ROSE BLANCHE – HARBOUR LE COU – Not every town or outport has a community garden, but that hasn’t stopped residents of the Southwest Coast from picking up a shovel and planting their own crops. Growing vegetables might be becoming a more popular hobby, but it can be trickier along the coast, which doesn’t always enjoy the benefits of the Codroy Valley’s micro-climate.
For Wayne and Edith Osmond at least, fog, wind and rain don’t seem to be proving much of a hinderance. The Osmonds have plenty of potatoes stored for the winter, and carrots so large that a single one is enough for them both to have a meal.
“You save money on potatoes and carrots and stuff like that,” says Wayne. “I don’t know how much we save now, but we eat 200 pounds of potatoes every year. That’s what I got every year to keep us going from one season to the next season.”
Wayne says Edith bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes because she couldn’t find any in the basement.
“I said there’s no potatoes in the basement but there’s lots down in the garden.”
They also grow beets, turnips and, hunkered behind some plastic in a makeshift tabletop greenhouse, cabbages sprouting thick, vibrant leaves. He expects to leave those in for another month or so.
The vegetables he’s growing behind his house are mostly in small individual tubs, including 5-gallon buckets. Atop a large rock, Wayne has laid out thick plastic fish tubs laid out to grow his beets. He will plant in every kind of container he can get his hands on and swears that vegetables will grow in pretty much anything.
“Last year I threw in some potato skins, some peels and that,” says Wayne, waving a hand at a battered grey tub filled with flourishing green stalks. “I had this for compost. And this year look what grew up there.”
He doesn’t plan to pick the carrots still growing in some of the buckets. Instead he’ll shove it all into the crawl space under his house as is. In the winter or even in the spring when he needs a carrot for his dinner he can just pop into the basement and grab one.
Because the weather apparently isn’t enough of a challenge, the Osmonds also choose to grow their own food without the aid of pesticides.
“I use salt water to spray my turnip and cabbage with,” says Wayne, who has a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to deal with unwanted bugs in his garden instead. “Get yourself a spray bottle full of salt water out of the ocean. When we get a couple of dry days i go out at night before dark and lift up the leaves and spray a bit of salt water over them and that takes care of them. You can’t do it too often. You can’t do it every day, but every couple of weeks or so you can spray it with salt water and that helps to keep the bugs off the leaves. They don’t like salt.”
To combat slugs he advises chopping a plastic soda bottle in half, filling one half with beer and planting it deep in the soil. After a day or two it will be full of slugs.
When it comes to fertilizer, he prefers to use kelp. It’s free, easy to source, all natural and highly effective. He’ll pop down to the beach and grab some off the rocks, then chop it up into mulch and mix it into the soil prior to planting. He likes to plant around mid-June.
Most of their crop isn’t planted this close to the house though. A few years ago, the couple bought a crumbling house on an adjacent street for $2,000 and tore it down. Wayne repurposed the salvaged wood and other materials to build himself a large garage, then built eight raised gardening beds on the rest of the land for a large garden where he grows most of the vegetables, including the different varieties potatoes such as red skin potatoes or Yukon gold.
“There are not too many places you can plant anything,” says Wayne, leading the way down to the garage.
Dominating the garden are large commercial fish tubs. Wayne saws them in half, fills them with soil and wishes he had more of those instead of the wooden raised beds. He’s also bolted together some of the commercial tub lids to make still more beds.
“Things grow in that way better,” says Wayne. “Once these get hot they stay hot. Night time it doesn’t cool down so it’s got warm soil all the time.”
He got the commercial tubs from the old fish plant. They were already damaged significantly, so repurposing them makes for a better garden crop while keeping plastics out of the landfill. Even as he wishes for more, Wayne says he has to stop adding on to the garden.
“Right now I’m growing a lot of stuff and giving it away,” says Wayne, who actually doesn’t mind sharing with his family and friends. “My daughter lives in Codroy Valley and I send her up beets and carrots. They’ve got a garden too, but they’re mostly into strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli.”
The couple also grow a variety of bright, colourful flowers around their home. Two small wooden wheelbarrows on their bridge, not far from their door, are still producing buttercrunch lettuce a full week into October. Edith swears it’s better than the romaine they also grow.
“You’re used to working all your life. When you retire you gotta have something to do to pass the time,” says Wayne. “The satisfaction of seeing it grow, and when you harvest it, that’s the best part of all.”