Gardening has always been a part of Jamie Felsberg’s life through his parents and grandparents, but he began plying his own green thumb 4-5 years ago. Since then he has tried to grow many different vegetables, including corn, which did not do so well due to our short growing season in Labrador. Squash is one of Jamie’s favourite crops, as he can watch it grow so quickly. His main goal is for his family to be as self-sufficient as possible in growing and consuming fresh produce. He finds it so satisfying to be able to eat something and know exactly what is in it and where it came from, and to know that he grew it himself.

Jamie Felsberg spoke with LI summer student Frankie Leonard in August 2020.  Some takeaways from his interview are captured here.

Hoping to Not Buy Any More Potatoes

I have some staple foods that I grow every year, and then some foods I am just trying out to see how they grow. Potatoes, carrot, onion, turnip, beets, and peas are the main staples. I’ve tried corn, different types of lettuce, radish, parsnips, squash, kale, strawberries… I haven’t had much luck with corn in the past, but I’m trying some miniature corn this year, since they have a shorter growing season.  Hopefully they are successful.

I really like growing squash, because they grow quite fast.  If the weather is good, you can see a size difference pretty rapidly. I enjoy that the most, because you can see the production in a shorter time frame. I also really like potatoes and carrots, because they do quite well here, and it is satisfying to get a large yield.

I didn’t store my potatoes perfectly well last year. They started to sprout towards the end, but I hauled them up in September and only finished eating my last potatoes in April. So that sustained my family for months. This year I planted more, so I am hoping to be able to go right to next season without having to buy any potatoes, or even in 5 years’ time not having to buy any at all.

Jamie grows a wide variety of crops in neatly landscaped beds.

Gardening Runs in the Family

I have been gardening on my own for 4-5 years, but I have always been gardening with my family. My parents and family members have always been gardening, so as far back as I can remember, we had a garden of some sort. My parents were slightly surprised when I wanted to garden on my own, but I took the initiative and started.

My goal is just to be as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible, and to not have to buy produce from the store. I would prefer to eat our own produce, because when you are purchasing from the store you don’t really know what’s in them, where they were grown, or how they were grown. Nowadays food is so packed with chemicals, and produce can come unspoiled from across the world, so it is difficult to know what is allowing that produce not to spoil. In the long run I’m not sure if gardening actually saves money, but I feel better eating from my garden knowing what has gone into it.

Challenges and Benefits

Since I am only 5 years in, I am still wrapping my head around what challenges I may face, but the growing season is much shorter than other places. Also, if we have a rainy spell or not much heat in the summer, it will drastically affect our crops.

One benefit of growing your own garden is definitely knowing what goes into it and what you are hauling out of the ground. The satisfaction of growing it on your own and being able to see your progress. It’s fun, and I enjoy doing it.

Also, I like not having to go to the grocery store. Since we eat a lot of salad, we don’t have to go to the store constantly for things like lettuce and spinach. Instead we can go to the backyard and get really fresh produce. It is comforting to know what you’re eating and where it comes from. I also enjoy roasting carrots, or glazed carrots. It is nice to have fresh vegetables to enjoy in stews and with roasts.

Tips and Tricks

Companion planting works, definitely. I would definitely advise other gardeners to consider that. This year I’m trying different plants in different areas with companion plants. Some plants will be stunted or not grow as well if they’re next to a plant that they don’t particularly like. I know that sounds silly, but plants like certain pH and nutrients, so some plants suck certain nutrients out of the soil, and if another plant is competing for that, it can be detrimental. It can be hard to take if you’re not tracking the soil pH and other things. I am not that invested to buy those types of tools, but companion planting definitely works.

Also, look at the location of things in your garden—get to know the plants that want more heat or shade. These are just some things I have picked up on in my first years of gardening, but definitely put in your own research. It comes down to what works best for you.

Even at household scales, a small tractor certainly helps with preparing the ground.

“One benefit of growing your own garden is definitely knowing what goes into it and what you are hauling out of the ground. The satisfaction of growing it on your own and being able to see your progress. It’s fun, and I enjoy doing it.”

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