How to create a vegetable garden in your backyard

Our West Coast editor doesn't have a green thumb, but that hasn't stopped her from growing her own vegetable garden.

By Heather Cameron

How to create a vegetable garden in your backyard
Photography by Janis Nicolay
When I was 25 years old, I fell in love with organic gardening enthusiast Eliot Coleman. Each week, I sat glued to the television in my Vancouver apartment watching the host of Gardening Naturally talk zones, crop rotation and root cellars. His passion for this greener way of growing changed the way I looked at food and how I envisioned my life. From that point on, my mind was made up: I wanted a farm.

Four years later, my husband, Kevin, my mother, Betty, and I decided to pool our resources and realize that dream. The first stop on our hunt was a small blueberry farm in South Surrey, BC. It was an overgrown disaster, but I immediately knew this was our new home.

Just like that, we became the owners of 1.5 acres of land and 500 blueberry bushes, all well over 50 years old. The bushes were no good and blueberries peak at 35, people warned us. But no one was going to shatter our dream. I'd watched Eliot Coleman. I knew it all.

As it turned out, I knew nothing.

That first summer, I killed more plants than a nursery sells in an entire season. I watched the birds feast on $200 worth of organic vegetable seeds. But those supposedly past-their-prime blueberry bushes produced more than 2,700 kilograms of berries. Visitors arrived by the carload, overrunning our farm. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.

Each year, we got better—and so did the blueberries. I learned to cover my vegetable seeds to prevent the birds from eating them. I accepted that squirrels will always be faster than me. I discovered wild turkeys aren't that bright; ducks are disgustingly messy; and beavers take a shine to tall, freshly planted maple trees.

But the most important lesson has been to simply let Missing Goat Farm direct my life. I've made more mistakes in the vegetable garden than anywhere else in life, but each season brings with it another chance. After 15 years, I still can't grow a decent tomato; I'll never stop trying, though. Gardening has a never-ending learning curve. Get it wrong and you'll curse like a trucker; get it right and you'll burst with joy.

8 tips for creating a garden oasis

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Start planting those flowers with this spring planting guide.    
                                       
This story was originally titled "Green (one-and-a-half) Acres" in the May 2014 issue.
           
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