Thursday, September 30, 2010

Green Streets of Vancouver

My street garden, a City of Vancouver Green Streets initiative.
Grey asphalt, grey concrete, faded litter, dead grass and cigarette butts - now contrast that image to daisies and cosmos dancing in the breeze, lush borders, fragrant flower beds and happy, buzzing bees. What would you rather walk past on your daily commute?

A lanky evening primrose waiting to take root (and then get pruned!), asters, verbena and hebe
Green Streets is a City of Vancouver initiative that employs volunteer gardeners to tend for and create "street gardens" along corner bulges and within traffic circles to beautify our urban neighbourhoods. A volunteer myself since last winter, I have to say that being given stewardship of city property with the expectation of making it beautiful is a real privilege. I applied to the programme in the usual manner - I had walked by another garden in my block that had a "This Street Garden is Available" sign in it, e-mailed the coordinator and asked to be signed up. I had been beaten to the punch for that garden, but she suggested another close to my home, which I happily adopted.

A haven to honeybees, hoverflies, bumble bees and this pretty bottlefly
Vancouver's Green Streets programme is truly unique to our city - in fact, I was interviewed only this morning by Ingrid, a Swedish graduate student looking to start up a similar programme in her home city. There seems to be no drawbacks (only benefits) to beautifying these unloved plots of land for all to enjoy. People passing by are always grateful to me for the flowers that grow. It feels funny to receive praise, because as all gardeners know the plants did all the work. I just put them where I knew they'd be happy.

Year one: just getting established!
My motivation for becoming a Green Streets volunteer was simply one of not having a backyard to plant in. I tried to find a small plot at the Cypress and Maple community gardeners up near City Farmer, but was told very plainly that there was "no point" in adding my name to the waitlist. There was a year-long waitlist for the other, which apparently is refreshed each year but fills up in minutes and vacanies never arise. Hmmm. I figured my vegetable container gardening would have to suffice - I was grateful to have a sunny balcony at the very least.

Old-fashioned favourites: petunias and alyssum
Unfortunately, growing edibles is not an option in a Green Streets garden, but I have to say that the disappointment was only momentary. Being able to grow beautiful perennials like euphorbias, echinaceas and fescues that do not do well in containers, and to grow large clumps of windy, dancing cosmos edged with trailing verbena and alyssum along an otherwise plain and depressing curbside instantly excited me, and I've been digging in ever since.

Tools of the trade.
I've had some help, though. The kindly caretaker of the building next door to the garden has offered me use of their garden hose (which is fantastic! Merci, Dante!) and even watered the garden periodically for me during the hot, dry weather we had this summer.

Sonata mix cosmos - Alex may say he sowed the seeds, but I transplanted seedlings, too!
And I've also been the victim of the Cosmos Outlaw, an older German man named Alex, who has strewn cosmos and calendula seeds willy-nilly throughout the gardens of Vancouver (Kits, downtown, Pt Grey, UBC, and everywhere inbetween). He carries the seeds in his pockets and plants them everywhere, including in existing gardens, much to the chagrin of the owners! You can see his work outside the Starbucks at Burrard and 3rd Ave. According to Ingrid who was interviewing me about my garden, the infamous Alex is mentioned in the Green Streets book (and no, he's not an enrolled volunteer)! He's been working well ahead of the latest trend: guerilla gardening. (Incidentally, I want to meet the person who's been gardening under the Burrard street bridge (near Beach Avenue) - it's amazing, and their sweet peas smell so heavenly!)

Lady's Mantle in the foreground, just taking root after transplantation.
Ironically, I had purchased the same Sonata mix cosmos seeds for my garden, and had also transplanted calendula and a few cosmos seedlings. You can imagine my surprise when a week later there were cosmos seedlings sprouting up all over the plot! I met Alex when he walked by my street garden a few weeks ago. He introduced himself by saying, "Oh, so you garden here, too?" Dangerous words, my friend, dangerous words! But all's well that ends well, and I agreed to let him continue to toss seeds in my garden so long as he kept it to calendula and cosmos and along the roadside edge in exchange for regular dead-heading, which I know he has done just by the perfusion of pink flowers that have gone on for months and months.

Everyone loves the cosmos. How can you not?!

For the poor student without a backyard of their own, the Green Streets programme allows you free creative reign with few guidelines (just height restrictions, nothing prickly or offensive, and no veggies) on your own borrowed plot of land for everyone to enjoy. Freecycle is a wonderful resource for free plants and thanks to Margarethea, a friendly and community-minded neighbour, my garden now has lady's mantle, columbine, evening primrose and hardy geranium. Now if I could just get some of the less scrupulous citizens to quit digging up and stealing my plants, I'd be ecstatic!

Contact Green Streets today to find out if there's a garden in your neck of the woods that could use a friend, or to see if a new one can be made up for you (because there's a good chance they'll help you out with that!).

Additional: "Do you have a bulge hiding somewhere?" Imagine being asked this question seemingly out of context! I nearly died laughing internally - it was a sweet elderly man who also gardens with Green Streets who I sat next to at the screening of the Green Streets documentary last month at Van Dusen. I've been dying to share that line for ages! So much potential for offense!

5 Stores for the Frugalist

By no means an exhaustive list, here are five stores for the short-on-change to be familiar with in the Vancouver area:

Dressew Supply - 337 West Hastings (between Homer and Hamilton). This is the store for anyone with a creative streak, even those that don't sew. The notions and craft supplies can be dirt cheap (for example, less than a dollar for more pipe cleaners than you could ever hope to use up in every colour and style known to man; 25 cents for stuffed animal 'safety eyes' (though only the green colour is left); 25 cents for a dual pack of lingerie-sized elastic ribbon; $1.99 for every skein of wool, acrylic, and cotton yarn; and the biggest selection of buttons (stored in tubes) you'll ever see at 10 cents each), and they have all sorts of bizarre odds and ends like plastic doll heads, doll house furniture, bags of remnant trims, mushroom-based bird ornaments, and new ski clothes from the 1980's (I kid you not). On the more practical side, if you need knitting needles, crochet hooks and all the accessories inbetween, look no further (but do stop by YokoYaya 1-2-3 as well). There are literally miles of zippers of all varieties and all colours, sequinned trims and appliques galore, and bargain basement fabric as well (in some wild, funky patterns). Take the afternoon to explore this dual floor monstrosity, and get there quick for Hallowe'en goods (huge selection of wigs, hats and props, but they go fast!). Not the nicest of neighbourhoods to be sure; when I took the above photos yesterday afternoon, a man was urinating on one of the trees outside the shop . . . with his pants around his ankles. It's always an adventure shopping at Dressew, both inside the store and out!

YokoYaya 1-2-3 - first floor of the International Village Mall (88 West Pender) at Tinseltown, near the Stadium/Chinatown SkyTrain station. I must admit that I chickened out taking more photos of YokoYaya, and it's because of a large sign asking patrons not to photograph inside the store. I know why that sign is there - there are some of the funniest misuses of English that you'll ever read scattered throughout the store. My friend Chantal just purchased a mug from Daiso (YokoYaya's parent store, located in Richmond) that reads "Love means never having to say you are sorry." But can you see the potential here? A misquote like that could make a hilarious gift for the right recipient! Besides the amusing 'Engrish', YokoYaya has some really affordable practical items, particularly kitchen utensils, Japanese ceramic tableware, stationery, and home organizion gadgets (computer cable tidies, over-door hooks, suction-cup bathroom and sink accessories, etc). They sell false eyelashes for $2 a pair that you'd normally have to fork out $15 for at Shopper's for Hallowe'en, those great stretchy plastic transparent hair elastics in an array of colours for $2 a set (compare to $5 from a drug store), nail polish and tweezers all for $2. I always buy the socks ($2 a pair - get the ankle socks that have a thicker layer on the sole), the onzen (hot springs) styled bath salts, and the $2 umbrellas. I bought one of the clear umbrellas with white polka dots yesterday (PVC free!) and then left it somewhere amongst the shoes at Army and Navy. Didn't even take a picture of it first. Sigh. YokoYaya also sells my favourite crochet hooks (aluminum, powder-coated in a gold colour) and has bamboo knitting needles as well. Kawaii! This is where you want to go for stocking stuffers come Christmas - be sure to take a look at the cola-scented erasers, $2 toques, and their computer & cell phone accessories!

Army and Navy - 36 West Cordova (between Abbott and Carrall). Worst neighbourhood ever, be forewarned! I think it's good, however, to see what daily life on the DTES is like and not remain separate from it's horrors. It's all of our duty to reach out and help one another, including those marginalized here on the edge of Chinatown. So like Dressew, expect a bit of an adventure when you head out to Army & Navy, and bring a camera - this is one of the more interesting and photogenic parts of Vancouver. Army & Navy carries all sorts of cheap, discount items (clothing, shoes, grocery items, housewares, etc.). It's a great place for camping and fishing gear, and of course for its legendary shoe sales. The mossy brick pictures are from the breezeway that divides the store into two separate buildings (though connected underground by the shoe and camping departments). Cheap sweatpants and work boots & clothing are probably the best perennial deals here, but sale items can be seriously discounted. Not my favourite store by any means, but their lingerie, swimsuits and the occasional pair of shoes are some of the lowest priced items in town. Just watch the quality of what you're buying (especially the shoes and boots - yes, they're only $20, but can you walk in them?). Check out the recent flyer on their homepage before you go to help narrow your search, and be prepared to wander in Canada's poorest postal code, the DTES.

 Joe Fresh Style Frais - Granville street, just north of Dunsmuir. I am really looking forward to the opening of this flagship store on October 13th! Though you can bet I won't be there for the grand opening (I don't mind crowds, but I certainly don't seek them out); I've made it a policy of mine to never be caught camped out in line for anything. But when the doors do open, I will gladly skip down to Joe to see what's on offer, hoping they've kept true to their original Superstore prices give or take 10% or so. Being a grad student, I can't afford new clothes very often, and I love the idea that Joe Mimran is making fashion accessible to broke persons such as myself! The only thing I'm not overly excited about is that nasty faux-cheetah print coat that seems to be defiling many bus stop advertisements here in Vancouver. Urgh. But cheap jeans, affordable tops and cute accessories are things I can get onboard for! If it's a total bust, then H&M is just a block away.

H&M - Pacific Centre Mall. Cheap, cheap, cheap and full of pushy bargain hunters, H&M is the place to go for everyday tops and bottoms, and also for inexpensive evening wear and accessories. While I find their website difficult to get any useful information off of, the store is easy enough to navigate in person if you don't hit rush hour. The waits for the changerooms can be painful, but you usually have arm loads of clothing to try on so it's worth the wait. It's proven to be a convenient place for me to find long and short sleeved t-shirts and blouses, but I find that a lot of the bottoms and dresses are quite picked over. It may just be one of those places that's worth getting to right as it opens - take a friend and stop for brunch afterwards (I recommend the Vancouver Art Gallery's cafe on a sunny day, White Spot on Georgia for a hot coffee and the usual eggs & hashbrown comforts, or a coffee from Blenz at the Central Library concourse just down the road - can you tell I'm not a food fair fan?). If you don't knit or crochet, here's a great place to buy toques, scarves and mittens as affordable gifts in trendy colours and styles. And I love being able to buy favourite t-shirts for $8, too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Christmas Gifts that Actually Matter (from $1 to $50)

It may be a little early to post this, but I want people to have a chance to consider these options in plenty of time for Christmas... I promise that these are the best gifts money can buy.

Try something different this year - give them a gift that they don't have, will be thankful for, and one that really will have a positive effect on the world and those residing in it.

For the first time last Christmas, I gave gifts of charitable donations on behalf of my friends and family. I found gifts that I thought best reflected the nature of the individual in whose honour I was purchasing the gifts. I can truly say that I've never felt more satisfied in giving a gift, that these were by far the best received gifts I've given, and that I had a very, very enjoyable Christmas shopping season! I didn't have to go to the chaotic mall, full of blatant cheap, plastic consumerism. I got all of my shopping done early, and I really felt that I was giving in the true nature of Christmas for a change.

OxFam Unwrapped image - "Gift of Peace" charitable gift
My gift to you is this list of suggested gifts, broken down into several sub-groups to hopefully help you choose the perfect gift for every person on your list. And I do mean every person - I can almost guarantee that there's a gift appropriate for even the hardest-to-shop-for relative here.

Last year's envelopes
I haven’t attempted to stray from the typical gender-based stereotypes (for example, gifts of blankets and milk for Mom, soccer balls and tools for Dad), but I strongly encourage you to give the gift that MOST REMINDS YOU OF THE RECIPIENT. Personalize further by including a note as to why you chose this gift – be it a particular memory, a feeling of security, valuable lessons learned, or an inside joke. You can even make, bake or buy a small gift to accompany your charitable gift so that they have something tangible to hold.

I have not included all the gifts offered by any means, and I’ve only included gifts offered through OxFam Unwrapped, UNICEF’s Gifts of Magic, and World Vision’s “Canada’s Most Meaningful Gifts”, the latter having the most options for under $50. If you can afford to give more than $50, there are many, many worthy gifts to give (a bicycle for $70, send a child to school for $75) – make sure you take the time to browse the entire catalogues online. 

Screenshot: UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic
Screenshot: World Vision Canada Gift Catalogue
Screenshot: OxFam Unwrapped Canada

For Mothers, Grandmothers and other Nurturers:
Remember to write a loving message as to why you chose this gift for her.
World Vision Gift Catalogue image - "3 Blankets" charitable gift

For Fathers, Grandfathers and other Nurturers:
Let him know why you picked this particular gift for him - share a funny story or cherished memory.
OxFam Unwrapped image - "Tools" charitable gift

For the Young-at-Heart and fun-loving:
  • Chicken ($15) - OxFam Unwrapped (the chicken doesn't come in a box, it just looks like it does. Gets a laugh out of kids. For the SNL fan, you can customize your card by adding the words "Chick-in-a-Box".....)
  • Storybooks ($18) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Art-in-a-Box for a traumatized child ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Toys ($30) - World Vision Gifts
  • Box of toys and games ($35) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Art and Music for children ($50) - World Vision Gifts
Don't forget to include a small toy or musical instrument for your fun-loving recipient to play with! Also note that UNICEF's Gifts of Magic have kids bundles that include a stuffed animal for the honourary giver.

OxFam Unwrapped image - "Chicken" charitable gift

For the healers, health-care professionals, and the ones who kiss boo-boos better:
A nice gesture might be to include a home-made coupon for a lunch date and a serving of "Jewish Penicillin", also known a Chicken Matzo Ball soup at Solly's Bagelry to return the favour of comfort and health
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Immunize One Child" charitable gift

For the socially and community-minded:
Thank them for their big heart by making one of your own - a crochet heart, an origami heart, or cheat and buy one like this!
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Prevent Gang Violence" charitable gift

For the gardener or farmer:
The above all go very well with a gift of actual seed packets for your green-thumbed friend - check out Seeds of Change, Westcoast Seeds, and Stellar Seeds.
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "5 Fruit Trees" charitable gift
For the safety-conscious, accident-prone or the 'always prepared'-type:
A small, tangible gift to include for the recipient might be a pack of Band-aids, a whistle like this one, or an actual First-Aid kit like this one from MEC.
OxFam Unwrapped Canada image - "OxFam Bucket" charitable gift

For the foodie or cook:
Include a small gift of something tasty or fun to cook with from The Gourmet Warehouse or Ming Wo 
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "High-Energy Biscuits" charitable gift

For the student, teacher or educator:
Might I recommend a package of Earthzone recycled pencils to accompany the card?
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Early Childhood Education" charitable gift

For the Ladies:
And although these technically break the $50 limit I advertised at the beginning of this post, there are two other gifts from OxFam Unwrapped that are very important: "Women's Vocational Training" ($53) and "Promoting an End to Harmful Traditional Practices" i.e. female genital mutilation ($55)
OxFam Unwrapped Canada image - "Girls in School" charitable gift

Small Investment, Big Impact gifts for everyone to enjoy:

World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "2 Mosquito Nets" charitable gift

Suggestions by specific job or interest:

Journalist or communications expert: Radio equipment and infrastructure ($15) - OxFam Unwrapped

Athlete: 3 soccer balls and more ($30) - World Vision Gifts
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "3 Soccer Balls and More" charitable gift

Chef: Wood-conserving stove ($50) - World Vision Gifts

HIV and AIDS activist: HIV and AIDS Peer Education ($45) - OxFam Unwrapped

Construction worker or DIY Handyman: Tools for construction and agriculture ($39) - OxFam Unwrapped

Plumber: Water pump repair kit ($40) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Water Pump Repair Kit" charitable gift

Feminist: Girls in school ($50) - OxFam Unwrapped

Outdoor enthusiast: Clothing and Raingear for a Child ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Entomologist: 2 mosquito nets for protecting up to 8 children ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Microbiologist: Water purification tablets for a family for 3 months ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic

Bibliophiles, librarians and burgeoning bookworms: Storybooks ($18) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Storybooks" charitable gift

Musician: Art and Music for children ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Artist or Art Therapist: Art-in-a-Box for a traumatized child ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic

Police Officer or Corrections worker: Prevention of Gang Violence ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Firefighter or Search and Rescue worker: Disaster response and prevention training and infrastructure ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Paramedic or Lifeguard:  First Aid kit ($31) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "First Aid Kit" charitable gift

Peacemaker or Mediator: Gift of Peace ($ specify amount) - OxFam Unwrapped

Pastor: Christian Literature and Training ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Proud Canadian: Canadian Assistance Fund for impoverished children and families ($25) - World Vision Gifts
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Canadian Assistance Fund" charitable gift

World Vision Child Sponsor: A Gift to the Sponsored Child's community ($50) - World Vision Gifts

And finally, the Gift of Choice:
OxFam Unwrapped and the World Vision gift catalogue offer gift cards (for OxFam gift cards, check out your local Shopper's Drug Mart) that you can give to the recipient to allow them to choose the charitable gift of their liking.
Christmas is all about love for your fellow human beings - do the right thing!

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Did you know....?
  • the origins of the "Buy Nothing Christmas" began here on the West Coast of Canada with a group of Mennonites in an effort to restore meaning to Christmas, give to the poor, and to counter the gross over-consumption of the middle classes yielding to the commercial nature of this day and age.
  • in the USA, 4 million tons of waste is generated each year from Christmas shopping bags and gift wrap alone. Source here at Use Less Stuff.
  • household waste increases by 25% between (American) Thanksgiving and Christmas - that's an additional 1 million tons of garbage per week!
  • while nearly a billion people go hungry around the world, in North America an estimated 28 billion pounds (13 billion kilos) of edible food is wasted every calendar year. (World Food Programme;
  • on the positive side, OxFam notes a reduction in the number of people going hungry in 2009, and believes that the number of starving people in the world can be cut in half by 2015. Be part of the solution today - all you have to do is make a small donation (and convince your friends to do so, too!).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free, cheap and 'by donation' events - September and October 2010

Free events that don't suck!

Wednesday, September 29th through Monday, October 11th:
Army & Navy "Coat and Boot Event"

I have it on good shoe-lover authority (thanks, Farrah!) that this is a sale not to be missed! Great winter season coats for very reasonable prices and a fantastic selection of cheap fall and winter boots. Doors open at 9:30am on Wednesday, September 29th ('til 6pm; Thurs and Fri 'til 9pm). The rainy season is beginning - get your Wellies while you can for legendarily low prices! Army and Navy Vancouver

NOW 'til Friday, October 15th
Free Admission to Body Worlds at the Telus World of Science with Hospital ID badge

Thank you to Jenn for this tip and for Steph for finding the link: ! Apparently Vancouver hospital staff (and hopefully that's not limited to VGH staff only!) receive free entry into this popular anatomical exhibit. Haven't been able to confirm, but call ahead if you are interested. Great for us graduate students working in the hospital setting!

Thursday, October 21st to Sunday, October 24th
The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) Booksale

See my earlier post on this event - thanks Laura for this tip (and congrats on baby Allie, too!). A great opportunity to stock up on reading material (and to save trees by buying used!).

Every Tuesday evening 5pm - 9pm (except October 5th)
Admission by Donation to the Vancouver Art Gallery (sponsored by Sun Life Financial)

Tip: the food at the gallery cafe is quite good and I have it on good authority that they serve the cheapest martinis in town (that are still worth drinking!). Thanks Alexis for the martini tip! Visit the VAG - when was the last time you indulged your artistic side? And think of the jokes - what an acronym!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Winter Container Gardening

Save some money by growing your own veggies - even in the dead of winter!

It’s the very last day of summer today – by 8 o’clock it will officially be sweater season! And wouldn’t you know it, the rain is also poised to start overnight and continue through to April. Sigh.
West Coast Seeds Winter Gardening Guide & Planting Chart and my garden journal
Yesterday I ripped out my bush beans and half of my tomato plants (they were starting to look pretty dry and sad). A fantastic growing season for both, and I was sad to see them go. But they left behind bare soil just begging to be tilled, supplemented and sown with winter-hardy veggies!

For the first time, I’ve put aside my doubts and fears and have sown seeds for winter vegetable gardening here on my little balcony. West Coast Seeds put together an amazing Winter Gardening Guide & Planting Chart which is so idiot-proof even I feel inspired to try my luck. Of course I was late starting several seeds (which is always the way – I don’t think that puny little zucchini I started in late June is going to ripen before it starts to rot! Blast!) and three of the veggies I planted came from seeds that are a year or so past their “usual seed life”. Ah. What can I say – they were free.
West Coast Seeds Winter Planting Chart with garden journal and seeds of all ages and varieties

I’ve decided to put odds on the seed germination (much like horse racing) in my gardening journal to help accept the negative results that are bound to happen in at least one pot. I figure if I predicted that the seeds were dead, I’d at least be able to console myself with my ability to guess what will and won’t grow! Celebrate small victories, n’est-ce pas?

I have faith in the lettuce seeds – one is a mix of various varieties from Stellar Seeds (seeds donated by Farm Folk/City Folk at Brian Harris’s MOV exhibit), and the other is “Butterhead/Bibb” from West Coast Seeds packed for 2009 (but still well within that 3 year expiry window) that were given away at the Greenstreets Party last weekend. More on the Greenstreets Programme in a subsequent posting!

I have given the carrots and onions about a 70% chance of germination and survival to maturity since I’m starting both a full month late. The carrots are the “Bolero pelleted seed” from West Coast Seeds (packed for 2010 – have some growing already in amongst the tomato roots) and the onions (2009 stock) were also giveaways at the Greenstreets party. I can’t stop giggling at the name “Ramrod”, especially given a package description of “stiff and erect” (maturity is not one of my many virtues…!). Both the carrots and the obscenely named onions are being babied in a shared pot that I bring inside at night to help keep the soil temperature high. 

And in the “highly unlikely” category I’ve included seeds that my former property managers left to me when they headed east, all of which are past the magic 3-year window and have likely expired. Nevertheless, I am attempting to grow “Cylindra” beets (Island Seed Company), a mix of mustard greens (“oriental greens blend”) from West Coast Seeds (2006!), and “Olympia” spinach (also 2006) from West Coast Seeds. The beets don’t actually have a year or expiry date on them (the package design was copyrighted in 2006), so there’s an outside chance that they’ll germinate. The mustard and spinach seeds come from a good source, so perhaps there’s the slimmest of chances that a few will sprout. 

It’s a lovely sunny day, and I’ve placed translucent plastic bags loosely over the damp soil hoping to increase the soil temperature. I will hopefully be replacing the plastic with more attractive cloches in time (though they will be homemade and let’s face it – ghetto!) and with any luck will have fresh veggies throughout the winter months.
Rows of lettuce and spinach seeds under a former David Hunter's potting soil plastic bag in the corner; awesome yellow cherry tomatoes still going in September  (Gold Nugget - West Coast Seeds)

Cabbages are the quintessential winter veggie to grow, and make for lovely planters (check out “January King” for a really nice winter cabbage). That’s the plan for next year, anyway. Garlic, radish and spinach should be sown this month, and apparently some broad beans can be planted in October for overwintering. Lettuce grown under cover is also recommended for sowing in September, but note that many overwintering vegetables are planted in the heat of summer, from June through August. This is to allow the plant to grow enough before the cool weather sets in.

I suppose that’s really the biggest drawback to winter gardening in a balcony container garden – limited space. It’s hard enough to squish in a small barbeque and table with chairs amongst the bushy, productive foliage – imagine trying to fit in more pots with seedlings! I suppose seedling starters and small plastic trays don’t take up much space, but trying to keep seedlings moist and cool enough in July and August is a challenge, especially if you want to go away for a weekend or longer!

We’ll see how this winter’s crop goes – fingers crossed! It may be that a protected, sunny balcony in Kits will grow a bumper crop of greens quite easily. I know it was warm enough last year to cause my spring bulbs to sprout in October.
Borage plant (pruned recently), watering globe (thrift store purchase) and a cut up plastic bag as a make-shift cloche insulating likely defunct beet and oriental (mustard) greens seeds

I encourage you to try your hand at overwinter container gardening and to put that now unpopular and damp balcony to good use growing garlic for next July’s dinners, and radishes and spinach for freshly grown fall and winter salads. For more inspiration, check out the West Coast Seeds Winter Gardening Guide & Planting Chart. Good luck!