In the Garden column: Condo gardeners unite: Grab your pots and get dirty

It has been hard to force myself indoors lately to take care of business! All our gardens at our house are rapidly blooming and producing! My husband and I have a very small yard in which we have turned every nook and cranny into flower beds and vegetable gardens, sometimes combining both to get as much plant material in as possible. Raspberries grow with our clematis, lupins are in with the ever-bearing strawberries. A dwarf peach tree grows happily in a large pot against the sunny side of our house. 

Now, back to another business, of sorts: Recently, the Richmond Garden Club held its annual plant sale and I was pleased to see a particular crowd attend.

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We never know year to year what plants will be in demand. We primarily sell perennial plants, vegetable plants and herbs that we have grown and propagated.

This year, one of our members brought in magnificent tomato plants that he grew indoors on his window sill, through the early part of spring. He just planted seeds in little pots, placed them by windows and watched them grow! Nothing fancy! There were different varieties of extremely healthy tomatoes, all about 12 inches high. All the tomato plants sold within an hour. Our customers continued to ask if we had any tomato plants throughout the day.

Now, on to herbs! This year, many of our customers decided they wanted to grow herbs. The most popular were basil, parsley and oregano. And most were headed for pot gardens.

The most amazing part of this event was how many people that day had never gardened before and lived in condominiums or townhouses. 

If you recall, in one of my previous columns, I identified how many people live in multi-unit housing in Richmond — over 55 per cent based on the 2011 census. 

Many people did not know the difference between a perennial and an annual plant. Understandably, many of these visitors were quite afraid to start a garden because of their small space. Nevertheless, they came to our plant sale just to look!  

So, Garden Cub members spent quite a bit of time with our customers that day, teaching them how to get started with simple pot gardens for balconies, small space gardens that incorporated both flowers and vegetables.  

Questions were asked about which direction their patios and balconies face in order to provide them with the right plant for their space. We were so proud to see many previously hesitant people haul loads of plants to their vehicles while trying to hold their excitement at getting them all planted right away! We knew we had captured the hearts of some new gardeners! 

Very few that came “just to look” went away empty-handed.

Some nurseries and garden stores have noticed a huge decline in their plant sales over the past few years.  People moving from single-family to multi-unit housing can be one of the factors in the decline. Many people do not think they can continue to garden in such small spaces. And many of our new Canadians living in Richmond choose condo or townhouse living and have very little gardening experience.

So it was not surprising to see that most of our customers at this years’ plant sale encompassed garden neophytes living in multi-unit housing.  

I was so proud of the education and enthusiasm we provided to these beginner gardeners, to help them gain confidence to grow their own food and to add beauty to their small spaces.  

So, get yourself some large pots, some good potting soil, a few tools and just start gardening. 

If you want to grow some of your own food, right now you can plant beets, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes, carrots and onions.  Vegetable plants love sun so make sure you plant them in a sunny location. If you have a shady area, why not plant some lettuce, green onions, bok choi, and other leafy green asian vegetables. Regularly water, add some love and soon you will be adding some of your own produce to your meals.  

You just need to start!

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.  For more information on how to join the volunteer club, email RichmondGardenClub@gmail.com.  Visit RichmondGardenClub.ca to regularly to see what garden events are happening in Richmond.

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