Help for food gardening newbies at upcoming workshop


Our little farmer hunts for bugs in the vegetable garden
Our little farmer hunts for bugs in the vegetable garden

This spring, Will ripped out the ivy covering the front slope of our yard, built a wooden retaining wall to contain the soil, trucked in some compost and rich soil, and together we seeded the whole thing with lettuce, beans, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, artichokes, brussels sprouts and more. 

It looked terrible for the first month or so, while we waited for the weather to match our gardening ambitions. Impatient, we planted zucchini seedlings that withered in a frustratingly late frost and a border of bug-repelling marigolds that moped (but survived!) until the nights warmed up.

We kept only a handful of plants from the year before: a sage plant that barely made it after being ripped up and forgotten for a few weeks with rootball fully exposed, two artichokes from a neighbour and a happy clump of chives that didn’t even seem fazed by last year’s snowmageddon. 

Now, in the heat of the sun the marigolds have perked up, the lettuce is lush and we’ve even been able to pick a few red ripe strawberries for our little hungry bear. We look out onto our little food garden, and we see that it is good. 

We are gardening newbies, and as the poor doomed zucchinis can attest, we have more enthusiasm than skills! So I’m very happy to hear that Rin from Commercial Drive’s Farmhouse Farm is coming out to New West June 21 to lead a workshop on small square-foot gardening in the West End. 

Here are the details: 

The 10 X 10 Garden:  A Hundred Square Feet of Permaculture

Do you want to grow more of your own food, but don’t know where to begin?  Think you don’t have enough space?  Are you interested in learning more about Permaculture and organic gardening?

If you have a 10 X 10 foot space and want to learn how to turn it into a full year of fresh, nutritious, yummy food without chemicals or hours and hours of work, this workshop is for you.

This one-day workshop with Rin from the Farmhouse Farm — an urban farm right here in Vancouver — will show you how to start from scratch and build a garden that will produce food all year long in just a hundred square feet!  Vegetables, herbs, and greens are all a part of the comprehensive garden plan that you’ll learn to build and maintain. 

Perfect for those with small yards or working in allotment plots, this easy-to-follow plan incorporates Permaculture principles into a garden design you can follow to the letter or change and evolve to fit your space and goals.  We’ll spend the day going over the plan and then getting down and dirty and building the garden from scratch at the host site.  You’ll leave with a copy of the full garden design including crop rotations, maintenance routine, and all the information you’ll need to get started.

There are two chances to check it out:

  • Fraser Street: Sunday June 14th, Noon – 6 pm (near 30th and Fraser)
  • New Westminster:  Sunday June 21st, Noon – 6 pm (near Edinburgh and 16th)

The workshop is offered on a Pay-What-You-Feel basis, with a suggested donation of $60 to $100.

For more information and to register, contact farmhousefarm(at)gmail(dot)com or go to

Rin also kindly provided me with a few tips for new gardeners to share here on the blog:

Top 5 Tips for New Gardeners from Rin at The Farmhouse Farm:

5.  Start with soil!  Learn to love your soil and the little critters that live in it, get to know which ones do what and find out more about soil-building and composting.  Check out City Farmer’s compost info, at

4.  Look with observant eyes at forests, fields, gardens, and creeks.  See how water moves, how and where and in what combinations plants grow and creatures live.  Watch for the relationships that keep an ecosystem healthy, and see how you can mimic them.

3.  Start small, with something you know you can manage.  Even just a few pots on a balcony or some greens and sprouts in trays at your kitchen window is gardening!  

2.  Talk, listen, and interact; gardening is oral tradition at its finest.  Poke your head over fences and talk to your neighbours, find out what people are growing and how they do it.  Remember that there’s as many different ways to garden as there are gardeners — learn what you can, and do what seems best to you.

1.  Grab a shovel and get dirty!  The absolute best way to learn about gardening is just to do it.  Grab some seeds, follow the directions on the packet, and see what happens.  Easy things to start with are salad, radishes, peas, and sunflowers.  The worst thing that happens is that nothing grows…  and even then, you’ll learn something!  Remember that plants want to grow, all we have to do is get out of the way and let them do it.