give you a division when they do that!

20. Seed libraries – much like seed swaps, these give you the opportunity to get seeds for free in exchange for contributing seeds to the library in the fall. Find a BC seed library here! Unfortunately, COVID has slowed a number of these libaries, but here’s hoping they start functioning again soon!

19. Purchase seeds at the end of the season – Most places can’t sell all their seeds before the end of the year, but seed packs do have a “sell before” date (this is not an expiry date!) which means they go on sale! I’ve gotten oodles of seeds for literally pennies because stores are just trying to get rid of their stock.


Tools can be a big expense when you’re building a garden or adding features. For the most part, the only tools you really need to have a garden is a shovel, maybe a rake, a pair of clippers, and your own two hands. While it’s nice to have more tools on hand (I love my eletric drill and my table saw!) it’s not always a need. Instead here are a few tool hacks for you to save money on things to get the job done. Note, for these selections, I include any tool, including things like soil and fertilizer.

18. Ask for what you need – there’s an increase of interest in a sharing economy lately and if you need something, oftentimes you need just ask and you can access the things you need. You can pose your need on your public social media page, or hit up some of Facebook’s groups, like your local buy nothing group, or a local gardening group. Your social network can lead to a number of the things you might need.

17. Tool library – another library! A tool library is much like a regular library, except there’s often a membership fee involved. Still, paying a membership fee is often far less than purchasing and upkeeping all the tools you may need one off. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need an auger; except for that one post that I want to put into my yard. Tool library.

16. Egg shells – Egg shells are a mighty tool, even if they are fragile. I use them for decomposable seed starting pots, for protection against slugs and snails in my raised bed, and just a regular amendment I add crushed to my garden bed. Eggs are full of calcium and other good things. Just make sure to wash the shells and bake them before using to ensure they’re not an attractant for pests. See more about how to use egg shells in your garden here.

15. Milk jugs – turning everyday waste into useful items! That’s what I’m talking about, boi! 1 gallon milk jugs are a great tool for winter seed sowing. Learn how to use milk jugs in your garden here.

14. News papers – I don’t get the news paper, but my in-laws do and I recently asked them to save a few for me. What I got was a tower of news papers that I was not prepared for. But they’re awesome for so many reasons. I’ve made little compostable pots out of them, I’ve used them for cleaning, and I’ve used them in my compost as brown matter. Learn more about using newspapers for your garden at this link.

13. Clear plastic food containers – You know, the ones that your rotisserie chicken comes in or your delicious baked goods? Use those for starting seeds! The clear top helps to keep the atmosphere inside humid for seeds getting going.

12. Sour cream containers – or yogurt containers. Or any opaque container. I cut them down into little stakes and write on them with black sharpie so I can keep track of what’s planted where.

My egg cartons have yet to do me wrong!

11. Egg cartons – another favourite for a decomposable seed starter; in fact, I used one last year for starting my corn! and I have another couple dozen cells in use now for starting my peppers. Just be sure that if you’re not removing the seedling from the cell before planting in the ground that you tear the bottom off a little so that the roots don’t have to work as hard to get through.

Form and function

This is where we can have the most fun (in my opinion) and get really creative with what we use to make our gardens fruitful (pun 100% intended). Almost anything can become a planter if you try enough!

10. Bed frames for trellises – I just picked up an old twin bed’s head and foot boards and they make for the perfect climbing structure for your vining plants. Put the call out in your Buy Nothing group or scroll endlessly in Facebook marketplace to find some.

9. Used bricks for garden boarders – I have a marketplace alert for anytime someone local to me posts about bricks. Not only can you avoid bricks going to waste, you can build a border or any kind of structure using them, and you can often get them for free!

I got these beauties already painted even!

8. Side of the road treasures as planters – I picked up these scrapped drums from a neighbor up the street who was just throwing away the drums. They are now my cut flower planters. Your vehicle is a shopping cart; keep your eyes open as you drive around your city of other sweet finds like this.

7. Collected shells for features – I like to do walks on the beach and lately I’ve been collecting all the shells I can get my hands on. These can be used in cement for decoration, or you can crush them and use them for “gravel” or you can leave them hole and use them instead of rocks for a feature piece.

I’m excited to finally get potatoes growing!

6. Offcuts from other projects for planters – we recently rebuilt our deck, which resulted in a number of offcuts. Instead of taking them to the dump, I used them to make new planters. I also used offcuts of some plywood for a new potato box.

5. Cracking coffee cups for little planters – I started collecting animal shaped coffee mugs a few years ago and they are absolutely my go to for every cup of tea I made (and with COVID, I’m stuck at home and often making 3 cups a day). But with as much use as I give them, they don’t always have a long life. Some of my favourite mugs are now cracked and no good fold holding in tea. But they do hold in soil. And plants. So while this isn’t a garden hack; it is definitely a plant hack!

4. Cement – am I the only one getting cement DIYs videos pushed to them on Facebook? Because I keep seeing cement DIYs and I am longing for my next cement project. While they aren’t always easy to do, they are fairly cheap and perfect when you’re trying to make a very specific planter. I am using cement and rocks for my herb spiral!


3. Use the library this time I’m talking about the old fashioned book library. There’s a whole little section for gardening. While I am not normally one for reading non-fiction, there’s so much you can learn to make your garden better through books you find at your library. All it costs you is a library card.

2. Ask for help – it is important to hire a professional when you need a professional’s work done, but it is totally possible to reach out to your local But Nothing group and ask for anyone who might be able to teach you how to do the task you need to get done.

1. Trade work for food. This is my number one, top tip. If you need help getting stuff done in your garden, ask for help. Ask your friends, or family, or just put it out there in your local Buy Nothing group. If they’re friends and family, offer them lunch or dinner in exchange for helping, or maybe some of your garden bounty. Offer some bounty to your Buy Nothing group too. It never hurts to share food!

I’m a Farmer!

With the onset of a new year, a new school term, and a new blog, I also got a new job, because I just don’t have enough on my plate. And you know what, I don’t mind this extra work. It helps me stay organized and on top of things; I don’t know why or how that works, but I’m not here to question things.

As a part of my diploma requirements, I have to get in 455 hours of work experience in a horticulture related setting. Do the math on that and they expect approximately 3 months of full time work, and the intention from the program is that you do this 12 weeks of full time, usually labour intensive work in the summer term, when they don’t offer many classes. I don’t feel that they consider the diverse backgrounds of their students with this intention.

Thankfully, as a planner (pun intended) I was planning out each term of my diploma to ensure that I got all the credits I needed, so I saw this work experience requirement early on. There is no way that between owning a business (not in the horticulture sector) which operates primarily in the summer, taking at least two courses in the summer term, and being a mom to a child who at 1.5 is already a handful, that working a full time job was going to be conducive to a healthy life. So in doing the math, I needed to start a job no later than January and I had to do at least 50 hours/month in order to meet the requirements of my class. So I started looking for a very part-time gig.

I was lost. Where to apply? It was December and what kind of landscaper is hiring part-time for January? The job search left me questioning constantly if I was going to make it work.

She did not paint just how far in the starting process her farm was in. Note the few holly plants heavy with berries and the rest being bare plants.

I some how ended up applying for a job that (in it’s posting) seemed a little boring, and short term, and definitely past the scope of what my education had taught me thus-far. But when the farm owner contacted me for an interview, I considered that I hadn’t been the interviewee in an interview in a very very long time (2015 I think was the last time I was properly interviewed for a gig) so I took it. Little did I know, this interview would lead to the very kind of job that I dreamt about when I first started thinking about a career in horticulture; farm consulting.

2 roosters, 2 hens, strutting around
I’m also spending time with these cocks.

Okay, I’m not a farm consultant, per se, my official title is something along the lines of Farm Operations Manager or something to that effect. But what I am doing is consulting. In my interview I got to visit the property where the owner is trying to establish a new farm, mostly as a hobby, but also to obtain farm status for tax reasons. This woman has bright ideas for the farm, but needs a hand to help here with the physical work and also the research and data collection and all that other administrative stuff. She also has a lot of flexibility on how the farm operates. For over a month now, she and I have been collaborating on establishing her farm.

In my interview I was completely upfront with the owner about my education, but also about my willingness to learn and how my background as a wedding coordinator could lend to me being an excellent operations manager. Evidently, she agreed.

Holly berries on an evergreen Ilex tree
She does have a few well established holly trees onsite, including this beauty; but they are far too large to be farming.

This farm brings so much excitement to me. While I get through the grueling work of all the research and computer stuff, I am very much looking forward to rewarding work of getting my hands dirty and my muscles moving.

So I’m a farmer now. I am growing holly, I will be growing Christmas trees, and a few other food crops that I can’t tell you about quite yet, but damn, they excite me.

image of two open-faced cheese burgers on a blue plate. The cheese burgers are topped with cheddar, crispy jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.

The Sustainability Teeter Totter

I ‘m going to bring your to my home for a moment on a typical Saturday night from this winter. We are sitting around the table eating dinner. Tonight I’ve made a delicious deluxe cheese burger, and on the side we’re eating roasted veggies smothered in delicious butter. When you look at the bounty on our plates, take a moment to really look at it and think; what part of the meal, the burger or the veggies, is the least sustainable part of the meal?

image of two open-faced cheese burgers on a blue plate. The cheese burgers are topped with cheddar, crispy jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.
Yummy, juicy loaded cheese burgers. Imagine the veggies, will ya?

Without knowing much about how all that food got to my plate, you’re likely going to answer something along the lines of “the burger” because of the vegetarian = sustainability rhetoric that people tend to tout. And in a lot of cases, you probably wouldn’t be wrong. Meat products generally have much higher footprints than vegetables. But look closely at the hypothetical meal. This is being served up in January, and the roasted veggies are all in the nightshade and squash families. There’s peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. None of these fruit grow naturally here in January. I got them all from the grocery store. While the tomato boasted a title of locally grown, the rest of the yummies all came from different countries. How were those tomatoes grown in the dead of winter?

“None of these fruit grow naturally here in January.”

Notice that I refer to the goods on my plate as both fruits and vegetables in different instances? They’re all technically fruit as they all are vehicles for seed growth and distribution, and they are all vegetables as they are all edible crops.

And this is where we start to get into what I like to call the sustainability teeter totter. When two different actions both have different footprints involved and you, the end user, need to evaluate which footprint is the one that you should care more about reducing.


the measurement of the resource(s) that are used in order for the individual or organization to be able to consume/produce the end product.

When we are trying to live more consciously and trying to minimize the harm our actions and consumption take on the planet, we tend to listen to the general statements made about actions we should take. So you might hear that the carbon footprint of meat is astronomical when compared to that of vegetables, or that you should be putting your plastics into recycling to divert it to from the landfills, or that you should take the bus instead of driving. While these are all generally good “tips” they don’t encompass the full picture and often leave people with larger footprints than they intend.

But the issue is when you do start looking more at the different kinds of footprints, aside from the science informing choices, there’s a lot of personal opinions that come into play when making the “more sustainable” option. This is because what is more sustainable and why can be interpretive. Is your water footprint more impactful than your carbon footprint because you value our fresh water more? Well then maybe you only want to purchase hydroponically grown veggies, even if that means they’re trucked in from the states.

So one person may say “in my house I have ceramic dishware because I can wash the plates between each use and there is no waste” but another may say “I use only paper plates in my house as they can be composted and it helps me to keep my water footprint low.” I know at a glance, you may think the second person foolish. Sure, they don’t waste water washing dishes, but what about the water used to make that paper plate? They may argue back “what about the water used to make the ceramic plates?” Different people are going to value different sustainability methods. And hello teeter totter.

Many large boxes, stacked in the back of a car, with the back seats folded down.
This is a whole cow, shoved, somehow, into the back of my little Pontiac Vibe.

Going back to my plate of delicious food. Knowing what you know of the vegetables, you may still say that my burger is still the less sustainable option on my plate. In my personal opinion, it isn’t. The beef in that burger comes from a local farm where I purchased the whole cow. I like to point out that this farm also grows food and uses the composted manure from their cattle to help fertilize their crop, which is so much better for the soil and the plants than synthetic fertilizers. While I may not have gotten the hide, I did get the bones, the various cuts of meat, meat that didn’t make the cut (pun intended) was turned into ground beef. I also skipped out on the organs, but the butcher (who is attached to the farm) did keep them and hopefully was able to sell them in his market. Now, we do not eat enough beef to make a full cow worth it, so I split it among 4 other families. So what you can see here is I did not buy mass produced meat (which is definitely not a sustainable option), little of my cow went to waste, the meat I received came in minimal, paper packaging, and didn’t travel far to get from the farm to the butcher, nor did it travel far to get from the butcher to my home. Additionally because I wanted yummy fresh, local meat but couldn’t take on a whole cow, I was able to have 4 other families make a more sustainable meat option (we all live in the metro area and usually shop at places like Great Canadian Superstore, so this beef option wouldn’t usually be our first go-to). Ultimately, the meat from the burger had far less impact on the environment than if I had gone to, say, a chain restaurant. Another good note here is that that bun was homemade and the pickles were all from cucumbers I grew fresh in my garden. The overall plastic footprint of the burger is minimal, the carbon footprint is below average (as it is still meat from a cow, but the cow was not transported), and the water footprint is also smaller.

Basket with many different sized cucumbers in it
Lookie these homegrown monstrosities!
Clear glass jar filled with cucumbers, dill, garlic, and vinegar.
One of the first jars of homemade pickles I ever made!
6 golden buns sitting on parchment paper
Is there anything better than a home baked bun?

But those veggies? The tomatoes were grown locally, but likely in a greenhouse; how much power was required to keep that greenhouse running; how many contaminates are added to the soil? How much water is used? And the international veggies all took a very long car ride to get to my house. Without doing proper calculations (because I’m not a scientist, I am you regular Joe-shmo consumer who is basing my judgement on the parts of this equation that I understand) I am going to make the calculated guess that my veggies have an equal-to or higher carbon footprint to that of the burger on my plate.

So that makes another valuable point to the teeter totter here. How much information do I know about the choices I am making? If my information is limited, all I know is I have a cheese burger and roasted veggies on my plate, I am going to agree that yes, the vegetables are the more sustainable part of my meal. But the more information I’m given, the clearer the image becomes of the sustainability in each option.

Two vacuum sealed bags containing palak paneer.
I recently made up a bunch of Palak paneer and it was SOOOO yummy, I had to make sure I had more for the freezer. I pack them in these bags so I don’t need to worry about freezer burn.

So when you’re trying to live in a more sustainable fashion and trying to make changes to everyday actions, try to look into what the impact of each action is before coming to the conclusion of which is more sustainable. And try to remember that sustainability can also be a point of view. Is vacuum sealing my freezer food in bags better for the environment, or should I be storing all my food in reusable plastic containers? It doesn’t matter which you view to be more sustainable, and you shouldn’t pass judgement on others for what they’ve deemed to be more important. Personally, I vacuum seal because it means that my food is less likely to get freezer burnt and is therefore less likely to go to waste.

The (not at all elusive) Himalayan Blackberry

When we were assigned to write about a plant in botany, one which was resilient in some way, it was recommended we write about a plant we like. So with little hesitation I chose my favorite plant, the blackberry. The fruit I remembered picking off the side of the road in my childhood. The delicious yum that lead me to create a “picking belt” for so I would have all my picking tools in one, easily accessible place. (side note, this belt is fabulous, I will give more details in a later article). I have so much knowledge about this plant, weird facts, yummy memories, and it was an alluring factor when we bought our home. “You mean I can walk 20′ from my back door in my pjs and pick berries for breakfast?” Yeah, blackberries are the shit.

Close in on blackberries growing in among brambles. you can see green, red, and then the ripe black fruit
The many colours of the “black” “berry” (fun fact, while blackberries aren’t actually berries, bananas are!)

Anyway, in choosing the blackberry for this assignment I got so much knowledge out of it, I figured I could share it with you. I’ve added notes here and there so that it is more easily understood, but the general tone remains academic.

5 petal white/pink flowers growing in blackberry thicket, with some morning glory evident.
Here you can see the key ID to determine that this plant belongs in the rose family with the apple and the almond (Yup, those are related to roses too!). The petals (or the corolla, which is the name for the petals as a whole) are in multiples of 5, they are radially symmetrical, and contain many many stamen (the pollen producing part of the flower).

Belonging to the Rosaceae family, the Rubus armeniacus, commonly known as the Himalayan blackberry, is a perennial, often invasive, woody shrub with biennial brambles covered in prickles and alternately arranged compound, oftentimes evergreen, leaves. (CABI, 20201) R. armenicaus produces flowers in the spring which aid in the identification of its family, as the pink-white corollas consist of five petals, a superior ovary, and hundreds of stamen. The flowers are arranged in clusters of five to twenty at the end of terminal panicles. (B. Klinkenberg (editor) 20202). When the fruit appears in midsummer, they are mis-named as berries, as the fruit are truly aggregate drupelets and are red to black in colour. (M. Hoshovsky, 20173)

the Himalayan blackberry, is a perennial, often invasive, woody shrub with biennial brambles

In layman’s terms this means that while the blackberry is a persistant plant (like a tree or a shrub), the brambles the crown grows only live for to years. There’s more on that below

While the common name is a misnomer, with both “Himalayan” and “berry” being false (having not originated in the Himalayas), the scientific name, Rubus armeniacus is aptly applied, as the plant is thought to have originated from Eurasia. This being said, the plant can now be found all over the world in temperate regions with mild winters.

view across the midsection of a blackberry thicket, displaying leaves and thorns and the odd fruit
Here you can see some arching brambles. These have been growing for who knows how many years so this thicket sits around 5′ high in the dead of winter when not actively growing

This being said, the plant can now be found all over the world in temperate regions with mild winters.

so basically, vancouver coastal region is the perfect setting for the black berry, if you hadn’t figured that out yet.

R. armeniacus have a fair number of elements that work together to create a resilient plant, most notably of all, its ability to spread. The aggregate fruit of the blackberry heavily lends to its reproduction, as the sweet fruit filled with many seeds are a favourite to birds and other wildlife, which is evident when the masses of blackberry thickets can be commonly found beneath birds’ perches. The seeds also carry well in water and have generally a high germination rate1. Another way for the thicket to spread is through it’s brambles, which bend after reaching a height of approximately 40cms, and once a node reaches the ground, it will easily root and create new crowns for the shrub3. There has been reporting of a single propagated cane forming a five metre in diameter thicket within a two year growing period1.

There has been reporting of a single propagated cane forming a five metre in diameter thicket within a two year growing period1.

So what this means is unless you’re ready to be on top of controling this type of blackberry, do not think about planting it!

Another notable characteristic which lends to the R. armeniacus’ resiliency are the arching biennial brambles themselves. The cane, covered in thorn-like prickles which persist through its death, makes the quick spreading plant more troublesome to remove, oftentimes, mechanical devices need to be brought in to do much damage to the surface plant. The fact that the brambles are biennial are an important factor to the plant’s growth, as dead brambles lend to adequate structure for the new brambles to clamber over; without them, the shrub wouldn’t be able to exceed half a metre in height without support from other plant life. 

The plant’s ability to reproduce and spread would be nothing without its unspecific needs. The roots of the R. armeniacus are known to prefer no specific soil structure and will thrive in acidic or basic soils, happily. They have also shown resiliency for temperature, as they survive in climates as cold as -17*C and as warm as 37*C1. While it may prefer wetter climates, in climates with less than 760mm of rainfall, you can find the brambles of this blackberry along waterways, and it has demonstrated that it is also comfortable with seasons of drought, using water rapidly when it’s available and using it sparingly and effectively acquiring it when there is little water available. Ultimately, ensuring the R. armeniacus is provided with full to low sunlight, it will easily thrive. It will not, however, survive under dense canopies1.

Photo showing the different stages of flowing and fruit growth of the Blackberry plant
I love this photo because it shows you many stages of the growing fruit; buds of new flowers, fully opened flowers, green berries emerging from a swaddle of stamen, and larger green berries taking on their shape

Ultimately, ensuring the R. armeniacus is provided with full to low sunlight, it will easily thrive.

This tells you that even if you’re a serial plant killer, you can sucessfully grow an invasive blackberry!

The Himalayan blackberry is a highly resilient plant which will kill other plants by either crowding their roots or by robbing them of adequate light, it uses its own death to help it climb and spread to new heights, and it will grow nearly anywhere in temperate regions. While the Rubus armeniacus may be classified as invasive, it’s difficult to not admire its ability to survive and thrive.


1 CABI Invasive Species Compendium (2020) “Rubus armeniacus (Himalayan blackberry)”
2 Klinkenberg, Brian (editor) (2020) “E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia” [] Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
3 Marc Hoshovsky, “Rubus armeniacus” Global Invasive Species Team, The Nature Conservancy, Bugwood Wiki

Reflection: Planning my 2020 garden

I got started on my 2020 garden plans a bit before the pandemic hit; I had no idea that it would be the thing that would help me cope with, well, a frickin pandemic. When we purchased our house in September 2018, we got pregnant right away and while I wanted to grow a few small things like rhubarb and maybe strawberries, I didn’t have a lot of energy available to put into a 2019 garden. I bought some strawberry roots, a rhubarb crown, then some romaine and why not buy that jalapeno plant too? 2019, the year where I was emotionally and physically unable to do so much, was the year I decided I needed to grow more.

If you can ignore the construction mess, you can get a good idea of how full my garden was in only June of 2020.

My husband’s parents had a few raised beds at this point and I thought that maybe putting a raised bed in our yard would be a good idea as I had a corner that was poorly landscaped and I was looking to get rid of it. So we started plans for our 8’x10′ raised bed and I started looking into more gardening techniques, primarily through Facebook groups. We had planned for my in-laws to help us with building this raised plot over a weekend as we had to put a bit of structure to it and there was no way that we could get everything built over 2 days that Jim (husband man) had off AND ensure Cecilia (daughter person) was well cared for. This happened 1 week before our province went into lock-down.

A colour coded map of a square foot garden. Photo taken of a notebook. My first iteration of my 2020 garden
My 2019 garden plan. You can see here that the pathway is clear, the plants are in colour coded squares, and they are spaced out by the black dots.

If you know me already you know that I’m a planner. It’s not just my job, it’s my life. I plan out most things I will be doing, and I plan it meticulously. In part that’s why I started Basil Bee, to share this with people, my techniques, my process, my craziness.

Anyway, I’m not going to delve too much into the building of the plot, mostly because it was nearly a year ago but also it’s a bit dry to reflect on. What I will dive into is my plans for the completed plot and how they evolved and why. My plan started off as this drawing.

Well, mostly. First I made a list of what I might want to grow (the things to make my famous salsa mostly) and looked into different kinds of gardens and settled on a square foot garden, as that’s what made the most sense to me. The biggest mistake I made in my first year of actual gardening is not considering what I wanted to grow in the future. I’ll dive into crop rotation in a future post, but my garden didn’t allow for much flexibility if I wanted to ensure I kept a healthy crop rotation, which I now realize is pretty important.

“and most importantly, I realized no matter how much space I have set aside for my new-found green thumb, I will never have enough space.”

A screen shot of an excel sheet which displays the final layout of the 2020 garden plot in colours.
The clear bits and the yellow are the pathways I ended up with

When I sketched up my 8×10 plot, carefully outlining every square foot, I added in only two paths which I now know wasn’t wise. The layout I ended up with was so far different than this, I’ve sketched it up in excel for your enjoyment. Because this was my first real year gardening I learned so much about what I can and shouldn’t do in my garden, figured out what works well and what doesn’t, and most importantly, I realized no matter how much space I have set aside for my new-found green thumb, I will never have enough space.

Lessons learned

So just by looking at the two layouts, it’s pretty obvious what my first mistake was; the paths. When you’re installing a new garden or even just planning out a garden bed, it’s important to know that if you need to get in there with the goods, you must be able to get in there without trampling over your other goods. For 2021, my garden plan is evolving significantly and in part that’s due to the paths. I want to be able to reach all my yums simply.

Top view of the newly built and filled raised garden bed. Dark soil with a little bit of green life growing.
This is what it looked like before I really got started. You can see a pepper plant or two and my crazy chives in the far back corner

Another mistake I made was my intended use for the “trellis” backing I had against the 10′ side (to the left, which is also north on these drawings). My thought process for it originally was to train the blackberries I have growing wildly behind the plot in and among the trellis so that I can harvest the blackberries as I harvest my other goodies. Nope, does not work well, do not try it. I ended up with black berries trying to creep up into my garden. It was probably early June when I went out behind my garden and pulled up and cut and dug up all the blackberries I could muster.

Peas climbing a post and net (unseen) next to planted cilantro in garden bed
Peas and cilantro, this is probably taken near the end of April. I ended up harvesting well over 12 lbs of peas, not including the seeds I saved.

My pea placement was also problematic. See, along the east side (or top) of the garden I have two 8′ uprights with a beam across them, which I strung a net I made for my peas to climb up. This itself was a great idea, but the fact that I placed the peas, a climbing, tall plant on the south side of my plot affected how much sun some of the adjacent squares got, and ultimately made it so my dill and sweet pepper crops weren’t anything, like at all. So this next year, the peas will grow on the north side of the plot

Finally, my worst failure of all was timing. I should have started a lot of my seeds earlier. While my Habaneros look like they were doing great, the first flowers only bloomed just a few weeks before the first frost. I got nothing from those like 8 habaneros I had planted. My tomatoes I had a similar problem. But lesson learned, for sure.

Things done well!

2x2 trellis built 1' off the ground, parallels with the dirt, new cucumber leaves poking through.
The 2×2 cucumber support I built. I will be using it again this coming season!

Cucumber support! From scraps of wood I had laying around, I made a little “support” for my cucumbers to grow up through so that they could be lifted off the ground. It was about a foot high, and man, was it useful. When harvesting my cukes (which admittedly, I planted far too many of!) I was able to get in under the foliage and pick off the dangling babies. Next year I will be using this again, in conjunction with some sort of tall climbing apparatus. A happy accident was I placed my cukes adjacent to my trellis, originally intended for those blackberries, so they had something else to climb, and because I cleared out so many brambles I managed to get in behind the plot and harvest on either side.

I also was a rock star with pruning my jalapenos (which helped me get significantly bushier plants!) and propagating my cuttings. So I used the jalapeno cuttings, some basil cuttings (oh man, did I over-do the basil!), and tomato cuttings. I did not have enough containers or space to properly contain all my propagations!

While there is so much more I learned from my 2020 garden, I think a reflection may not be the right place to share everything, so look out for “lessons learned” in future posts about my 2021 garden!

Reflection: 2020 Garden Harvest

banner - 2020 harvest report

2020 was my first real year of garden production aside from the few strawberries and heads of romaine I grew in 2019. When I started out in 2020, my goal was to record and track my garden imputes and outputs to use for a possible portfolio project to get into a bachelor’s program. That was a joke. Me doing 4 additional years of school, not the garden tracker. As the year developed, my attitude toward the project evolved from a professional standing to a general garden journal to keep track of what I planted, where I planted, how much I planted, what I harvested, and what did and didn’t work for me. It definitely falls into one of my more prized possessions at this point.

A shot of the first page of my harvest data in my garden journal

The harvest data that I collected in this format was all transcribed into a Google sheets document with formulas and all sorts of important information so that I could take all the items harvested, apply a dollar amount to it, and using that data to determine the success or failure of my year. I will get more into my record keeping and how I do it in another post.

10 dirty, just pulled radishes sitting in a sink
My first radish harvest!!

The first thing I planted in my brand new garden plot in 2020 was radishes and I transplanted my chives into the bed. One of the first things I learned when planting was that I did not need to plant 2+ seeds per hole for my radishes as my germination rate was excellent. I also learned that the spacing I had understood (which was each square foot could take 2 rows of 6) was something I didn’t really have to care for. I now plant my radishes in 3 rows of 5 in 1 square foot. Anyway, when looking at my harvest records, radishes were my first 2021 harvest, pulling 10 out of the ground on April 23rd (to note here, I planted 29 seeds and only got 10 radishes out. That means I had to kill 2/3 of my seedlings because every. one. of. my. seeds. took. Looking back, this makes me pretty irate.

Germination Rate

The percentage of planted seeds that develop into seedlings
A radish which has gone to seed, pulled from the ground and cut open to reveal that it is hollow with what appear to be roots inside of the cavity
Did you know if you let a radish go to seed, this is what the inside of it ends up looking like? I had no idea, I still don’t know why, and I am still weirded out by it.

So the radishes were planted for Jim (husband man) as he likes them to snack. This season they will also be planted for Cecilia (daughter person) as she’s just as weird as Jim and loved snacking on them this past year. I did a number of radish planting throughout the 2020 season, and ultimately I ended up harvesting 64 radishes in total; not bad for a $2.30 pack of seeds. Also not bad? I let three radishes go to seed and I ended up with more radish seeds for this year than I can count. I will be planting more in 2021 as Jim and Cecilia can go through 20/week if I let them. My goal is 1 square foot a week.

I want to point out here that when purchasing radishes from the store, they sell them in bunches of around 10 roots, for a cost of around $1.48/bunch (in season). With this in mind, I grew almost $`10 worth of radishes in 2020, which means after 25% of my crop was harvested (or approximately 16 radishes) the rest were all profit! Putting my harvest into numbers like these really helped me to feel accomplished and satisfied with my growing.

A number of emerged basil cotyledons before their first true leaves emerge, in a pot
My little basil seedlings that I ended up killing

Looking at all the produced harvested from my garden in 2020 and my hand dandy spreadsheets, my most successful crop of all was basil, grossing approximately $140 worth of produce in the one year, which is nuts. I bought a total of three basil plants (I can’t seem to get a good start going from seed) and ended the year with more than 12 basil plants. The plants cost me around $3.60 for all three, which means I “made a profit” of $136.40 on my frickin’ basil. THAT IS NUTSO BANANAS! Like I can’t comprehend nuts. You’ll note in the image below that I count basil per pack; this is the amount in one small package that I would normally purchase at Superstore, and I did this measurement by using a pack I had from the last time I had purchased a herb there, and putting as much basil in there as they do. I probably put more in, because it was easier with the sheer amount I was harvesting, but it worked as a general measurement as weight was not a good indicator for how much basil I was usually harvesting.

Another crop that did particularly well was peas! In 2020 I planted 6 (yes, only 6) pea plants and my yield was about 12lbs of peas. And this didn’t include the peas I sent to seed or the ones my loving husband and daughter stole off of my plant when I wasn’t looking or measuring. So from each plant I got a full two pounds of produce. Nuts.

one year old picking cherry tomatoes off a plant in a pot
The offending tomato theif in action.

My plants that didn’t do very well were my tomatoes (I planted too late, I didn’t give them proper care, and so many other things went wrong here, including a short and cute tomato thief) and I only ended up yielding cherry tomatoes, and only like 4 lbs. from the 6 plans I had. I can do better.

Looking at squashes, I yielded 37 lbs. from my cucumbers and 56 lbs. from my pumpkins, though I did only get three pumpkins total.

1.5 year old sitting with a large pumpkin in front of a white door. Child has her hand on the pumpkin stem
Cecilia weighed only 3 lbs more than this big guy.

The last crop that did particularly well was my mints, though I did do a fairly big harvest part way through the year and decimated the plant. This year I will not be doing that and hopefully harvesting far more so that I can dry it out for tea. Jim’s favorite outcome from this year’s garden was probably the tea (thank you, dehydrator)!

What I got out of this year (aside from my excellent yield which totaled $642.11 when converted into grocery store prices) was reassurance that I can grow things, I do not have killing hands, and with a little bit of patience, anyone can grow. I will be applying everything that I learned and retained to my garden this year, and I am low-key hoping that my bountiful garden full of edible annuals, beautifully arranged as landscaping, will piss off the nosey neighbor that neigh-sayed my weird front yard pumpkin patch this past year. Because I’m just that kind of person, I guess.