The Canadian farm population totalled 650,395 in 2011, representing about 1 out of every 50 Canadians, or 2.0% of the total population of Canada . In Mexico, more than 30 million people, almost 25% of its total population, live in rural areas, and depend primarily on agriculture both for jobs and for personal sustenance . In the urban landscape, though, the picture reverses. In 2013, 57% of Canadian households reported growing some sort of edible (vegetables, fruits or herbs) in their backyards, balconies or even indoors . The amount of urban gardening in Mexico is not well documented; I could not even find figures to report nationwide, but I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that in the last decade, several projects had been developed to encourage Mexico City residents to start rooftop veggie gardens, community plots, and school greening projects . In 2007, for example, Mexico City’s government started a grant program to help families build gardens on rooftops, and by 2012, 3,080 households had joined . I grew up in an apartment in Mexico City, and my only experiences with growing vegetables were the standard sprouting of a couple of beans in elementary school, and a tomato seedling to study the tobacco virus in high school; needless to say, those were not edible at all. Some of my friends had gardens or a patio with maybe one fruit tree or two, but I personally only knew one family actively pursuing a vegetable garden in the city back then – my grandparents grew daikon (Japanese radishes), lettuce and herbs. Here in my Southwestern Ontario home, I am into my sixth year as a backyard veggie gardener; I just sowed my own daikon seeds and transplanted the lettuce seedlings from under my grow light, amongst other things (see update below). I know there is always more I can do to be environmentally friendly, but today, I am proud to report that I have been successfully transformed from apartment mad botanist to urban veggie grower, not unlike those 3000 plus rooftop gardeners in Mexico City; and also, my family is part of the massive 57% of Canadian households growing edibles.
Happy Earth Day!
The seeds I sowed indoors on April 9 have sprouted for the most part, except for some of the peppers; in general, peppers take longer to sprout than tomatoes, tomatillos and herbs. The photo at the top of the post shows one of my tomato seedlings. My tomatillos and Serrano peppers – the two Mexican veggies I encouraged everyone to try this year, along with cilantro – are doing well. In the photos below, two tomatillo seedlings were already looking “leggy” (long and frail stems) in the milk carton on April 18 (left); tomatillos will grow roots along their stems if covered with soil, just like tomatoes, so these were topped up with soil yesterday (right). It works well to sow tomatillo or tomato seed in half-full milk cartons, and then fill them with soil as the seedlings grow.
The Serrano are amongst the peppers that have sprouted; the photo below is from yesterday:
In the backyard, in addition to daikon, I sowed other radishes (Watermelon, Cherry Bell, French Breakfast and Easter Mix), spinach, claytonia (Miner’s lettuce) and corn salad (mâche). There were no signs of sprouting from the cilantro seed I sprinkled a couple of weeks ago, so I sowed more near my garlic, just in case. The lettuce seedlings from under the grow light were hardened off by placing them outside for a few hours, then brought inside at night, for two days:
They were transplanted to the ground yesterday, and with some herbs and hopefully some asparagus, I should be able to fix my first true garden salad very soon: