Charlie Flowers has lived in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut his whole life. Three years ago, he decided to try his hand at gardening, and immersed himself in learning everything he could about growing vegetables in the North. From learning how to start seeds indoors to choosing hardier vegetable varieties, every year Charlie’s gardening knowledge grows along with his garden.
Alex Sawatzky, Special Projects Manager for the Pye Centre, interviewed Charlie Flowers about what he loves most about gardening, what he’s learned so far, and what he is excited to learn even more about.
A Growing Interest
I’ve been gardening for about 3 years now. It started as a hobby just trying to grow a few pepper plants in my house, but each year since I’ve been adding at least one new vegetable to the mix.
I’m the type of person who, when they get interested in a subject, will watch and read anything and everything about that subject. I’ve learned about soil and fertilizers, vegetable varieties, pests, etc. I’ve also learned just how much better homegrown vegetables taste compared to the ones available at the store…the difference is night and day.
Over the years, I’ve grown a few different pepper varieties, tomatoes, radishes, spinach, potatoes, onions, carrots, scallions, and a few herbs. By far, my favourite thing to grow is little cherry tomatoes. There’s something so satisfying about growing a perfectly ripened tomato on the vine.
Tomatoes that taste as good as they look! From capturing a bright red tomato against a backdrop of white snow, to arranging cherry tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, it’s clear that Charlie’s green thumb is matched by his eye for photography.
The nights get so cold here, even in the summer, so I’m sure a lot of my plants’ growth have been stunted by the cold. Due to the very short growing season here in Labrador, you really have to pick hardier varieties that can take the cold. One thing that has helped me is purchasing a grow light. The grow light is great for getting seedlings started indoors while there’s still snow on the ground. It gives you a bit of a head start to the gardening season, which you need for the shortened seasons we have here.
I’m proud of the fact that I’ve grown jalapeño peppers this far north. When I first started that was my goal to try and grow jalapeños in Labrador, and I’m pretty proud that I accomplished that goal.
I would like to one day be able to grow enough veggies that I could store and use them throughout the winter months. I’m nowhere near that goal yet, but maybe one day I’ll get there.
Why did Charlie put a blanket on his jalapeño?
It was a little chili!
Start Small, Grow From There
For other Northerners looking to get into gardening, I would suggest starting small and growing one or two things you’re interested in…something you already really enjoy eating.
Then, start adding some more varieties – you might even discover a new favourite food! For example, I didn’t know you could eat radish leaves until I started growing radishes myself. They are really good boiled up with salt beef and other veggies, as you would do with other types of greens. If you’re a fan of boiled greens, you can’t go wrong with radish leaves, and they grow so fast too.
A beautiful lineup of freshly-picked radishes, all ready for their greens to be boiled.
For me, gardening is now something I really look forward to in the summer months. I’m not a big fan of the heat and flies of summer, so it’s good to have a hobby like growing a garden that gets me outside in spite of the heat and flies. There’s also the benefit of knowing that once you’ve learned this skill, you’ll have it forever. And, of course, there’s all those delicious veggies to look forward to at the end of the season.
This past summer, Charlie converted an old Kamutik box into a planter for some of his veggies.
“For other Northerners looking to get into gardening, I would suggest starting small and growing one or two things you’re interested in…something you already really enjoy eating. Then, start adding some more varieties – you might even discover a new favourite food!”