With a beautifully divided garden and a great greenhouse for corn at his home of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Ren Simms is able to grow all the staple Newfoundland and Labrador crops and more. He has been gardening for over 20 years, and enjoys sharing his delicious produce with friends and family, especially his grandchildren when they come and visit. In fact, Ren gives away a lot of what he grows.
Ren spoke about his gardens with Frankie Leonard, a summer student with the Labrador Institute, in August 2020
All the Staples
I grow all my own plants. I don’t buy seeds, I start them off myself. A little bit of everything, mostly the staple Newfoundland crops like cabbage, lettuce (romaine and iceberg), broccoli, cauliflower, onions, turnips, carrots, potatoes, corn.
I can grow carrots until April-May months in Rubbermaid containers. Corn has to be covered mostly, so they’re in my greenhouse. They haven’t grown as tall this year, but hopefully that doesn’t matter. I also freeze my corn to get me through the winter.
I find the potato stalks grow a lot taller here than they do on the Island. All the potatoes are cut down here (points to where his potatoes are cut).
And the rhubarb, I must’ve cut off enough for about six different families six different times, because a lot of people use it for jams and pies, but I don’t really use it much myself.
Ren’s not only a gardener, but a builder too! His greenhouse provides great conditions for growing corn.
Sharing the Bounty
I have been gardening for years and years. Must be at least 20. Most of my produce I give away, so I don’t really have a goal I’d like to achieve. For the winter I store my carrots, turnips, potatoes, and onions, and I’ll hard boil my cabbage. I picked off a few leaves of lettuce, but I have already cut down 10-12 of my lettuce and gave them away. I do up boxes of food and give them away to my buddies and others.
Some years are better than others. This year has been one of the better ones. Reminds me of the summers years ago. You used to start off in June or July with warmth and a little rain, but the last few years have been pretty cold. You have to be careful of the frost. I normally put a line up with heaters in late June to cut the frost down, or oscillating fans in the greenhouse with the corn. Corn definitely needs to be in a greenhouse to be successful here. I have a log I keep of what I bring to and from the greenhouse to the garden and when. The first week of June I start putting stuff in the garden, but the season is pretty short.
Growing Your Own Garden
Some people say it saves money, but that’s not the issue for me. For me I do it for exercise and for something to do. It’s a great hobby and I enjoy getting my hands dirty. If people don’t like to go out and weed, then forget about the garden. If your garden gets overgrown, then the weeds will take over the soil. I recommended making your own soil in Labrador since our ground is so sandy.
A sampling of the bountiful produce in Ren’s backyard garden.
“For me, I do it for exercise and for something to do. It’s a great hobby and I enjoy getting my hands dirty.”