DIY Garden

Jason Sellars starts with a seed and some soil.

Since the spring, I’ve been planting pansies on the paths I travel around the city.

I’ve put them in old tin cans, in rotting fence posts, and in the cracks of crumbling pavement. The little purple and yellow flowers were my grandmother’s favorite, and they bloom early and hold on until after the frost, producing flowers from May to November. And although they are known as annuals—plants that die in the fall and don’t return the next year—pansies are hardy enough to survive under the snow during the winter, and more often than not start generating flowers once they see the sun again. During the summer, as each flower fades, a small pod of seeds appears in its place which can be collected for growing the following year—poked and planted into any crevice that could use a little bit of life.

Though there’s a lot one can learn about helping plants grow, there’s not much prerequisite learning forplanting. Put a seed or a stem in the ground and it will either grow or wilt. The more you try this, the greater your chances for success.

When I began my backyard garden, I started with a space devoid of green, lush with old, rusty nails and broken glass. Once I removed the debris, I started digging up the soil, removing rocks, which I later used to build my garden walls. Then I started planting things I collected on walks through through the woods: daisies, lupins, and wildflowers that I do not know by name. Then I looked to my cupboard, taking out old onions, sprouting garlics, and potatoes full of eyes. I placed them into the ground, and within weeks they grew up green, with white and purple flowers. Once my friends and neighbors saw my interest in having a green thumb they’d visit with a clipping from their gardens, in hopes it would grow in mine.

Now, a few years later, my garden is rich with souvenirs I took from my adventures outdoors from summers gone by, and offerings from the friends who came to visit.

And this year I’ve grown myself an edible door.

Living downtown, where space, safe soil, slugs, and snails can all be a concern for growing food, I have come up with a solution for producing my own produce. I have planted my edibles in buckets of good healthy (unleaded!) soil and nailed each container to an old door that I have leaned up against the sunniest side of my home. Since the plants are staggered and stacked, the door is able to hold all the vegetables, herbs and greens I desire to grow. And since most of the plants I like eating are also sought after by the snails and slugs that share my space, having them elevated on the door helps keep critters away.

A garden can take place in a beef bucket on a basement apartment step or on acres of land in the country. My grandmother’s garden was focused mainly on flowers. She’d sow seeds in the spring, enjoy the colours all summer long, then collect the seeds again in the fall.

In her old home I found a recycled chip bag tied up with string and filled with thousands of seeds she collected but never had the chance to plant. In her garden, I discovered pansies popping up all around the property. Plants she put into the ground are still blooming in her absence. My grandfather still tends the garden, which is filled with fruit trees. Apples, plums, damsons, pears, and even his own varieties of each which he invented by grafting branches from one tree onto another.

Life, be it plants or people, has the will to survive. Like people, plants grow and blossom and bloom best when they’re cared for, supported, and loved. With such a long winter, and such a short season for life to thrive, my garden reminds me of how amazing it is to be here and to be alive. Though it is only coloured petals, or fragrant leaves, I see my garden as a miracle that shows me that life does continue and will return even after it has wilted and faded away to death.

Start with a seed, and some soil, then watch, wait, and wonder about life, and before you know your garden will have begun to grow.

Illustration by Kira Sheppard.

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